April 02, 2012
We might be getting old, but it seems that the Devil May Cry games are a lot harder than we remember. They used to be a breeze comparatively speaking, but nowadays it just hurts our wrist bashing buttons to carve and shoot through endless swathes of demon spawn. Repetitive strain injury aside though, does the original Devil May Cry trilogy still hold up in a world filled with great action adventures with sky-high production values?
The latest in a long line of HD remakes, the Devil May Cry HD Collection bundles Devil May Cry, Devil May Cry 2 and Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening Special Edition on a single disc, with the usual overhauled high-definition visuals and audio. Capcom isn't new to this schtick either, having released Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica X in HD last year, albeit with a lack of overall polish. Devil May Cry HD Collection is certainly a step-up from Capcom's previous efforts as far as quality is concerned, and looks fantastic in HD during gameplay, yet the quality of the cut scenes still leaves a lot to be desired.
In fact it's quite jarring when you've been playing through the action, which looks and handles like a dream, only to have it bookended by grainy, low resolution cinematics. It's the fly in the ointment for what are otherwise superbly revamped classics that are still an unmitigated joy to play, despite the inherently steep difficulty curves. We're not entirely sure about the technical ins and outs, but having played several HD collections in the past with the same issue surrounding the relatively lacklustre and badly upscaled cut-scenes, it appears that this is something endemic to all HD collections.
The games themselves hold up exceedingly well after a decade since their original release however, and the first Devil May Cry originally launched back in 2001, still excels as an exacting hack and slash grind that's among the toughest, but most rewarding action adventures around. Of course, the narrative is somewhat daft – as it is in all three DMC titles on the disc – but there's something inherently endearing about the whole package, with its cocksure hero, big swords and relentless grinding guitar riffs punctuating the action. It's the atmosphere that's so perfectly pitched though, and so the castle situated on Mallet Island in the first game is still every bit as claustrophobic and dripping in Gothic character as it was over ten years ago. And it truly oozes with grandeur and lustre in HD.
Devil May Cry 2 dropped the ball somewhat upon its release in 2003, eschewing the dark and narrow passages of Mallet Castle for the more open streets, rooftops and alleyways of Vie de Marli. Consequently, there's less incidental detail and less refinement in the combat system, and no amount of HD polishing can hide the fact that DMC2 is by far the weakest instalment in the series. There's less strategical nous required to tackle the bosses and an endless stream of samey enemies leave you bashing buttons like a maniac while longing for the more nuanced challenge presented in both DMC1 and DMC3. Devil May Cry 2 is still a worthwhile entry in the series however, and the lick of HD paint is obviously welcome. It is the easiest Devil May Cry game too, so naturally the other two games on the disc seem even more difficult by comparison and they're all the better for it.
There's also the added appeal of being able to play as the dual blade wielding Lucia in DMC2, just like Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening Special Edition adds replay value with the presence of Dante's brother Vergil as a playable character and additional modes. DMC3 is quite possibly the main event in the Devil May Cry HD Collection then, starring a young, arrogant and brash Dante fighting his way to the top of Temen-ni-gru tower to battle his brother. Like all three games, it's packed to the gills with fiendish puzzles and challenging combat that requires mastery of Dante's sword and guns. For the uninitiated, collecting red orbs from foes and smashed objects enables you to purchase items and upgrades, so managing your orb-based funds is also an ongoing concern in each game and the unforgiving continue system ramps up the gut-wrenching tension of fighting a tough boss. Failure sends you back to the beginning of the mission unless you have a yellow orb to exchange for a continue.
Health items are hard to come by in DMC too, and every red orb you spend gradually becomes a major decision-making juncture as the prices of items soar at the games' Divinity Statue shop points. Do you buy that large vital star or do you purchase a blue orb? Or would a yellow orb be a more sensible purchase? You're always second-guessing what your best approach is, and having already played the games upon their original release, it's clear that the Devil May Cry games haven't lost any of their uniquely hardcore appeal.
Devil May Cry is also crammed full of achievements. There's 33 per game, which for the mathematically challenged is 99 in total. The majority of them are as hard as nails though, so reaching S ranks on all stages, completing the highest difficulties, maxing out your upgrades and more all present huge challenges. Multiple playthroughs of each game will be required, which means grabbing the full 1000 Gamerscore will take a long, long time indeed. Of course, the games alone are tough and you'll net a few achievements for simply completing each. A challenge in itself.
In fact it's easy to forget just how tough the Devil May Cry series was, now that we've grown so accustomed to auto-saves and generous checkpoints, and its boss battles are among some of the most testing in the genre. They're also some of the best too, with imaginative, demonic creatures that demand careful strategy and hair-trigger manual dexterity. You'll never forget fighting Nelo Angelo, Jester, Phantom or any of the other monsters from DMC's rogue's gallery. Steaming in is a sure fire way to get your ass quickly handed to you, so knowing exactly when to bring out Dante's pistols to keep an enemy at bay and then wade in with Alastor or Rebellion, or any of Dante's other close-quarters weaponry (Ifrit is a personal favourite) is vital. It's the inherent fun of racking up combos using both Dante's guns and close-quarters weapons that's still at the centre of Devil May Cry's combat mechanics, and even now, ten years on, the system still feels as fresh as a daisy.
And indeed, Devil May Cry HD Collection's visual overhaul makes the trilogy feel even fresher. Although there are aspects from a visual standpoint that give away the Devil May Cry series' age, it's remarkable how good the games still look and how well they play after all this time. With Dante soon getting a reboot courtesy of Ninja Theory, it's worth reminding yourself where it all began by taking a trip with the original, cocky white-haired demon slayer. Devil May Cry HD Collection is a superb revamp of what are already a trilogy of fantastic games. All three are still fantastic, although Devil May Cry 1 and 3 are by far the strongest games on the disc. DMC HD is a superb collection and a lovingly polished overhaul of three hardcore classics, representing great value. It's utterly essential.
Maddening, repetitive guitar riffs might drive some insane during the action spikes, but in the moments of downtime, the soundtrack is fittingly subtle and foreboding. It all works and hangs together like it should, and the audio has been cleaned up nicely too.
Devil May Cry was always a looker on PlayStation 2, and with this high-definition revamp, Devil May Cry HD Collection is the best the trilogy has ever looked. Obviously. It's just a shame that the cut-scenes let the side down.
As playable now as they were ten years ago, Devil May Cry HD Collection is a must for hack and slash fans. DMC's gun and blade juggling mechanics are still immensely gratifying too. They're tough games for sure, but massively rewarding.
Three awesome games, remade in HD on one disc at a budget price? That's what you call value for money. Having the Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition with its Bloody Palace, Turbo Mode and other bonuses also sweetens the deal. There's exclusive extras to be found in the Vault too, including artwork and music.
99 achievements, 33 per game, almost all of them hard as nails. Suffice it to say, completing this list is for sadists only. More casual players will find loads of easier achievements, but there are some that require a huge investment of time and effort. A typically mental Capcom achievement list.
Devil May Cry HD Collection is up there with the better examples of HD remakes, perfectly complementing the games' fast and frenetic action with gorgeous visuals. It's the perfect way to say goodbye to old-school Dante before ushering in Capcom's reboot with DmC. Newcomers are in for a treat and if you've played DMC 1-3 before, you'll want to play them all over again.