It has been over 11 years since Devil May Cry smashed us across the face with a gigantic sword. One of the first titles to come out on the PS2, Devil May Cry re-defined hack and slash combat by giving us a rich and detailed combat system. Stemming very much from the Resident Evil formula, Devil May Cry pushed the boundaries of expectation. It was, in a word, awesome. But does it stand up to scrutiny 11 years on? This is of course the question that is raised with all of these HD re-releases. Nostalgia is a dangerous thing and can seriously effect your memory. What once felt so fresh and so new will most likely have been copied and improved upon many times over by now. This is how the games industry has been since day one and it makes stepping back in time very patchy. Some games have used such tried and tested methods that once you get past the graphical back-step you are once again thrown into flawless gameplay and design. Other games highlight the flaws you accepted at the time but have long since become game breakers in a modern title. So back to my question, Does the Devil May Cry 1, 2 and 3 stand up to todays standard of gaming? Well sometimes it does and sometimes it woefully does not. Lets start with the big question; how good do the games look? Well firstly, anything pre-rendered in the games is still in SD (with some upscaling) and looks muddy. So titles, credits, FMV scenes and menu screens all look pants. This wouldnt matter if they werent dotted throughout the games but sadly they are. They are also often displayed in a 4:3 ratio which adds insult to crap upscaling. Aside from this however, the visuals are crisp and the frame rate seems to keep up well enough. The thing to remember is that these games havent been given the Ocarina of Time treatment, so all the details are the same, just in a larger resolution. The only noticeable difference is that lines are much smoother. Not surprisingly, the best looking game of the bunch is DMC 3 which has genuinely stood the test of time visually. This is a testament to how great it looked in the first place of course, and a clear indication that this fad for HD upgrades works best with games from near the end of the previous generation than its beginning. The real issue here is whether these games are still worth your time and money and I can safely assure you that they most certainly are, for the most part anyway. The original Devil May Cry is still an excellent game. The combat is still deeper than most of the games that have come since and the boss battles are just as epic as you remember them being. I arrogantly thought that, coming back to DMC after so many years of playing the series and games like Bayonetta, I would find it easy. It is most certainly not. This is still a challenge, especially if you are striving for S rankings. In fact, you will probably find it most challenging as you'll have become used to having more moves and weapons at your disposal to push up those battle scores. DMC really makes you work for those battle rankings but you will find the same lightning reflexes and bold moves will reward you in the end. The sad thing about this release is that DMC 2 was and still is a massively inferior sequel. To be fair, some great things were added in DMC 2, such as the acrobatics, mid air combos and the ability to shoot two enemies at once, Equilibrium style. However, the game as a whole is disappointing. For a start the added freedom in the camera actually makes the game harder, often obscuring enemies and paths. Secondly the auto-targeting is completely shite, often aiming towards an enemy well out of reach when there is someone right behind you. The bosses are also disappointing and, in the case of Dantes final boss, insanely hard (and not in a good way). Where DMC had you fighting giant lava-spiders, griffins and the devil himself (albeit called Mundus) DMC 2 has you fighting tanks, helicopters and businessmen (albeit, evil businessmen). One thing that should work in DMC 2s favor is that it has two playable characters, whos adventures are slightly different (much like Resident Evil 2) however, Lucia (the second playable character) sucks balls. For one, she is really ugly and more importantly she really has no right to be able to kick ass like Dante can (not being half demon) which begs the question; why not use Trish? You can actually unlock the ability to play as Trish which is pretty cool but seeing as you have to complete the game in hard mode, most people probably wont bother. The best way to consider DMC 2 is as a little bit extra for your money because the real draw here is to be able to replay (or experience for the first time of course) the original DMC and the outstanding DMC 3 special edition. DMC 3 is by far the best game on this disk (and in the series) and the special edition is the definitive version. Unlike the original release, the special edition lets you play through the game as Vergil, Dantes twin brother (and the main villain) however, sadly this is only really a different playable character rather than a modified story. You still fight through the same levels and boss battles (including against yourself) which is a shame as it would have been really cool to play through the story from Virgils perspective and fight Dante in the end. Still, while somewhat redundant it still adds to the replay value of the game. The real improvement (aside from the visual fidelity I mentioned earlier) is the fighting system. DMC 3 is much, much more complex than the previous games and verges on the insane depth of Bayonetta. This is due to the style system which comprises of six (two of which are unlockable) playing styles that focus on different tactics. There is a style that allows you to dodge and move around quickly which serves as a beginner friendly style. There is a style that focuses on your guns, giving you special moves (such as an improved Equilibrium style shooting system) and a similar style focusing on your swords. Then you get the advanced defensive style called Royal Guard which allows you to counter enemy blows. Mastery of this style makes you nearly invincible but takes much more practice than the others. I wont ruin the other two styles as they are unlocked in the story. In addition to the styles is the ability to equip and switch between two weapons which allows for mid combo switching (the key to maintaining that stylish ranking). You get a variety of weapons including an electric guitar that kills people with power chords. No seriously. It is certainly true that DMC 3 is the most silly of the games but unlike the previous instalments, it has its tongue firmly in cheek. This is never more evident than in its ludicrous cut scenes which are choreographed with a childish and gleeful sense of poetic violence. This could have jumped the shark, but it actually just makes the cut scenes worth watching for a change as you never know what insane idea will come up next. This does somewhat contrast with what Dante can do when you are in control but what the heck. In all likelihood, if you are considering the Devil May Cry HD Collection you will have already played these games. But if you havent and maybe started with the series at Devil May Cry 4, this is well worth your time. For a budget price you get two excellent games and even DMC 2 is good, it just suffers by comparison. The real star of the show is the frankly superb DMC 3 special edition but it is well worth working your way through the series and making the most out of this huge release. There are well over 40 hours of gaming here and that doesnt include replaying through the various difficulties. Yes at times these games show their age but on the whole they stand up against the test of time. Most of the criticisms are the same points raised by all of these HD re-issues, muddy transfers, dated gameplay etc, etc. You should know what to expect by now and with that in mind the DMC HD Collection is one of the better value collections available at the moment. It may not be perfect but it is still an essential purchase for a fan of the series looking to replay these classic titles.
Devil May Cry HD Collection is available to buy on PS3 and XBox 360 from 3rd April.