Released earlier this year for the PlayStation 2, Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening - Special Edition was a budget-priced, updated version of one of last year's toughest, best, most intense action adventure games on consoles. Between its manic hack-and-slash gameplay and its over-the-top anime-inspired presentation, the game never seemed like it would make a good fit on the PC. But a PC version came along anyway, offering up a no-frills port that loses some of its charm and quality in translation, yet retains some solid action and a lot of personality underneath it all. So the underlying game is still great, but unless you categorically can't play this game on a PS2 yet feel compelled to play it anyway, this version isn't your best bet.
Devil May Cry 3's fast, flashy style and elaborate combo system epitomize the difference between action games on consoles versus PC. So what's this game doing on the PC?
This update rebalances the original game's notoriously hard difficulty setting while adding a new playable character (as an unlockable bonus) and some new battles. What made Devil May Cry 3 such a great game in the first place was its flashy presentation and its fantastic combat. As the brash demon hunter Dante, you can kick all kinds of otherworldly ass top to bottom, courtesy of your various over-the-top firearms and melee weapons. Split-second timing is necessary to avoid your enemies' ferocious counterattacks, and learning to dodge properly and to not get blindsided by an occasionally awkward camera angle definitely takes time. But eventually, everything feels just right, and suddenly you're making mincemeat out of tons of foes--pulling off spectacular combos involving multiple weapons, thrashing foes up into the air, high in the sky, and down to the ground, and then finishing them off while they're lying helpless at your feet. It gets all the more intense when you're battling the game's numerous boss opponents, which are arguably the highlight of the experience. Occasional puzzle-solving and backtracking offer a brief respite from the carnage, but otherwise they aren't particularly exciting aspects of play. A few basic role-playing elements are effectively integrated, allowing you to choose between some different fighting styles and learn upgraded moves and abilities for those styles the more you use them.
One of the distinguishing features of the PlayStation 2 original is how fast it moves. The smooth frame rate wasn't just for show, because many of the game's demonic foes strike quickly and hit hard, so you needed fast reflexes to get out of the way before they skewered you. On the PC, the visuals don't hold up as well, even if you have a very fast system and run the game at a relatively low resolution. Some of the cinematic cutscenes also look pretty bad here, thanks to grainy-looking video playback. It's not immediately clear why this version doesn't move as well as its PS2 counterpart, considering that these simple, somewhat drab 3D graphics look pretty unflattering by the PC's high standards. At least there's some great visual design on display to make up for the dated presentation, and the motion-captured cutscenes that make up Devil May Cry 3's ridiculous but engaging story are still excellent.
This is the game's first real boss monster, and many, many more follow. Scared yet?
On top of the graphical deficiencies, the PC version of this game is virtually unplayable using the default keyboard controls. For whatever reason, no attempt was made to come up with a mouse-and-keyboard control scheme, which might have been serviceable. So you'll need a decent gamepad to get anywhere, like the Microsoft Xbox 360 controller we used for most of our testing; unfortunately the game forced us to use the right analog stick, not the left analog stick, for moving around, causing us to cramp up on the controller. Using a Logitech gamepad, we could at least move around using the D pad, while the left analog stick defaulted to switching between different option screens. The game lets you remap the button functions on your gamepad, but not the sticks. Other than these types of issues, the game is essentially identical to the PS2 version. This means that if you can find a comfortable control scheme and visual settings that get the game to run smoothly on your rig, you'll find in Devil May Cry 3 a blazingly fast and intense experience that's very much unlike other action games for the PC.