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Hands-on with Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition's many playable characters

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When most people think of Devil May Cry, they probably think of the series' cocky protagonist, Dante. If you're a hardcore fan, you may also consider his brother Vergil — first made playable in 2006's Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition — or Nero, the Dante look-alike from 2008's Devil May Cry 4. A select few may even think about Trish, a love interest for Dante who's a badass in her own right but was only playable in the much-maligned Devil May Cry 2.

But if you're the team Capcom has working on Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition? If you're that team, you think of every one of those characters, and then some.

Capcom invited Polygon to check out Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition at an event last week, and what we saw there was almost certainly the most content-packed Devil May Cry game ever.

First, there is the core game, what was originally present when Devil May Cry 4 first released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and, a bit later, Windows PCs. In the story mode, you start off as Nero, a member of a cult that worships Sparda, the legendary demon who also happens to be Dante's father. When Nero witnesses Dante killing that cult's leader, he is sent to hunt him down.

Dante has arguably more depth than any previous game in the series

In the story mode, players spend about half of the game playing as Nero and the other half as Dante. Nero uses more streamlined mechanics that are more inviting for new players. Most notably, he has the "devil bringer," an enchanted hand that can pull enemies to him or toss them away.

Nero also has a fascinating new mechanic at play with his sword of choice, the Red Queen. In addition to the blade, the Red Queen has a mechanical apparatus on its base which can be "revved up" to increase the power of attacks. While you can choose to charge up your sword while standing still, that leaves you open to enemy attacks.

The better option is hitting the rev button immediately after a sword slash. If timed perfectly, this will auto-charge the blade and make subsequent attacks more deadly. Though Nero is a little easier to handle for new players, expert players will have the challenge of keeping the sword revved throughout long, intense combos.

Dante himself is a more complex character to control, with arguably more depth than any previous game in the series. As in Devil May Cry 3, he uses a style system where his attacks are modified depending on the style choice. But in the former game, players could only swap to different styles in between levels; in Devil May Cry 4 they can change on the fly.

You can start in the Swordmaster style, which allows Dante to perform more melee combos, then swap to the Trickster, which lets him dash around the battlefield and teleport away. The Gunslinger provides a bevy of ranged options employing a whole arsenal of weapons, while the Royal Guard style focuses on defense, where blocking incoming attacks perfectly builds up power toward a massive counterattack.

Finally, Devil May Cry 4 has one new style not seen in the previous game: Dark Slayer. In this mode, Dante actually uses his brother Vergil's Yamato, a powerful blade that he's not exactly proficient with.

Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition dante

If you'd rather play with the master of the Yamato, that is finally an option as well. Though Vergil was playable in Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition, he was strangely absent in 4. In Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition he has been added back into the game with his own game mode.

Vergil's movements and attacks will be familiar to anyone who dipped into 3 Special Edition, but he now also employs some options from 2013's Ninja Theory-developed reboot of the series, DmC: Devil May Cry. Most notably, Vergil has earned the ability to embed his phantom sword projectiles into enemies and then teleport over to the imperiled foes.

Vergil also employs a new mechanic known as "Concentration," which urges players to act in the same way the character would. There's a blue bar in the top right corner of the screen when playing as Vergil. The bar fills up based on how efficiently you fight. So basically, staying close to enemies, not moving more than necessary and never missing your sword swings will all fill the bar.

The more your concentration bar is filled, the more damage Vergil's attacks will do. Filling them all the way will also allow him to perform incredibly powerful (and awesome-looking) finisher attacks. You can see those for yourself in the video at the top of this article.

Vergil's unique style can be taken to both the wave-based survival mode known as Bloody Palace, as well as the single-player mode. He doesn't get his own stories or levels — you're essentially just playing through the same Dante/Nero content with a single new character — but there will be bookending cutscenes to provide a little bit of context.

Capcom is bringing back a playable Trish and making Devil May Cry 3's Lady playable for the first time ever

Vergil's not the only one who can jump into the story mode in place of Dante and Nero, though. Capcom is also bringing back a playable Trish and making Devil May Cry 3's Lady playable for the first time ever.

Whereas Devil May Cry 2's Trish played almost identically to Dante, she has her own totally new moveset in Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition. Unlike every other character in the game, she doesn't need to press a button to swap between weapons; instead, she'll change on the fly based off of the combo you're in. This essentially makes her a much more approachable character, even moreso than Nero.

While Trish might sound simpler to play, that doesn't mean she's any less fun. There's some depth to figuring out her combos and how they can be modified. With one attack, Trish throws her sword at enemies and it stays there for a short period of time, hitting anyone who comes near. While her sword is out, her moveset completely changes to focus on hand-to-hand combat.

In her hilarious finisher move, Trish knocks an enemy into the air, taps her foot impatiently, and then, as they fall back to earth, smashes them out of the sky like a baseball. It's flashy as hell and feels incredible to pull off.

But of all the characters new to Devil May Cry 4, my favorite to play as was the one new to the series as a whole: Lady. In a wild departure from everyone else, Lady's combat style is built entirely around using guns rather than melee weapons.

Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition Lady

Initially I scoffed at that idea. Guns have always been a core part of the Devil May Cry experience, but they've always been additive. They were the backup to keep sword and gauntlet combos going over longer stretches of time. They were never the focus.

And yet Lady makes them the focus in such a fascinating, fun way. Her main weapons are a set of pistols, a shotgun and a ridiculously powerful rocket launcher. In addition to regular attacks, every one of those guns can be charged for more damaging abilities. The rocket launcher's charge attack is particularly awesome: It shoots off a massive barrage of rockets that blow up any enemies in the area.

What's especially entertaining about playing as Lady is how it completely changes the main gameplay loop. Where other characters are primarily focused on getting close to enemies to keep combos rolling, Lady must devise ways to keep enemies at a distance. You can technically use your rocket launcher as a melee weapon, for example, but the main use of that is to smack enemies back, giving you distance to use your guns properly.

Lady's love of firearms extends to all her abilities. Instead of the traditional supernatural double jump used by other characters in the game, she actually fires her rocket launcher down to give her an extra burst in the air, almost as if she were a competitive Quake 2 player.

Where Vergil gets his own lone wolf run through story mode, Lady and Trish will swap off in the same way Dante and Nero do during the proper story mode. I was able to see their intro cutscene, where the two women tear into Dante for being lazy and then steal his last slice of pizza. It was glorious.

Lady completely changes the main gameplay loop

On top of all of these characters who play completely differently and can be used in both the story mode and Bloody Palace mode, Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition also features an overwhelming number of difficulty options and modifiers, as the series has become known for.

For the less challenge-inclined among us, there's Human (essentially easy) and Devil Hunter (essential normal). Beating the latter of those unlocks Son of Sparda mode, which is basically the traditional hard difficulty setting — enemies get buffed with more health and higher damage against Dante and friends.

If you can manage to beat the game on Son of Sparda, things get really interesting. That's when you unlock Dante Must Die, a hyper-difficult mode where enemies have more than double the strength. You also gain access to Heaven or Hell, a gimmick mode where both the playable character and all enemies die in one hit. If that's not interesting enough, you can always try Hell and Hell mode, where only your character dies in one hit, while the enemies have the same amount of health they would on Son of Sparda difficulty.

Can you believe we're not done listing off the difficulty settings yet? Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition also comes packed with a special mode that was originally introduced in the PC version of the game. Titled "Legendary Dark Knight," this difficulty places enemies on par with Son of Sparda mode with one difference: there are now lots of them. Like, a lot a lot. Dozens. In every screen.

Initially intended to show off how much more Devil May Cry 4 could do with the added power of PCs, Legendary Dark Knight will be available for console players for the first time with Special Edition. It's truly ludicrous how many enemies it will populate at once, and it should make for some hilariously long combos.

Capcom is planning to release Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this summer. If what we saw is any indication, it should keep action game fans busy for a long time to come after that.

If you'd like to see more of Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition, check out the video below to watch 20 minutes of gameplay as Vergil in full 1080p, 60 frames-per-second glory, courtesy of the Polygon YouTube channel.