You can almost feel Ninja Theory's middle finger protruding out of DmC: Devil May Cry - Definitive Edition, a remastered version of its polarising 2013 reboot. Rather than settle for a simple visual overhaul, the Cambridge-based developer has delved deep into the core of its divisive PlayStation 3 title, retuning aspects of the urban overhaul specifically to the tastes of those outspoken aficionados that lambasted the original even prior to its release. But with a changelog as long as Dante's famous Rebellion rapier – which includes such miniscule modifications as the removal of Vergil's fugly fedora – does this stand any chance of winning the affection of the series' stubborn stalwarts?
You could confidently argue that no matter how good this game gets, it'll never be what furious fans want – and no amount of peroxide on Dante's perfectly forged faux-hawk is ever going to change that. However, you have to give the developer its dues here: it's grimaced through some particularly hostile feedback, and put together a package that's much closer to Capcom's classic hack-and-slash outings. And, of course, it's always worth remembering that outside of the backlash, the original was well received; with flashy combat, occasionally brilliant level design, and some truly memorable boss encounters, the last-gen romp was better than the backlash would lead you to believe.
This is a clever port, because it recognises – and caters to – both crowds adeptly. For starters, you'll find the original experience retuned and re-balanced, but still intact here – with a smattering of new skins, items, and difficulty tiers for you to try out. The visuals have been beefed up to take advantage of the additional horsepower of the PlayStation 4, with the entire experience now running at 60 frames-per-second in 1080p. The performance isn't always flawless – particularly in Turbo, which we'll get to shortly – but the increased refresh rate definitely enables a sense of speed and precision that the PS3 simply couldn't provide, which is welcome in a title of this type.
The adventure itself remains untouched, barring the addition of a cut-scene and the removal of the odd cringeworthy line. Loosely based upon Hideki Kamiya's cult PlayStation 2 classic, the plot acts as an origin story of kinds, as sexual deviant Dante gets dragged into a plot to murder Mundus, a dictatorial demon king. The characters are cartoony, but the way that the release fuses different themes – from Biblical overtones all the way down to street art – is one of its truest triumphs, and it does have an infectious self-confidence in its own ideas that few titles possess. Whether the witty one-liners and deep-rooted club culture will appeal to you is a matter for individual tastes.
The game looks good, but never really breaks free of its last-gen shackles. Limbo, the demon world which you'll be jumping in and out of over the course of the ten or so hour campaign, clearly gave the British studio's art department a workout, as you scour an underwater penitentiary and crumbling edifices. Boss battles are similarly imaginitive, with one face-off against broadcaster Bob Barbas employing live television feeds and big LED screens. Its moments like these – as well as a romp through a discotheque, complete with strobe lights and graphic equalisers – that even the most ardent of detractors have to commend.
The combat's pretty good, too, and this is where the main bulk of the changes reside. You'll still be toggling between Angel and Demon weapons in order to inflict damage on colour coded enemies, but this demand has been dialled down, with the correct instruments dealing additional damage, rather than being required to rip up an adversary. Additionally, there are a handful of new modifiers which can be applied on top of the title's various difficulty settings. Turbo, for example, increases the pace of the experience by 20 per cent, giving the action a much more frantic feel, while Must Style only allows you to inflict damage when you reach an S rank in the style meter.
The framerate does dip a little more frequently when Turbo is turned on, but the experience generally benefits from the faster pace. The most important toggle for fans of the franchise will be Hardcore Mode, however, which essentially remixes the release in line with older Devil May Cry titles. This tweaks everything from the hit points that certain moves inflict right the way through to the way that the style meter works. It certainly makes it much harder to attain those all-important SSS combos, and further adjustments to the way that Devil Trigger – a meter-based super move – and parrying works means that this offers a much more punishing experience.
The great thing is that you can mix and match the way that you want to enjoy the game. Given that all of the above are simply modifiers, you can choose to play, for instance, on the easiest difficulty setting with Hardcore Mode turned on – or employ the original game balance with Turbo cranked up. This imbues the package with an excellent sense of 'have it your own way' – and with various leaderboards available for the many different options, you'll still be able to compare your chops to others on a level playing field. The changes definitely breathe new life into the package, but whether they will satiate those who seem dead set on disliking the title remains to be seen.
You do, at least, get the sense that the developer's really trying. It's implemented a new manual lock-on system which brings it in line with older games, and you can even equip classic Dante and Vergil skins if you prefer the former's snowy mop top. Meanwhile, the ever popular Bloody Palace has been added to the Vergil's Downfall portion of the package, which also includes the downloadable campaign that launched for the PS3 version post-release. This, in honesty, feels a little cheap compared to the main escapade, employing comic book cut-scenes and much simpler stages, but the silver-haired sibling at least brings some interesting new moves and combos to the mix.
The add-on can also be played with all of the abovementioned modifiers, as well as the new difficulty tier, which represents the final addition to this robust re-release. Gods Must Die essentially takes the already punishing Dante Must Die setting, and makes it so that enemies spawn with their super-powerful Devil Trigger state already active. This is, naturally, not for the faint of heart – but when you taken into account all of the different settings, there are quite literally hundreds of hours of content here. Very few of these options will appeal to everyone – the uber-punishing Hell and Hell still makes this author shudder – but their inclusion is still welcome for those that want them.
DmC: Devil May Cry - Definitive Edition is one of the more thoughtful remasters on the PS4, and its emphasis on modifiers means that you can more or less tailor the experience to your tastes. We're still not sure whether old-school Devil May Cry fans will allow themselves to enjoy Ninja Theory's take on the series, but many of the tweaks have been designed with those outspoken individuals in mind. For everyone else, the Cambridge-based company's confident take on Capcom's character action classic is well worth playing – and even if its previous generation hallmarks are still present, its upscaled visuals and boosted framerate make this particular edition heaven sent.