- Two action classics (and one disappointment)
- Superb guns and swordplay combat
- Dazzling baroque architecture and creepy creature design
- Only the most basic Full HD upgrade
- No 4K options
- Disastrous camera in the first two games
- Review Price: £24.99
Available on Xbox One, PS4 (version tested)
Devil May Cry deserves better. Six years ago, Capcom delivered Xbox 360 and PS3 remasters of the classic brawler trilogy. The visual upgrades were minimal, bar a hike in resolution to 780p, while the three games came complete with fuzzy 4:3 ratio video sequences, ugly pixelated fonts, and blotchy low-res textures throughout.
I’d like to say that Capcom has pushed the boat out for these new PS4 and Xbox One remasters, but I’d be telling porky pies. Where Sony and Nintendo are revisiting their old masterpieces with affection, respect and a whole lot of polish, Capcom has dished out yet another cash-cow port, putting in the absolute minimum of effort.
Let’s not blame the three games concerned. They’re showing their age, but that’s to be expected. Devil May Cry – once a glory of the early PS2 lineup – has dated worst with its angular character models and rough lighting, but the brilliance of Capcom’s artists still shines through with the dazzling baroque dark fantasy imagery that defines the series. Dante is still the all-time greatest 14-year-old boy’s idea of a hero: cool, sardonic, your general babe magnet – and clad in the slickest red leather trenchcoat of them all. Let’s just say that he’s a product of his time.
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Devil May Cry 2, which has been developed by a different team, isn’t so successful. Its architecture is more bland and the creature design clumsy – but the third game more than makes up for that. Released during one of Capcom’s great imperial purple patches, it takes the style of the first game and turns it up to max. It offers up fantastic creatures, screen-filling bosses and one of gaming’s greatest settings: a sort of demonic Tower of Babel crammed with fiendish hellspawn and strange, impossible spaces. In 2005, this was knock-your-socks-off stuff. Thirteen years later, it’s still a formidable bit of work.
Capcom’s upgrades were minor last time round. Six years on, the news is even more disappointing. We get 1080p graphics – with the most basic upscale – at a pretty flawless 60fps, and that’s all. There’s no 4K options for PS4 Pro or Xbox One, and while Devil May Cry 3 seems to have some small and sporadic enhancements to the texturing and lighting, this may just reflect the advances made between the first and third games on original release.
We get the same fan-service content as last time, including concept art, soundtracks and fan art, while Devil May Cry’s controls have been rejigged slightly to feel more like the second and third games. Generally speaking, though, it’s hard to imagine a more half-arsed remaster.
That’s a shame, because there’s a lot here that could use some work. Proper HD textures and revamped character models would have been a good start – it isn’t as if there are that many textures and character models to deal with across the three titles. What’s more, all three games suffer from the kind of fixed camera angles Capcom used for technical reasons at this point of time. The camera is locked in one place as Dante runs, leaps and battles through the scene, panning slightly and switching to a different angle when he reaches the edge of the frame.
This is spectacularly annoying, and you’ll regularly find you have to slash and blast away at enemies you can’t even see. In boss battles, where spotting incoming attacks and timing your own blows is everything, this is the real stuff of nightmares, killing some sections of the first two games. Things aren’t so bad with Devil May Cry 3. Firstly, because you can rotate your view in specific situations; and, secondly, because Capcom seemed to have worked out what wasn’t working by the time it was released, fine-tuning the action to compensate.
And beneath the rough visuals and glitchy camera angles there are still two amazing games – and one, well, sort of alright one. I spent my first ten minutes with Devil May Cry thinking: ‘Seriously? We thought this was great? It’s awful.’ Forty minutes later, I was absolutely hooked.
The secret is the pacing and the combat, with short bursts of incredibly intense, high-octane hack-and-slash action. It’s linked by quiet passages of exploration that build the tension, ready for release. The combat itself isn’t that sophisticated, but the mix of swordplay, gunplay and demonic powers makes for some interesting tactical choices and awesome special moves. There’s a reason that gamers talk about Devil May Cry in the same breath as God of War or Bayonetta; it belongs in the holy trinity of fast-paced brawler action games.
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The third game is even better: a prequel that pitches the young Dante against his own evil brother, with the best monsters and bosses in the series. Being critical, you might say that a few fights go on far too long, but this is still one of the high points of the brawler genre, only rivalled by the likes of Bayonetta and God of War II.
Two great games, then, but the HD remasters? Not so much. Just weeks after Shadow of the Colossus raised the bar for remakes and remasters, Capcom has reminded us just how limbo-bar low that bar can go. The least we could have hoped for was a proper HD update, bringing the visuals a little closer to the modern era. But how about a whole new vision, removing the constraints of 17-year-old technology and giving Dante room to slay demons in his own stylish way once more? After all, it worked for Capcom back in the day with Resident Evil. Doesn’t Dante deserve that kind of TLC?
I’m in a dilemma. I want to say these games are still great. Experience them yourself for the first time, or take Dante and his demon-slaughtering exploits out for another spin. But the HD remastering is so basic, and the rough edges so rough, that I can’t quite bring myself to recommend this new collection.
At their best, the Devil May Cry games are – and will always be – brilliant, but couldn’t Capcom have given them back to us with a little more Dante-style panache?