Reboots, remakes and remasters are now almost as commonplace as the good old fashioned sequel, but with the upcoming Definitive Edition of 2013’s Devil May Cry, what we’re actually getting is a remaster of a reboot. Don’t let the prospect of paying money for old rope put you off, though, as this criminally underrated gem will soon be more worthy of your attention than ever
The Devil May Cry series has generally been quite hit and miss. Following its fourth iteration, released in 2008 for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, there was a period of dormancy, as Capcom presumably agonised over what to do next. Eventually, in 2010 it emerged that the next installment would be a complete, westernised reboot helmed by Cambridge’s Ninja Theory. Producer, Motoshide Eshiro, was pretty candid in an interview with Eurogamer, stating that such an approach was primarily motivated by a desire to increase sales and attract new fans. In the same conversation, Capcom America’s Alex Jones used Daniel Craig’s gritty Bond debut, Casino Royale, as a point of comparison for the kind of reinvention they had in mind.
And that’s exactly what Ninja Theory delivered; filtering Devil May Cry’s trademark aesthetic through a Chris Nolan-style lens yielded the darker, far more serious tone that had been the project’s aim, in spades. Series protagonist, Dante, went from albino pretty boy to dark, brooding twenty-something with an Empire State-sized chip on his shoulder and a mouth he’d have no business kissing his mother with. Moment to moment gameplay remained largely unchanged, although the soundtrack was something of a departure; a mix of trippy dub step provided by Netherlands drum ‘n bass outfit, Noisia, and the more aggressive ‘aggrotech’ stylings of Combichrist. Needless to say, it wasn’t to everybody’s taste.
Sadly, prioritising style over performance would turn out to be the root cause of the game’s only major shortcoming. Devil May Cry’s key appeal has always been daring players to master its trademark high octane combat system, for which a buttery smooth ebb and flow and lighting fast input response are crucial. The original PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Ninja Theory’s reboot ran at a comparatively stunted 30 frames per second, half that of its predecessors, costing it dearly in terms of the fluidity that has been a series staple since the PS2 days. It wasn’t a deal breaker, or even the wrong call to make given the target hardware’s limitations, but certainly an unfortunate compromise.
No such restrictions were in place for the PC version, of course, and the Definitive Edition of Dante’s latest is likewise set to release the game from its last gen shackles, offering up what will no doubt be a vastly improved 60 frames per second at 1080p experience on PS4 and Xbox One. Most remasters feature purely arbitrary performance boosts, but here we have a game that looks set to genuinely benefit from a little extra horsepower.
Capcom weren’t particularly satisfied with the original versions’ performance at retail, and blamed disappointing sales of it and other titles around that time on what it terms ‘excessive outsourcing’, suggesting that the company regret letting Ninja Theory loose on one of their most treasured properties. Let’s hope that the Definitive Edition of Devil May Cry sells well enough to change Capcom’s mind and give them a shot at a sequel.
It’ll be unleashed on this mortal coil on the 10th of March. Be ready.