"Devil May Cry HD Collection"
For: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood, suggestive
By Billy O'Keefe
On the precipice of a full-scale "Devil May Cry" reboot, Capcom has given in to another popular trend by rereleasing the series' three Playstation 2 entrants in high definition.
Or rather, it kind of does that, if you don't count the parts of "Devil May Cry" and "Devil May Cry 2" that remain in slightly blurry fullscreen. The standard-definition content is relegated to menus and cutscenes, and all gameplay in all three games is presented in widescreen with aged but HD-friendly graphics. But the strange first impression this oversight gives is an unintentional sign of things to come if you fully plunder "Devil May Cry HD Collection's" depths.
Regardless of your memories of it, the original "DMC" — which, in 2001, broke ground and established a blueprint for contemporary action games like "God of War" and "Ninja Gaiden" — has aged considerably.
Conceived initially as a "Resident Evil" game, "DMC" doesn't quite shake the suffocating fixed cameras and clumsy cause-and-effect puzzles that had already begun wearing out their welcome 11 years ago. Replacing "Evil's" flaccid combat with a fluid arsenal of melee and ranged attacks was enough to turn heads and reorient the confused trajectory 3D action games were riding back then, but by today's standards — and even compared to "Devil May Cry 3," which is this collection's jewel — Dante's original repertoire is limited and stunted in its dexterity.
"DMC2," released in 2003, was panned even then, and it holds steady as this collection's undisputed dud. Signs of things to come are everywhere: Dante's skillset is larger and more dynamic, the game's areas are larger, and the fixed camera is slightly less ridiculous in terms of triggering claustrophobic reactions. But the original game's personality has vanished, and the larger areas and arsenal are wasted on some demoralizingly drab level designs and enemy arrangements. "DMC" wasn't necessarily masterful in either regard, but "DMC2" isn't even trying.
That leaves the third game, and if there's a reason to revisit this collection at all, 2005's "DMC3" most assuredly is it.
It's here where Capcom catches and passes the games for which it initially paved the way: Dante's combat is fluid in a way that remains fresh even seven years later, his personality returns in force, the level and enemy designs justify the full prioritization of combat over puzzle solving, and even the fixed cameras feel somewhat (though not completely) dynamic.
Beyond the dated graphics, "DMC3" is the one game here that can hang in 2012 without leaning on nostalgic crutches to do so. It also remains better realized than HD-native "Devil May Cry 4," which looks considerably prettier but regresses in all other respects. The most pronounced ding against "DMC3" was its completely ruthless difficulty, but a special edition — which is the version that's included here — addressed that with a softer additional difficulty setting. (Masochists, fear not: The original difficulty remains intact as well.)
As a total package, "Collection" is pretty no-frills. The three games are walled off within the disc to the point where if you start one, you have to reboot the entire collection to get back to the collection's menu screen. The Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions of the game naturally come with achievements and trophies to respectively unlock, but there's little else in the way of bonus content beyond some art galleries. Surprisingly, "Collection" doesn't even include a trailer of the rebooted "DmC: Devil May Cry," which releases later this year and (so far) looks primed to justify Capcom's tap of the reset button.
(c) 2012, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
Distributed by MCT Information Services