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Devil May Cry: HD Collection

Score: 88%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Classic/Retro/ Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

With over a decade between the release of this collection and the first game, it should be obvious that Devil May Cry is going to look a bit retro. It's a new kind of retro, the kind that came after 8-bit games and the first home consoles, and it's now a bit improved with the HD Collection treatment. Where we noticed the HD was mostly in the smoothing of textures, compared to playing the raw originals. It's nice to see things refreshed for experienced players and newbies alike, but we suspect that most of the Devil May Cry: HD Collection buyers will be doing so for nostalgia value. That said, there aren't many games today that can match the outlandish melodrama of Devil May Cry. The cinematics, the voice acting, even the music is over the top in that, "so bad it's good" way. It hearkens back to a time when gaming wasn't nearly as mainstream as it is now, when Hollywood was less influential than Japanese anime in the gaming world. The differences visually between each game aren't as striking now as they probably were for those of us who lived through it, and it's not surprising considering each game was separated by only a year or two. The only thing we wished for was a cinematic viewing mode for the entire series, similar to what was available in Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition.

Gameplay:

If you haven't experienced Devil May Cry or its follow-up titles, you're in for a treat. These games picked up where Capcom left off with games like Resident Evil and Dino Crisis, taking the concept of rich backdrops and 3D characters and mashing it up with the frantic action of 2D fighting games like Street Fighter. It's impossible to imagine a game like Bayonetta even coming into existence without Devil May Cry. Unlike arena-fighting games, Devil May Cry offered a relatively free-roaming experience where the adventure and anticipation built slowly as you battled evil minions and the inevitable boss. The first game, Devil May Cry was a pure brawler that still managed to be unique because of the way it combined close-in melee attacks with ranged gunplay. By Devil May 2 the combat had evolved, and there were more puzzles scattered through the game, but players still largely mashed their way through to the closing credits, tearing a swathe of destruction through wave after wave of enemy fighters.

Including Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition was really the only way to conclude Devil May Cry: HD Collection. The extras packed in, not to mention the lessons learned during the release of the earlier games, make this easily the best of the three. There's enough continuity between each game in terms of story and character development, but it's not like you'll miss anything by playing them out of order. The third is obviously the most refined, but all three games now confer achievements thanks to this new release. It's unfortunate that you have to completely restart Devil May Cry: HD Collection once you start playing one of the games; there's no hub or shared save system, so it really does feel like three individual games in one container. At least there's a shared achievement system, so you can show off your skills like its 2001...


Difficulty:

By today's standards, the games of Devil May Cry feel pretty easy. Perhaps it's because there's so much less going on, compared to games like Bayonetta and third person action/shooting games like Gears of War. Mastering the interplay of swords and guns does take some getting used to, and Dante's aerial acrobatics require some practice, but the bulk of enemies fall easily with sufficient button-mashing. As the series matured, Capcom introduced a deeper "style" system that rewarded you for taking a more creative approach to battling enemies. This was kept mostly as an additional layer, so if you're not put off by low ratings, you can breeze through all but a few of the larger boss battles. Those seeking more impressive scores will need to hone their skills and master the wide variety of combos available. This comes to a head in the third game, where you have weapon/attack combos plus the ability to switch weapons on the fly, and upgrade them between levels. The hardest parts of these games are when you end up surrounded by large groups of enemies and get overwhelmed. Learning to vary melee attacks with "death from above" shooting tactics was the key to success, not to mention perfecting the evasive moves that came into the series later. While some players today may find Devil May Cry: HD Collection a bit too easy, it's important to remember where Capcom was coming from with this series... They had previously made a name with games that pitted you against overwhelming odds, where you played characters that were almost always fighting desperately for their lives against stronger foes. Devil May Cry was a chance to play as a consummate badass, whether in the form of Dante or one of the ancillary characters that appeared later. The game is meant to make you feel completely unstoppable, capable of wading into any enemy group without fear. In this way it reminded us of something like the recent Space Marine game, which interestingly enough touted a combination of melee and ranged-attack mechanics.

Game Mechanics:

And speaking of mechanics...the controls by default aren't all that intuitive by today's standards, but can be changed. Building attack combos around the (Y) button is okay, but we wished for better use of the triggers and analog sticks. It's been an age since we even held the original Xbox controller, so it's hard to equate these controls to how things felt 10 years ago. What does come across is the relative simplicity of Devil May Cry in comparison to modern action games. The first game didn't even really have a weapon management system, other than a button for your sword, and another for your gun. By the second and third game, basic inventory management and upgrades come into play, but the action is still mainly about two-button combos. Aerial moves allow you to chain attacks, tied to double-pressing the jump button and timing your shots or swings. Evasive moves are awkwardly triggered by holding one button and pressing another, tied by default to the shoulder button. All this can be modified in settings, and the pieces that may feel less-than-intuitive are just part of that retro experience.

It's nice to replay these classics so many years later, and even nicer that these can be introduced to a new generation of gamers. For all the areas where we might find fault, it's important to put critique in the proper context: Playing Devil May Cry: HD Collection almost a decade later proves that modern action games owe a serious debt of gratitude to these three games. We can debate how "genre-defining" they actually were, but at the very least they inspired countless gameplay mechanics we now take for granted. Especially if you like the idea of earning new achievements for all those skills you honed back in the early 2000s, Devil May Cry: HD Collection is a great reward for walking down memory lane. In this case, the lane always seems to lead to hellish dominion over the mortal plane, but isn't that what we love about Dante's exploits?


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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