Devil May Cry: HD Collection (XBOX 360)
It would be fair to say that every game reviewer out there has become one because at some point in their life they were an avid gamer. Certainly I have never spoken to a game journalist who has no interest in the industry and this is quite a unique aspect in employment. There are people who love their jobs, people who obsess about their jobs and of course those who loathe and despise theirs but rarely does someone manage to bridge the gap from one of their interests, or passions, into a paid role.
That said, for all game reviewers love to game, it is impossible to play everything and there are games, or sometimes complete franchises that pass us by. In my case one of those was Devil May Cry, all of them. How that happened I have no idea, especially having been very much into most of Capcom's key games, though one of those, Marvel vs. Capcom did introduce me to some key DMC characters.
With the release of DMC: Devil May Cry, a reimagined take on the game universe, fast approaching Capcom are giving those unfamiliar with the series a chance to head back over a decade to the original, then through two sequels. With a HD makeover and bonus content as well as the special edition of DMC3: Dante's Awakening all on one disc, at a value price, this might just be the release to whittle away those Easter holiday hours.
As with so many recent remastered collections, on either the PS3 or 360, the DMC disc begins with a menu that allows us to jump into any of the games, something which will appeal to those who have played through one before. For those new to DMC it is of course recommended that we head into the original, a 2001 game originally released on PS2 which see's us take control of Dante for the first time. We learn that Dante is half demon and half human and through his father has received some rather impressive powers and an attitude. Dante's father wasn't just any old demon though; he went against the forces of the underworld, protecting humanity from being destroyed by them and following his death, and the murder of our mother we are out for revenge one demon at a time.
To aid us in our quest we start with a basic set of skills which are enhanced throughout the game and are combined with sword and gun moves to take out our foes. From here we delve into a hack, slash and shoot action game in which our ability to chain moves for maximum destruction, as well as explore and gather items, is rated. Holding together the action set pieces and exploring are a selection of cut scenes which expand our characters story.
Devil May Cry 2 picks up events later in Dante's timeline and as with so many sequels looks to expand on the gameplay of the first. The controls are slightly tweaked, we have more moves (and powers) from the get go and the game focuses less on exploration than the first, heading down a more action orientated path. In addition to this from the launcher we can also play the game as a second character, Lucia, a nod to the original release which offered one disc for Dante and another for Lucia. Lucia is controlled in a similar way but is far more nimble than Dante, with slower projectile weapons which changes the speed of the gameplay.
While DMC2 took us further on in the timeline after the original, Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening is a prequel and focuses on Dante and his brother Vergil. Again we are looking at a set of missions where our goal is to rate well while taking out as many demons as possible with chains of attacks, avoiding damage. Cut scenes and FMV once again hold the action together and like the second game in the pack we move further from the originals exploration into an even more action based. Our gameplay mechanic also receives a more significant overhaul from game 2 to game 3 as we are given the ability to change our play style for each mission and at checkpoints, giving us more success with different approaches such as swords, guns or even more advanced aspects such as Doppelganger which adds a Dante Double which will aid us in battle. With this being the special edition, like the original release, we are also able to take control of Vergil and have access to Turbo Mode (faster gameplay) and Bloody Palace Mode (extra levels).
Graphics and Audio
When we reviewed the Jak and Daxter collection a couple of months ago we noted that Sony had worked on the older games bringing them up to date, or at least making them acceptable for today's market. The makeover on the original Devil May Cry is in a step above this though. It isn't a modern looking game but it has been enhanced in detail, resolution and as a result clarity. That said not everything has received a makeover with cut-scenes being more classic in presentation.
DMC2 due to the change in gameplay style doesn't quite have the same impact as the first in terms of graphics overhaul however there is a clear improvement from the first release which will make it more accessible for a modern audience.
Moving to the third game it becomes clear that the roots of the title are more modern. The HD makeover serves it well and it feels more polished than the previous games with more enemies on screen, generally larger foes and better backgrounds to play through.
The audio in the collection is reasonable when playing through the first few games. They certainly haven't received the same level of improvement in this area as the visual elements. That said the voiceovers are decent and by the time we get to the third game there is a higher quality, meaty heavy metal soundtrack accompanying the carnage which works very well.
For anyone who has played through the first few Resident Evil games the roots of the original Devil May Cry will be immediately evident. It is set out in very much the same way with fixed camera locations which vary depending on our placement in each room or corridor. The menus and amount of exploration are also very similar but past that the game begins to take on its own identity and this is down to the combat system and pace of battles which are completely different to the slow, limited bullet approach of the Resident Evil games.
While many will enjoy the pacing of Devil May Cry, action fans could find it a little slow due to the numerous sections where we are not fighting, rather collecting but it is worth sticking with the game if this is the case because the story is worth seeing to fully enjoy the later games.
As noted above the second title in the franchise looks to expand the action gameplay a lot more and will likely be easily accessible to most players due to an easier difficulty level than the first game. While this isn't necessarily always a good thing, and this is the weakest of the three games, it is interesting to see the game from the perspective of another character for the first time and though the locations are the same the gameplay is noticeably different and worth the extra time. It was also interesting to note that many of the camera issues which are present in the original game are ironed out here, for example we need to completely reverse our stick less often during angle changes which promotes a smoother gameplay experience.
Without doubt the highlight of the package is Devil May Cry 3 and when playing through the makeover that the game has received only serves to enhance the fact that Capcom had by this point mastered the style which had been evolving since 2001... or maybe before given the Resident Evil roots. Everything in DMC3 is bigger, flashier, smoother, more polished (especially the camera) and very much aimed at action fans and maximum carnage than puzzles or exploration. DMC 3 is all about achieving high ratings and taking out demons in as cool a way as possible which suits the attitude of the main character and the heavy soundtrack adds weight to the experience... that said it is best played in small bursts as endless hacking, slashing and shooting through waves of demons and bosses can be a little draining.
A nice trip through the evolution of a classic franchise. DMC may be a little too slow for some gamers and DMC3 a little too action orientated for others but each game is well worth experiencing with the third, in our opinion, being exceptionally fun. Also an impressive example of how to do a HD makeover and all for £29.99/$39.99, no complaints here.