* May contain spoilers.
Firstly I would like to say that I have not played any other Castlevania game in a very long time. Though I must say despite the few things wrong with this game, there is very much to be said about what has been done right.
Gabriel the main character is a tormented soul on a quest to bring back a dead loved one. To do so he needs to assemble three pieces of the God Mask. Each piece of the mask is guarded by a Lord of Shadow. These Lords of Shadow include the king of Lycans, the Queen of Vampires, and Death himself. Along with the destruction of these bastards, you receive relics which help you on your quest. The weaponry, magic, sub weapons, and upgrades are all very interesting to me, and in any other genre of game I have not found anything this interesting / refreshing as of late. Each chapter takes you across Europe, and across many stunning visuals in places that look so real, you wish you could schedule a vacation to the middle ages. Before each level there is a description of what Gabriel is going through, what he must do next, and most importantly WHY. Without ruining too much of the plot, I happily must say this is a game made for the older generation with its darker plot (bringing the dead back to life, a corrupt brotherhood of god following warriors, etc)
Weaponry / Relics:
Part of what makes this game so great is the innovative weapon the Combat Cross which is basically a retractable chain whip for which you will find many enhancements. You will have the ability to get a spiked chain whip, over the basic version in order to help saw down some of your obstacles. You will also get a hook shot type component where you will be able to do some difficult jumps, as well as a vampire stake hidden in the bottom of the Combat Cross, which also helps you navigate through the game.
You get both Light Magic, and Dark Magic. Light Magic, quite simply acts as a Life Siphon. It does not enhance the damage of your weapon, but heals a portion of your life for every hit of the whip you cause to someone else. Dark Magic basically just enhances the damage capability of the weapon.
The sub weapons you will come across are as follows:
Silver Daggers: Good for those pesky Lycans
Holy Water: No better way to destroy Vampires, or Undead creatures
Fairies: Good for confusing your opponents
Dark Crystal: Summons an evil naked she bitch whirlwind of destruction that kills / heavily damages
All of this in combination with the following relics:
Dark Gauntlet: Moves obsticles / causes heavy damage with uppercuts, tremors, and combos
Greaves: Run faster to jump bigger distances
Wings: Double Jump.
All of the relics and sub weapons can be combined with Magic to create a seemingly endless supply of battle tactics, and combo moves which are learned with experience, which makes the battle more fun. It also allows you to try many different ways to kill your opponents the best, which you will need on the higher difficulties / to beat challenges / and if you are just plain bored of the same hack and slash routine. There are also several different enemies you can ride (Huge Spider, Troll etc) to get past certain barricades.
There are several levels within a chapter, and each of these levels has some form of goal. Some are to just get from point a to point b, while others require a bit of strategy. Others still will have puzzles (not so annoying that you can't eventually figure out) and interesting mini games. All in all it mixes up mini games, battle, plot, and satisfying different schemes of environments, and obstacles. Some levels will require you to climb dizzying heights, while others focus on killing bosses. The great thing about the bosses is that you can't simply use the same tactics to kill them. They require button presses to strip off their armor, destroy their magic seals, throw their projectiles back at them, or just plain ride on their back into weak looking walls.
Art / Music:
Few games deserve recognition in this area, but the music fits the theme of the game. The landscapes look real, and don't replay themselves. You are going to be in the deepest darkest winter, eerie castles, lush forests, abstract demonized hell holes, deserts with sinking mud, mountainous regions, and many other interesting locales. You just have to see it to understand.
Everything I listed above, is what I consider to be the pro's of this game, following this point will be considered areas of improvement. Below is some of the music I enjoyed taken directly from the game.
You have no control over the camera angle, which I suspect is because of the beautiful landscapes, and the detail they possess. You either get linear and perfect camera angles, or non-linear and terrible camera angles with art this good, and while the camera can be a challenge at times, it always knows to focus on your enemies, but sometimes if you don't know what to look for you can easily get lost in a level and not know where to go.
Once you get the ability to double jump, and run I have noticed in earlier levels where you originally did not have this capability you can sometimes get stuck in parts of the floor near areas where you need to jump, or though the sky looks limitless, you are hitting your head on nothing, or though the areas with water look limitless, you can only go so far. They definitely take something away from the experience.
These little assholes steal all your upgrades, relics, and capability of using magic to play hide and seek with you. They anger me to no end. Luckily they only appear a few times.
If you can get around the sometimes frustrating camera, and glitches that occur with this game, and your desire to throw your controller through your flat screen when a Chupacabra steals your mother trucking Mojo, then I have to say this is a fantastic game with much to offer.
Gameplay: 8 (several glitches)
Music: 9 (sometimes gets repetitive)
Visuals: 9 (looks kind of choppy with an HDMI cable)
Combat: 10 (excellent variety, multiple difficulties, challenges, and bosses await you)
Story: 9 (dark adult themed religious morality driven plot line)
All in all I would have to give it an 8.5 / 10. It is a solid game with a couple of problems. I wish it had more interactivity though, like the kind found in inFamous (you could choose your moral compass) or some form of online play. (the chess game would be fun) or perhaps a duel system, or any upgrades to the game of any kind (costumes) on PSN, which is where I am forcibly removing a half point from the above scoring structure. Below is a video of one of the final battle.
I hope you enjoy it, and if you were on the fence let me know why and perhaps I can help you make up your mind one way or the other based on what you are looking for in a game / your perceptions of what you think it is. Because there are definitely lots of cliffsides to climb, many puzzles to solve, many bosses to fight, many buttons to mash, and many battles / bosses to destroy which all have weaknesses, and require tact, and strategy (unless you are playing on easy, or are opting out of the puzzles, which you very well can do, but if you are a trophy collector like me, then you will be horrified to find the difficulty level get exponentially harder, and the challenges become progressively more hair pullingly annoying. At least you can always reload from your last checkpoint which will save you hours)