Rating - 84/100
Recommendation - There's something for everyone. Even non-ARPG-fans.
It is a travesty how far under the radar this game has flown. Even rather diehard ARPG fans have overlooked it, which is not only a sin, but should also be a crime. This game is GREAT.
All the hallmarks of a modern ARPG are here: Hordes and hordes of enemies, quick level-ups, copious perks and skill points, gigantic boss monsters, and a minion you can outfit who levels up alongside you. There are 3 acts, waypoints, hidden quests, socketables, stashes, etc.
Don't go thinking this game is just like every other ARPG, however. There are a number of ways Van Helsing differs from its siblings.
The main surprise for me was how Lady Katarina (Van Helsing's companion) feels like a fully-fledged player character. Her skills can be absurdly powerful, and you can build her to either be completely passive and only provide boosts to Van Helsing, or as a hell-raising destruction machine (with Van Helsing providing boosts to her if wanted). She has a full set of skills, mildly-programmable AI, and nearly the same amount of equipment options as Van Helsing himself. While minions in other games really feel like nothing more than pets, Katarina felt more like a full co-op partner.
Another part that surprised me was the skill system. When you level up, you earn points that you can use to unlock skills and skill upgrades. In battle, you can use your mana to unleash special attacks, and use so-called rage points (you have a rage meter that charges up as you use regular attacks) to add modifiers to your skills. For example, you can use a lightning strike that sends 3 small electric tendrils snaking out along the ground, and you can use your rage points to add additional tendrils, increase the damage, or add a stun effect. Each modifier can be stacked up to 3 times, and the effects can be devastatingly powerful. Rage charges up rather slowly, though, so it's best to save them up for any one of the brutally-difficult boss fights.
Speaking of difficulty, this game skates the same tough-but-doable line that other recent ARPGs (other than Diablo 3) have. It's also worth mentioning that playing in co-op increases the difficulty drastically. I found it much easier when I played in single player, so bring a friend who knows what they're doing.
Overall, I have nothing that I can complain about with this game. The graphics are great, the voice acting is well-done and often hilarious, the multiplayer is stable, the combat is visceral and entertaining, the skill system is unique and robust, the difficulty is even and fair, the story is interesting, the game length is just right, and the whole affair is filled with the mindless slaughtering of countless enemies that you've come to know and love. There are riddles, cultural references, ethereal "rift" sections, and even a few little tower defense distractions.
If you are at all a fan of ARPGs, I honestly cannot recommend it enough. Even if you aren't a fan of the genre, this one does just enough things differently that you will likely find something to enjoy. If not, well, at least it's cheap.