Devil May Cry is a franchise that revolutionised hack-and-slash gaming back when it first released in October 2001 for the PlayStation 2. Since then, the series has seen several sequels that varied in quality, but ultimately still provided some of the most exciting and engaging gameplay to date. Naturally, Capcom had decided to remaster the original PS2 trilogy on PlayStation 3 back in 2012, and now, we've got a port of the remaster for PlayStation 4 here in 2018. So, is this trilogy still “stylish”, or has it hit a “dull” slate?
Let’s make this clear: Devil May Cry HD Collection is essentially a straight port of the PS3 remaster. However, some differences were found in this version versus the previous. First off, a very welcome feature (that was oddly omitted on PS3) is the ability to actually exit the Devil May Cry game you’re playing and go back to the game selection screen. Simply pressing the touchpad at the main menu of any title will take you back. On the PS3 version, you had to actually quit out of the entire application, load the XMB, then relaunch the game.
The next difference is the resolution. Whereas the PS3 version was running at 720p, this one has been upscaled to 1080p. The textures and assets still remain identical to the original PS2 releases, however. Lastly, the final noticeable difference is that cutscenes in Devil May Cry 3 have removed the widescreen bars and now take up the entire screen. It was a bit jarring at first (this reviewer being someone who put over 50 hours into the game on both PS2 and PS3), but it’s a welcome change. That being all said, these are the only main differences between the PS3 and PS4 HD Collection.
Before breaking down the three games on how they each fare today, let’s quickly run through the core gameplay of the series. Controlling half-human, half-demon Dante, you explore and fight your way through mission after mission while looking as stylish as possible. Wielding Dante’s signature Ebony and Ivory pistols (plus other guns) as well as his sword (as well as other melee weapons), you will mix and match the combos to dish out some serious damage to your demonic enemies.
All the games rate you mid-combat on a letter-based system. It starts as low as “D” and can go up to “S” (by the third game, it ranks all the way up to “SSS”). When things get rough, Dante can activate his Devil Trigger, transforming him into a - you guessed it - devil. This lets him regenerate health, speeds up his attacks, unlocks new attacks, and dish out more damage. When not in combat, the Devil May Cry games push the exploration aspect, as well as platforming. The flow of combat and exploration usually blends perfectly to avoid repetition from settling in.
So, have the three games stood to the test of time? We reckon so. The first Devil May Cry was a masterpiece when it launched, and 17 years later still has the same exhilarating, tense gameplay. The first game also nailed its atmosphere perfectly. The gothic architecture, coupled with a truly flawless soundtrack that deeply immerses you into the experience really is unrivalled. The story is somewhat campy but very enjoyable, and we obviously got introduced to Dante, one of modern gaming's most iconic characters.
Everything about the original just oozes with character and style; from the insane combat, to even something as subtle as the inventory menu (which is still one of the sleekest menus you'll find in an action game to this day). Also, the title was, and still is, a serious challenge. Part of what keeps the game so intense is the fact that enemies have no issue killing you quickly - split-second dodging and well-timed attacks are key. Additionally, the release does inject variety by introducing brief segments of different gameplay mechanics such as first-person swimming and flying. The first game set such a high bar for action titles that the sequel unfortunately faltered rather terribly.
Shifting hands from the now legendary Hideki Kamiya to another internal Capcom team, Devil May Cry 2 fell short in so many areas. The game starts off with a really badass intro video, but the issues start appearing almost immediately. The poor story, the lacklustre atmosphere, and the drastically slowed-down combat really hurt the sequel - but it wasn’t all bad. As many issues as the game had, there’s no denying that there's still some fun to be had with it. The soundtrack in particular stands out.
Playing as either Dante or Lucia, you be face off against Arius and his corporate greed as he unleashes demons on Dumary Island. Both Dante and Lucia play differently, using different weapons and projectile attacks. Each have their own campaign that interweaves the other, and it's a clever idea to show two sides of the same story, even if said story is nothing special. Still, Devil May Cry 2 is just too easy. Coming off the back of its immensely challenging (and rewarding) predecessor, the second instalment rarely feels great to play due to it’s easier difficulty. Even on the “Must Die” difficulty setting, it’s a bit of a breeze. Enemies and bosses can easily be taken down relying solely on projectile attacks, removing the need for intense sword play.
With the third game, the same team behind Devil May Cry 2 went back to the drawing board after being bombarded with complaints. The resulting release remains one of the highest regarded action titles of all time. Devil May Cry 3 (which is a prequel to the original) took everything about the sequel and essentially threw it out the window. Faster combat? Check. Better environments? Check. More personality for Dante? Check. Ramped up default difficulty? Check. Absolutely crazy cutscenes, excellent story, and sublime combat? Check, check, and check.
The third game really returns to the series’ roots. The special edition version of Devil May Cry 3, combat is a drastic improvement, with a significantly more rewarding system, faster pacing, and the introduction of “styles”. Before each mission starts, you're allowed to choose a combat style: Trickster, Swordmaster, Gunslinger, or Royal Guard (as well as another unlocked further in). Each combat style provides a unique way to control Dante, and interestingly, the styles are laid out almost in a difficulty set, with Trickster being more for newcomers and Royal Guard being the most difficult style to master, but also most rewarding.
Visually, all three games got the 1080p upscale treatment as mentioned earlier. However, as much as it would’ve been nice to see these games get a proper remaster, this was never intended to be a full-on remake. Yes, some of the textures are starting to show their age, but on the flip side, the art direction is still superb for its time, and is a reminder of just how much thought was put into the series.
In terms of audio, all three games have outstanding, unique soundtracks. The first game has a blend of eerie, atmospheric music when exploring Mallet Island, while rock and techno blast through the speakers when in combat. The second game follows suit - each song being engaging to listen to as they amplify the gameplay and get stuck in your head. The third game went a different direction going for a more heavy metal rock style for combat, while still nailing the atmospheric tunes when exploring Temen-ni-gru. The sound effects in all three games also pack a serious punch, whether you're blasting demons away or slicing them up.
The Devil May Cry HD Collection on PS4 may essentially be a straight port of the PS3 version that released in 2012, but ultimately, that doesn’t detract from the overall experience. The original Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 3 still stand strong, and while the second game is easily the weakest of the three, there's still some enjoyment to be had at the very least. If you've already played through the collection on PS3 then the value of this port is undoubtedly diminished, but for everyone else - newcomers included - this is a fine way to get acquainted with Dante.