All this negativity is rather unfortunate, because, in our view, the game's failings were totally avoidable and come across as lazy game design for the most part. Bad form Capcom. But that doesn't stop us believing that the game is the best in the series since the first one - yes, despite all these problems, it's that good.
DMC4's plot, bafflingly Japanese as it is, revolves around Nero's love for Kyrie, a damsel in distress in every sense of the phrase. The game opens with the assassination of Sanctus, the head of the corrupt Order of the Sword religious cult, by Dante during a sermon in a cathedral. Then, in the chaos, demons attack. Eventually, when the dust settles, Nero is sent to sort out Dante. We're under orders to keep the story under the most secure of wraps, but what we will reveal is that Nero eventually uncovers some nasty stuff within the Order itself, Kyrie is kidnapped and, as you'd expect, there's more than one face off between the two white-haired demon hunters. But what are Dante's motives? Why did he kill Sanctus? And exactly why does Nero have a glowing, demon arm in the first place? We know some of these answers because we've finished the game. But there are still tonnes of unanswered questions left posed following its completion. Perhaps too many for our liking. Still - the story, told through gorgeous rendered in-game cut scenes, won't win any Oscars, but is everything a DMC fan could want.
Have we mentioned the game's graphics? Shame on us. DMC4 is a next-gen master class, effortlessly whizzing along at 60 framers per second at all times. The characters are gorgeous, the environments wonderfully detailed and the bosses breathtakingly realised. It's super slick on both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 - we didn't notice any discernable graphical difference between the two, and is a game you'll want to show off that HD television you got cheap from the New Year sales (we did notice the odd graphical blemish in both versions of the game, but nothing to worry about). We know this kind of graphical level is easier to achieve in a game of DMC4's type - that is linear, with self contained areas loaded within the same level - than a game like, say Halo 3, with massive, open ended levels, but it's impressive nonetheless. A minor difference between the two versions is the inclusion of Sixaxis motion control on the PS3 game, but it's nothing more than a pointless alternative for camera control.
We finished the game in just over 16 hours on the Devil Hunter (medium) difficulty. Expect some rock hard difficulties to follow if you're so inclined. There's tonnes of replay value too, including earning enough Proud Souls to unlock all Dante and Nero's abilities and combos, beating your level scores, which can be uploaded to online leader boards, and generally just having a load of fun trying to improve your timing, combos and stylish ratings. It's densely packed for a modern action game, that's for sure.
In many ways, we think DMC4 could be one of the games we end up coming back on and off throughout 2008. It's got a strange addictive quality to it in that way, and, once completed, has a lot in common with the pick up and play for a quick 30 minutes feel that something like PES 2008 has. Capcom has done such a wonderful job recreating what makes DMC great, it makes all the game's failings a much harder pill to swallow.
Here's a theory - DMC4's game world feels like it was built from the ground up for Nero, with bosses and level design tailored to his Devil Bringer attacks. Perhaps Capcom, at some point through the game's development simply thought they couldn't release it without having fan favourite Dante playable at some point. And so, rather than redesign the game, they had our stubbly anti-hero thrown into environments and facing enemies that weren't designed to get the most out of him.
It's a crying shame, because with a little more effort, DMC4 could have been a genuine contender for 2008 game of the year. As it is it's a brilliant, addictive, just plain cool hack and slash action game which goes some way to bringing the series back to its initial lustre. There are some high quality contenders to the throne - the God of War and Ninja Gaiden series' spring to mind - but there's something uniquely appealing about DMC. Capcom has done nothing to make it more appealing for those who have passed on the series in the past, has been very brave with its decision to replace Dante with Nero, and, in many areas, been extremely slack in terms of game design, but, on the whole, DMC4 will leave fans with a smirk the great demon hunter himself would be proud of.