I recently got the PC port on a Humble Bundle sale, and since it's nearly Halloween, I decided... why not, let's give this game a second chance. There was one thing, however, that sparked the decision to give this game a chance to save face, and that's the classic Dante skin.
And, lo and behold, it is actually a very good game. Gameplay wise, it might even be the best DMC game. The battles are smooth and the weapon switching is amazingly easy and fun to use. The weapons are also great from both an aesthetic and gameplay perspective - you have your sword, scythe, axe, gauntlets, and even ninja stars, and they all play completely differently but blend in seamlessly with one another when switching between them, making performing combos in this game particularly fun. The level design is good, especially in its pacing - it hits a sweet spot between exploration and combat that seems perfect for a high octane character action game like this - and every enemy is fun to fight, from the generic mooks to the specialized enemies like the Brutes or the Witches. The tougher foes are more challenging to fight, and require you to dodge and plan your attacks more carefully, but they don't ever feel frustrating, which is nice.
Now, the problem I had with the game the first time - its story and aesthetic. It's still pretty bad, even now that Donte is Dante and actually looks like he's Vergil's twin brother when he's on screen with him. I have to hand it to Ninja Theory for creating a more cohesive story than the original DMC games, at least in the sense of making the game feel more wrapped up in it. What I mean is that the story actually feels important to the game, and each level has a purpose - Dante is trying to do something in whatever area he's in and has a rhyme and reason for being there, with constant character interaction along the way. This is one thing that the game does very well. The setting - a more modern world than the original games had - is pretty unique as well, and a refreshing take on the series.
The plot and dialogue is where it suffers. There's potential in the setting and characters, but the story seems so hell bent on being edgy that it's detrimental to the enjoyment of the game. It's not over the top in the way that DMC3's missile-riding Dante was - it's over the top in an entirely different, and bad, way. It can all be summed up in the infamous line: "I'm your prom date, you ugly sack of shit!" followed by the string of FUCK YOUUUUUUS between the characters. I'll admit that this was so left field that it made me laugh a bit, but it's not what I want from a DMC game. Finishing the Succubus battle only to see Mundus going at it with his mistress, Kat's stupid Wiccan spray can, and basically every other line of dialogue in the game is, simply put, terrible. I'd use the word tasteless to describe the game's general atmosphere and tone - it's cohesively put together, but the creative intent behind the game is something I find myself at constant odds with. It's not entirely a lost cause - I like how this Dante and Vergil feel like deeper characters (although not by much) by having them show levels of emotion other than WOO CRAZY or "I'm so stoic and cool", but every time they begin to fall in good graces with me another goofy scene or exchange happens and throws it all out of the window.
TL;DR: The gameplay is good. The level design is good. The story is bad. Not without its merits, and conceptually a cool idea with the more modern setting, but still bad, and definitely not what a DMC game should be.
I haven't actually beaten the game yet. I think I'm a little over halfway through, but I'm glad I gave it a second chance.