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Devil May Cry HD Collection
Graphics: 7.5
Gameplay: 8.4
Sound: 8.1
Control: 7.8
Replay Value: 8
Rating: 8

Devil May Cry remains an iconic franchise and action aficionados have fond memories of first laying eyes on the original title in 2001. A demo came packaged with Resident Evil: Code Veronica X for the PS2, and I distinctly recall playing it about twenty times. We’d just never seen anything like DMC before. Now, Ninja Theory is currently working to reboot the series and in the meantime, Capcom has released a high-definition collection featuring the first three installments.

The new high-def visual presentation is great, but I think more could’ve been done to upgrade and enhance. Last year’s Metal Gear Solid HD Collection painstakingly refined the hell out of everything from the basic detailing to the cut-scenes. But here, while there’s no denying the added sharpness and clarity, the FMV movies still suffer from old-fashioned technical issues (lip-synch still sucks, for instance), and keeping the menus in unedited 4:3 format is sort of jarring. It’s actually surprising – and a tad disheartening – to see how much these games have aged.

The audio remains very much the same, as we have the benefit of a few great music tracks, Dante’s cocky voice, and an assortment of satisfying special effects that emphasize impacts with appropriate auditory flash. But again, one notices instantly that such elements weren’t so smoothly implemented ten years ago, and everything from the obviously outdated cut-scenes to the sound design reminds us that a decade is a long time in this industry. Still, at the very least, the technicals are almost exactly how you remember them.

This collection features the first three titles in the franchise: Devil May Cry, Devil May Cry 2, and Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening. They included the Special Edition of the latter, which was a damn good idea and I’ll explain why in a minute. For the most part, this is DMC through and through; the attitude, the innovative and progressive combat mechanic, the gothic-inspired level and enemy design, and the dark, fantastical stories all shine through. They remind us of the greatness of this series, even if we’re often going, “…damn, things have changed.”

The original game actually stands up quite well, despite the aforementioned technical misgivings due to the unfortunate passage of time. The castle you spend most of your time in is meticulously created, and although the fixed camera can occasionally get in the way, the gameplay remains solid. There’s a definite challenge involved and it’ll take some practice to nail down Dante’s demanding combos. But it’s only a glimmer of what we ended up with in DMC3; it’s just too bad that we had to stumble through DMC2 before the third entry wowed us.

As those familiar with the Dante games already know, DMC2 fell short of expectations. With a different development team behind it, the adventure featured larger environments and a much easier learning curve. But unfortunately, it lost a lot of the spirit and panache that made the first title so damn engrossing and appealing. The protagonist’s well-established swagger was scaled back, the enemies were bland and not enough of a challenge, and the story was seriously lacking. None of this has changed, despite the high-def overhaul.

Get More:, Devil May Cry HD Collection - Launch Trailer, PC Games, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

The same followers that will bemoan DMC2 will likely say DMC3 is by far the best of the bunch. Or, at the very least, it’s the most accomplished. From canceling combos in mid-stream to mastering the Devil Trigger and the concept of juggling, Dante came back in fine form, and the game kicked ass from start to finish. However, the original DMC3 was extraordinarily difficult; I had heard our “Normal” was actually the “Hard” mode (some mistake in production or something). Beating it is still one of the toughest things I’ve ever done in my gaming career.

But the Special Edition remedied this issue, and it also added the option to play as Dante’s brother, Vergil. Therefore, it was a no-brainer to include this version in the Collection, and I’m very glad they did. The fluidity and intricacy of the fighting mechanic in DMC3 is almost unparalleled even to this day, and to launch your deadly strikes in a slicker, cleaner environment is a treat. If you’ve never played it, this collection is almost worth buying for the revamped DMC3 all by itself. It really is that good, and should be experienced by any self-proclaimed action fan.

The only glaring issue is that a graphical update can’t erase the gameplay issues. Back in the day, they weren’t even “issues;” they were just common quirks and drawbacks of game design due to hardware limitations we don’t have today. But when it comes to fast-action control, things really have changed a great deal, and sadly, the first two DMC titles show their age. That being said, this may not be a detriment for hardcore fans of the series, who might be happy with the simple visual update. Just be prepared to adapt to an older time if you’re unfamiliar.

The Devil May Cry HD Collection is a decent assembly of last-generation classics, even if Capcom didn’t do quite enough with the package. It feels a little light when compared to other collections that have arrived over the years, and such pure action experiences have gone through so many updates and refining alterations. So this one still feels a tad dated. But not enough can be said for the impact this franchise has had on the genre, and $40 isn’t bad to own a few pieces of slightly revitalized history.

The Good: High-definition works well with this series. Original DMC is still a classic. DMC3 is still a beast. General control and mechanics still work well. Lots of fun to be had for $40.

The Bad: DMC2 has never been great. Not enough done with the presentation overhaul. No big bonuses or extras.

The Ugly: “Man…even some of the best games in history show their age these days.”

4/12/2012   Ben Dutka