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Devil May Cry HD Collection

21:1009/04/2012Posted by Chris MorellOne Comment

Eleven years ago, there was an action game that gave players a true sense of empowerment – an evolution of the Resident Evil series combining swordplay with that of a bullet ballet, throwing in a power known as the ‘devil trigger’ for good measure. Devil May Cry on the PS2 earned renown for making you feel like the coolest cat around, in turn introducing the world to the white-haired demon half-breed known as Dante. Four games on and with a controversial reboot on the cards, Capcom has decided to at last revisit the first three adventures in glorious HD, but has time been kind to the Son of Sparda?

The first game in the package is the original Devil May Cry, which sees Dante (son of a legendary demon who turned against his master for the sake of humanity) being led to an island by a leather-clad beauty named Trish. What follows is an adventure featuring fixed camera angles, a fair amount of backtracking but also some stellar design work; the stylish, over-the-top action alone was enough to carry the game back then and in this respect the game has aged extremely well, especially when you consider how early it came during the Playstation 2’s lifecycle. Bloody marionettes, gladiatorial lizards and scythe-wielding spirits are but a few of the enemies that lie in wait, but some standout boss encounters make for memorable moments, a few of which you’ll actually be pleased to encounter multiple times.

Everything in the original game has been designed with an impressive amount of flair. The dialogue is cheesy and the characters are anything but fleshed out, but things are always kept entertaining and the story continues at a steady pace. Atmosphere is the order of the day, with a genuinely unsettling score slipping into techno beats when the action kicks in. The decision to keep the menus and certain pre-rendered scenes in their original 4:3 format is questionable (especially as this is how the game starts up), but everything else in the game has been given a high-def makeover and been widened for modern screens. There may be a few tell-tale signs on occasion, but Devil May Cry doesn’t fray at the edges nearly as much as you might think – a testament to what a powerhouse it was back in 2001.

Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition is both the beefiest and most attractive part of the collection. Set a number of years before the first instalment, the prequel tells of the battle between the Sons of Sparda, as Dante’s twin brother Vergil fights to gain power. The number of characters in DMC3 has increased and everyone has a role to play, plus the struggle between brothers is an engaging one despite the dialogue, more often than not crossing the line between cool and corny. This does at least highlight Dante’s initial immaturity, revealing the differences between the hero’s personality and that of his much colder twin.

DMC3 introduced the four combat styles featured in DMC4, with Trickster’s focus on evasion, Swordmaster’s blade techniques, Royal Guard’s defensive stance and the self-explanatory Gunslinger offering advantages depending on your preferred play style. Moves can be purchased and upgraded, with the classic ‘Stinger’ and ‘Air Hike’ once again serving as obvious choices from the start. The content here is deep and rewarding, plus the option of a new Turbo mode lends the outlandish combat an even greater sense of speed. Finishing the game once as Dante allows you to play through as his brother, Vergil, complete with his own techniques – it’s fun, just don’t go expecting a massive change in location and gameplay as this was clearly an afterthought.

If Devil May Cry revolutionised action gaming and Dante’s Awakening marked a stylish evolution, then Devil May Cry 2 was undoubtedly the ugly triplet sandwiched between its superiors. The unremarkable graphics could have been ignored had the gameplay remained true to its predecessor, but DMC2 represented a significant drop in quality overall. These sins are even less forgivable today, having removed the engaging combat system pioneered in the first game in favour of a much more generic hack-and-slash method of play. Even the targeting system seems off, with the thrill of the air-juggling combos very much absent from this instalment.

What follows is a dull and forgettable story with a criminal reduction in fun, a total lack of charisma in the new ‘moody’ Dante, plus a playable female lead who serves as little more than a re-skin with the simple purpose of extending the game. Even the stages lack any kind of artistic quality, looking like a muddy cut-and-paste job that was rushed out the door. The intention was clearly to create larger environments to accommodate the action, but this has removed any intensity that the action might have otherwise had. The sullen hero blasts a path across cobbled streets, industrialised areas and through waterlogged caverns, but it just isn’t enough when the adventure comes with so little polish or character.

Fans of the series will find the definitive versions of all three releases in the Devil May Cry HD Collection. The first and third outings are just as exceptional now as they were on release, plus having all three games on one disc will no doubt please the fans still bemoaning the look of Ninja Theory’s upcoming reboot. It all holds up surprisingly well with not nearly as many ugly textures as you might expect, but only if you take the disappointing Devil May Cry 2 with a pinch of salt or ignore it altogether. Playing the original game alongside the re-release of Dante’s Awakening is reason enough for fans and newcomers alike to pick this up without hesitation and even if the reboot fails to recapture the glory of old, this collection shows that it’s never been a better time to strap on the leather and slay a few demons.

This review is based on a PS3 copy provided by Capcom.

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