The great thing about DMC4 is that all the hallmarks of the series have been wonderfully recreated, despite the fact you'll for the most part be playing as someone other than Dante. You've got the most annoying hard-rock soundtrack in history to listen to every time demons start on you. You've got orb collection, to spend on items, and Proud Souls, earned through completing missions, to spend on upgrading Nero and Dante's weaponry, combos and abilities. You've got one of the most incompetent cameras ever to grace a videogame (what's up Capcom? Surely this should be fixed by the fourth game), and you've got gothic surroundings, a ridiculous plot, buxom women and hammy voice acting.
And you've also got the classic Capcom action game combat, as seen in the DMC and Onimusha series. People often look down their noses at these so-called button-mashing games and snort - citing the lack of skill required and the repetitive nature of the combat. We can certainly see their point - most of the combos in the game involve differently-timed presses of the same button combined with varied control stick directions - but there's an odd, addictive and totally rewarding nature to it all. Sure, you've just spent half-an-hour carving through similar-looking demons in a cathedral using the same combo string over and over again, but you know you love it. This feeling, a feeling unique to the DMC series, reassuringly remains in the fourth game, despite the switch up in main playable characters.
But, and this is a big but, Nero's fun to use Devil Bringer, and the spectacular special attacks it allows, is still no match for Dante's varied, quicker, more powerful attack style. Again, we're trying desperately to avoid spoilers here, but when you do eventually get to play as Dante, it's almost as if the game has been released from the shackles imposed by Nero's combat limitations. We've got nothing against the guy, but, at the end of the day, he's got nothing on Dante. As one of the game's chief baddies says of Nero: "he's not in Dante's league." He's right.
How much of a problem is this? Well it wouldn't be any problem at all, if it weren't for Capcom's almost inexplicable decision to regurgitate Nero's missions, and bosses, for Dante to traipse through. This is somewhat of a kick in the teeth - you work your way through the game, finally get the chance to give Dante a spin, and you find that you have to do it against enemies and in locales you've already seen. Dante himself feels fresh. Everything else, once you get to play him however, stinks.
We'll go into a bit more detail, since the backtracking is perhaps the one that prevents DMC4 from being a nine-out-of-10 in our opinion. As you work your way through the game you'll solve puzzles in creepy castles, battle countless demons in war-torn city streets, uncover insane experiments in an underground laboratory, work out how to escape a forest maze and defeat ice creatures on the wind-swept cliffs of snow-capped mountains. You'll face some truly spectacular, and sometimes frustratingly difficult, bosses in encounters which require much more skill than anything else in the game, too. And then you get to play as Dante, and instead of the game presenting you with new locations and enemies to kill, DMC4 does a kind of loop, forcing you to go backwards through all the areas you've already spent hours traipsing through until you end up at the beginning. You fight the same bosses too, with little or no variation on the first time. After the elation of getting your trigger finger firmly poised to fire Dante's amazing death-bringing weaponry, it's all a bit of a letdown.
What's not a letdown but a complete pain in the ass is the fact that once you get control of Nero again, for the game's home straight, you have to fight the bosses all over again in a roll the dice snakes-and-ladders style puzzle that's so frustrating it makes you want to gauge your own eyes out with a spoon. Once with Nero was cool. A second time with Dante was a drag. But a third time? That's just taking the piss.
There are other problems. We've mentioned the camera but we'll mention it again, it's that bad. In one puzzle section you need to hit spinning blades along corridors in order to smash down doors. It's almost impossible to aim accurately because of the constantly shifting camera, which automatically changes what up, down, left and right is on the control stick. There are odd moments when enemies will get stuck in walls and on ledges too, but these are rare and largely forgivable. And the game doesn't do anything to help you work out where to go (some players will actually prefer this), meaning you'll need to accept that for extended periods of time, sometimes as much as 30 minutes, you'll just be running around like a chump trying to work out where to go next.