Demons are the least of Dante's problems. In Devil May Cry 4, the surly slayer gets sidelined by a young gun. He should be worried: Nero isn't so much a new character as an emo update of Dante. With similar white hair, flowing jacket, and penchant for mixing swordplay and sidearms, the near-doppelgänger bogarts a good part of the game, leaving Dante to mop up during the game's third act. When the veteran finally takes center stage, he's treated to a dull serving of sloppy seconds, backtracking through familiar ground to put down all the hell-raising bosses that Nero didn't manage to send packing.
Devil May Cry 4's character tweaks are misplaced effort—the series' gameplay, tone, and mise en scène are what really need contemporizing. The game has a nasty habit of reserving all its awesome for moments when the player has no control. Over-the-top CG animated sequences portray characters performing insanely stylish kills and bad-ass escapes, the kind of feats people play video games to perform, not just watch. God Of War and Prince Of Persia found a balance between empowerment and button-mashing that Devil May Cry 4 has yet to discover. A maneuver that ought to take a simple push of a button calls for two or three here. The affair isn't as combo-conscious or infuriatingly difficult as Ninja Gaiden, but it certainly plants its red suede boots on the old-school side of the spectrum. And then there's the issue of style. It feels like the creators of Devil May Cry 4 are trapped in the summer of 1999, when The Matrix was still the pinnacle of otaku-informed art. The game's battle music is the kind of faux-industrial cheese that would make even Rammstein blush.
Beyond the game: Capcom appears to be flirting with the idea of making games with more Western appeal. Dead Rising and Lost Planet eschewed the cosplay aesthetic for more takes on George Romero and John Carpenter.
Worth playing for: Forget the fights and take in the scenery. Baroque architecture and rusty shipping ports look lovely in the post-sunset magic hour.
Frustration sets in when: The PlayStation 3 version of the game has to be installed on the system hard drive before playing, which takes around 20 minutes.
Final judgment: Time for a reboot.