Nero is the back and as bad as ever, being the star here but the final game will give us Dante, Virgil and more. For now though we get an early taste of this new chapter in the Devil May Cry universe and first impressions are excellent. This has the same tongue in cheek humor, gothic style, fast paced combat and long skill tree to rank up, combined attacks to juggle and keep your bad ass rating up throughout. This demo looks to be the same or very similar to the Gamescom one earlier this year, and may actually be the exact same build from then also, so the first thing to mention here is all this analysis is coming from pre-release code and as such could change significantly in the next few months for its March release.
Diving into the top and tail of the console versions we can see that visually this is keeping up the same quality of the series. Starting life as a Resident evil update it span out into the PS2 trilogy that looked an ran incredible on Sony’s second and all conquering hardware. Like those forefathers the game pushes you through sections of spawning enemies, puzzle solving, exploration and monstrous boss battles, preceded with a cock sure attitude and some words said they may regret in the morning. In fact the game really does not stray far from the formula at all, aside the devil trigger mechanism that replaces your right forearm. These can be mixed up and picked up during battle, be quick as enemies know the power and will destroy them if left too long. The 2 versions both target the same 60fps rate which I will get to later, but visually we can see an obvious advantage to the X, resolution appears to target the same maximum on both machines. That being 1920 x 1080 on the base and 3840 x 2160p on the X and side by side you can see the improvement this offers.
Detail is much sharper, anisotropic filtering is cleaner, materials highlight far more surface properties and blemishes. The depth of field is much stronger on the S due to it being a lower resolution which results in softer edges and large bokeh shapes. Still a looker on both especially in the cinematics which ramp up the quality from the In-game models and shading. The motion capture and animation rigging they have looks to have been refined again being better than 7 offering sharper but more hyper realistic style. Skin quality and hair is worthy of praise indeed even more for the 60 fps rate it targets. You can notice dithering on the fins of hair much more on the S with the X having a very stable look even close up. The gap is all down to sharpness of high frequency information and stability of image, even though both use a temporal AA element I am not sure it uses the horizontal interlaced mode i picked out in the Re7 game and later found in the PC options, but if so the counts (bar 2 minor parts) never show less than the native image. So either it is off, which may be a quick win for performance boosts or they have significantly improved it so the edge cases are reduced and the implementation is much better. Either or the results speak for them selves and look as striking as Nero in battle.
In the demo we get a small taste of these powers with a laser lasso to pull enemies in or yourself to them. A huge power blast, accompanied with a huge particle spark spray. Always a fan of particles systems and the RE engine does them very well, being the same engine that delivered the goods last year with Re7 it has become the new future tool set for Capcom as predicted, replacing the Panta Rhei engine that went deep down with the game. We can see here though that some of those features and techniques remain, likely a deferred engine we have the same excellent and abundant light sources with shadow casters. Physically based material shading which may also come from the photogrammetry methods used in Re7. In addition to this is the particle system and physicist based destruction which is the standout feature so far here for me.
If you recall the demo of deep down we had a dragon destroying pillars as the battle raged on, sending crumbling debris everywhere, look familiar. Alongside the bokeh sampled DoF, which accentuate that particle show and again show glimpses Of that early gen prototype. Even if the engine has been laid to rest I am happy to report its legacy lives on. The other high point it to see Japanese developers make at the sharp end of technical implementation and artistic creativity. The destruction is very impressive here with the entire battle seeing you both lay wake to the cathedral as rubble, stain-glass windows and ambulances all feel the devils wrath. Aide some minor furniture dismantlement though this is the high point. I hope it is used across the game and even though it is scripted in places, such as the smash through the roof. It is a dynamic system that adds a great deal to the games visual and visceral impact.
Due to the compete change in game style and aim obviously many changes will have occurred from Res7 and the res2 remake also launching next year that I covered at E3. Unlike that demo in-game post processing does not seem as heavy. We still see cracking POMB and a temporal AA solution in addition to chromatic aberration which can soften and distort the image slightly. Much more so on the Base model in relation to the X’s much higher pixel count. But texture details, materials and geometry all have a sharper look than some other titles due to this. A low quality radial blur is used which can look weak at times but is never a large distraction. Triangle count is reduced or at the very least as to stretch further for the same budget. We have far longer views, detailed floors and walls and other areas that soak up the vertex counts. This can leave some shots with angular points but is a very minor and welcome sacrifice for the performance target of 60fps.
Which brings me on to my last point and the one area I think the team will be concentrating on, with good reason. Cut-scenes are ramped up in quality which is obvious, skin shaders, lighting accuracy, post effects and maybe even polygon counts which has a knock on Effect to the frame-rate. They both run unlocked but can hover close enough to the 33ms times to really suggest a cap option would be good or a performance versus quality mode which either lowers or scales the resolution (if indeed dynamic scaling IS not already in use) when the load becomes greater. As they are non interactive it is not a huge deal but the inconsistent nature of them can be noticed as you watch. This also carries over to the actual gameplay, we very, very rarely see any frame-time exceed 33ms but these can happen often enough to affect the flow of combat, 7 surprisingly the hulking battle at the end is the worse offender of this. The X still performs much better than the S model here in action, slightly reversed in cut-scenes but across an average the X wins out with the more consistent level of performance. It can hold close to 60 in the smaller sections where the S will often drop frames and this can happen on both when moving from one section to another. It does not feel bad to play on either machine and aside the one boss section it feels smoother on the X but I would suspect we will see a welcome boost to this come the final release and it may come by a lower resolution or a dynamic one which is not a bad thing.