Devil May Cry HD Collection Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 3Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360
The HD remake is clearly on-trend right about now. Everyone is doing it where they can. Sony started it all with God of War, Naughty Dog followed with Jak and Daxter and Konami have embraced the idea with Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill. Capcom themselves are familiar with the concept having already released some Resident Evil titles. Devil May Cry is ripe for an update of course. A new game in the series – a re-imagination – is coming later in the year and the genre has been brought right back into the public’s consciousness in recent years with the aforementioned adventures of Kratos, as well as the lovely witch, Bayonetta. It’s such a shame therefore that the end product here is fundamentally flawed in execution and desirability.
The first thing to note is that Devil May Cry evolved from the ashes of the first Resident Evil 4 build. From those ashes a new Resident Evil 4 was formed as well as this new series of games. The reason this is important is because things always come full-circle. As such the third-person combo-building action adventure beat ‘em up which Dante - and his many cohorts in successive Devil May Cry episodes spawned - has moved on from where it was in 2001, 2003 and 2005. The fourth episode in 2008 is recent evidence for this. Whilst it gave the world more of the same, that wasn’t really enough. The world by then had met the God of War and was about to fall in love with Bayonetta. Dante’s old school cool and his ebony and ivory favourites (his guns, in case you’re unaware) were not cutting-edge enough to warrant re-treading the same type of narrative (avenge by demon killing) and pushing to get those S-ranks.
For anyone who doesn’t know what’s involved in a Dante starring game, it’s basically very fast and fluid action requiring you to kick and punch and shoot various demonic forms in order to gather orbs to unlock doors and get you through to the next level. It’s nothing new, except it was eleven years ago. Dante is not your typical Japanese creation despite his heralding from there. He’s more your pretty boy American anti-hero that can be found on teenage or young adult focussed TV shows, such as Buffy or Dawson’s Creek. The fact that this collection contains three games for a lower price than your standard new release suggests good value. And that’s not untrue, depending on your point of view. Three games for two-thirds of the price of one is maybe great if you like this genre and definitely if you want to revisit the wistful days of youth when you first experienced Dante’s incredible skills. But the actual effort put into releasing this collection is minimal and explains why the cost is what it is, even taking into account all we have here is a set of re-releases.
Placing the disc in the PlayStation 3 boots the collection up and you’re presented with a choice of which of the three games - Devil May Cry, Devil May Cry 2 and Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening - to play. Choosing one starts up that game and you’re presented with the original menu screen in native resolution. So, for the first one as an example it’s in standard definition 4:3 resolution. The introduction movie is the same. There is no inkling of anything remotely resembling HD and the 2001 textures are quite offensive on modern day big screens. Eventually when the gameplay sections kick-off you do get a HD resolution but nothing else is changed. The graphics are eleven years old and the textures are minimal, the art blocky and the experience a little distracting as a result. The third game does have at least widescreen native presentation but the level of quality in the visuals is reminiscent of a Gamecube at best (it was released on PS2 in 2005 originally). All of this is just about acceptable until you then realise that on obtaining orbs or treasures or whatever collectables the game can throw at you, or messages via statues, the game moves back to original resolution screens detailing what’s been found or what you need to read. It completely destroys any semblance of being in the present and reinforces the lack of energy spent on updating these titles. It also seems to have no option to back-up to the overall collection’s menu, meaning once in a game you need to quit out in order to go back in and play a different one.
The reason all of this is important for everyone, and not just graphics-whores, is that it completely defecates upon the player’s enjoyment of the fundamentally fine games. The fighting engine still works. The combo-building is still fun. Whilst it’s not quite at the level of today’s standard-bearers it works. But you don’t enjoy it because the holistic experience continuously drags you back to the reality of a poor update by the scruff of your neck. Even if you’re reading this thinking you could probably cope with this and still enjoy yourself you need to realise there are other outdated mechanics which are equally unsettling in this day and age. The games are not truly set in fully 3D environments. As you move your avatar (Dante or whomever in the later titles) the camera will move, a la old Resident Evil games. This is incredibly jarring. You suddenly start to move in the opposite direction to the one you want to; if you’re really unlucky you end up in some kind of never ending loop whereby you just keep pacing across the same area infinitely. It does happen (rarely). Again this just consolidates the fact that these are old games given a very cheap lick of paint and released to the modern-day masses.
Dante was extremely cool back in the day. Some may think he still is, although his redesign in this year’s forthcoming reimagination of the series may change that, and these games do play as well as they did and provide the challenge they did (with trophies now for extra fun - each game has its own complete set excitingly), as well as bringing some new surprises to the table belying the fact that on the whole minimal effort has been put in here. So I guess what you need to know is that what we have here is a failure in execution when viewed as a HD collection. A poor re-release of games which don’t quite cut the mustard compared to recent peers. But, this is tempered by the fact that Dante’s stories have secured a certain standing in the gaming history books and looked at purely as an exercise in retro gaming, is one of the better retro experiences you could choose.