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Devil May Cry V Review (PS4)

After more than a decade of waiting Devil May Cry V is here. The grandfather of modern hack and slash returns. How does the series stack up in 2019?

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4)

INTRODUCTION

It's been over ten years since Devil May Cry 4 released in 2008. DMC 4 expanded on all of the combat strengths of DMC 3 while adding the character of Nero. However, the game also contained a lot of padding with neither Dante or Nero getting much of a character arc, players forced to replay Nero's levels backwards as Dante and partake in a boss rush section before the final battle all things which scream rushed and unfinished. After that game didn't sell as well as Capcom hoped they partnered with Ninja Theory to create a reboot of the franchise, DmC: Devil May Cry in 2013. Fans largely reacted poorly to this title, believing it dumbed down the gameplay, ruined characters like Dante and Vergil and produced an awful plot that was about as subtle as a Michael Bay movie. Personally, while I think the game is generally worse than other entries in the series it still stands significantly above most Western action games in terms of its combat mechanics. That said there's no doubt fans felt betrayed and the fires were fanned for a return to the original series. So this is the context of Devil May Cry V's release. Fans have been hungry for a true sequel since 2008, myself included.  


Devil May Cry V was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 and installed on an external HDD. DMC 5 is currently available on Steam, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.  

STORY

DMC 5 kicks off many years after the events of DMC 4. Dante, the half-demon, half-human devil hunter is still running his demon slaying business Devil May Cry alongside his friends. Trish and Lady. His nephew Nero has started his own off-shoot of Devil May Cry alongside the gunsmith Nico Goldstein. Dante is approached by an old colleague J.D Morrison who has a job for him. Acting as a broker for the mysterious new character V, Morrison hires Dante and the DMC crew to defeat Urizen, a powerful demon who has recently taken control of the underworld. Dante, Nero, V, Lady and Trish set off to confront Urizen and are promptly defeated. V manages to drag a reluctant Nero away from the battle as Dante buys time for them to escape. A month later a demonic tree-like structure called the Qliphoth emerges in Red Grave City and begins taking over, sucking blood out of human victims to increase Urizen's power.  

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4)
The story essentially follows Nero's coming of age as he attempts to grow strong enough to defeat Urizen. We also follow the mysterious V and try to piece together his motivations and origins. Some of the story's twists are fairly obvious for those who've been paying attention to leaks and teasers. That said the main twist of the game's story was something I had only considered in passing so I enjoyed it overall. In terms of Nero's character arc, the information we got about Dante and Vergil's childhoods and the
ultimate ending of the story I can say I was pleased as a Devil May Cry fan.

Overall it will probably take you between 12-14 hours to finish the game. This might seem a bit short but DMC is all about replay value. Between its high score system, mechanically deep combat and the challenge of higher difficulties the short play time isn't something that bothers me. Bloody Palace is set to be added in April as well, essentially a survival mod where players see if they can make it to the end of a gauntlet of the game's enemies and bosses. There's also not much in the way of padding in Devil May Cry V. The game is an action filled romp from start to finish with almost no control taken from the player. No pointless exposition by characters and no resorting to walky-talky sections that seem to infest modern games these days. It's frankly pretty refreshing to play a title that has ambitions to be a mechanically excellent game rather than some Oscar-worthy film.  

All of the performances on display are great, especially for the classic characters. Reuben Langdon has been Dante for 15 years as both his voice actor and motion capture stunt man. His performance steals the show but Johnny Yong Bosch, Dan Southworth and newcomer Brian Hanford all put in excellent performances. All the main actors are seasoned at this point and know exactly when to ham it up for a cheesy one-liner and when to take a scene more seriously.

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4). Nero hams it up confronting the first boss.
The characters are all performed and written exactly as they should be. Dante is cocky, cheeky but well-meaning and Nero finally feels like his own character, no longer living entirely in Dante's shadow. I was a little worried about the Nico and V, whether they would mesh with the classic cast. I found Nico to be fun and quirky, her banter with Nero particularly good. She was also the source of my favourite running gag in the game, showing up with her van in a ridiculous cutscene anywhere in the city when a player phones her to provide upgrades. Although the ultimate plot twist involving V fell slightly flat for me I ultimately enjoyed the mystery of his character and found his apathetic demeanour went well with the bombastic and silly nature of almost all of the rest of the cast.

At this point Devil May Cry is a series almost 20 years old spanning 5 games, an anime, manga and a series of novels. Capcom should be given some credit for attempting to streamline all the information of the previous games into a brief video called the History of DMC which can be viewed in the menu. This can be quite the intimidating information dump but given that first-time players will have no idea who any of the characters are I'd say it's the best solution available out of a number of bad options.  

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4). Nico explains her background to V.
Devil May Cry V's story is also absolutely packed with details, great and small, that appeal to long-time fans. Prior to the game's prologue while Dante is talking to Morrison he receives a phone call from Patty the little girl he had to look after in the DMC anime, inviting him to her 18th birthday. The game takes place mostly in Red Grave City, a reference to Tony Redgrave the alias Dante took to protect himself as a young man and also the original name for Dante when DMC 1 was still being developed as a Resident Evil title. From the plot to the characters and the constant easter eggs DMC 5's narrative is a good time, plain and simple.

DMC 5 is big on fan service. I don't think that's a pejorative as the game handles this aspect of itself well for the most part without alienating people who might not be hardcore fans. My only two major complaints with the story are firstly that Lady and Trish, despite getting plenty of screentime don't really get a chance to do anything important. My second gripe is that the story was pretty safe and was designed to please pretty much everyone who's a DMC fan. After more than a decade since DMC 4 and the poor reception of the reboot I can see why Itsuno took this path and I can't begrudge it too much. The story was made to please me and rarely did I feel like I was being overly pandered to.  

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4). Dante, Lady and Trish about to confront Urizen.

GAMEPLAY

Devil May Cry V's gameplay is the fantastic and the best the series has seen to date. DMC's combat works on a simple but surprisingly addictive principle. As you use chain different combos and weapons together (or taunt) you'll fill the style meter rising from D, C, B and so on to a maximum rank of SSS or Smokin' Sexy Style. Taking damage will usually reset the meter two levels and using the same combos in succession will cause your style to stagnant and decrease. The higher your style ranking goes the more Red Orbs you'll collect during fights and at the end of missions. These Orbs can then be used to purchase new combos or character upgrades. This seemingly simple mechanic is what ultimately makes DMC's combat so unique and fun.

When most players approach a game they will take the path of least resistance, seeking the most efficient way to get through its levels. For this reason, games often have mechanics that go wasted because it's simply easier and quicker for players to ignore them. Devil May Cry, however, doesn't value efficient play for its own sake, it values high style rankings. As a result, players are more likely to learn the ins and outs of the controls, test out new combos and vary up their gameplay. This cycle ensures players constantly improve while the gameplay never gets dull or wastes mechanics. As with its predecessors the combination of a fast-moving battlefield, crunchy attacks, stylish animations and a mechanically complex combat system.

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4). 5 missions over the opportunity to pick your character.Gameplay takes place in largely linear levels which often culminate with a bossfight. Fragments of Blue Orbs (which upgrade health) or Purple Orbs (which upgrade Devil Trigger) can be found hidden throughout the game or by completing secret missions. You'll be taking control of three playable characters over the course of the game Nero, Dante and the mysterious V.  

Nero's playstyle is mostly similar to DMC 4 with a few changes. He still has his trusty sword the Red Queen and revolver Blue Rose. Red Queen's moveset is virtually the same but with some added depth. You can still perform classic attacks like Streak and the launch move. Nero now has an expanded repertoire with moves like a diagonal downward slash performed while airborne. The most fun and silly part of Red Queen remains its motorcycle handle.

Holding the right bumper also Nero to rev the sword, build up the Exceed gauge. You can fill up to three bars of Exceed to increase the damage and area of effect of Nero's moves. Similar to DMC 4 an upgrade can be purchased allowing you to raise the Exceed gauge automatically if you perfectly time the right bumper after an attack. The most skilfull Nero players can time this perfectly after every attack and it's something I look forward to finally mastering in the coming months. The Blue Rose revolver is more or less the same but with a new cool mechanic. Holding down the fire button allows you to load explosive ammunition which deals higher damage, boosts the style meter and staggers enemies.

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4). Nero performs Streak on basic enemies.
Many fans and critics cited Nero's kit as being fun but a bit shallow and underdeveloped in Devil May Cry 4. The Devil Breaker system adds significantly to the depth of Nero's combat, with your playstyle and moment to moment decision making being heavily influenced by which Breaker you currently have equipped. Nero can load up a magazine of 4 Breakers (which can be upgraded to 8) and must use each in succession. Each Breaker varies wildly in its function and has a basic ability, an explosive attack or a charged up move. Using the explosion, charge up or being hit while using the Breaker will result in it breaking and the next one being selected.

I still feel like Nero would have benefitted from a 2nd melee weapon but overall Capcom have done a good job with Nero's moveset. DMC 5 Nero expands on his previous playstyle in all the right ways. I still enjoy him a little less than Dante but there's no doubt the degree of complexity and sheer fun involved in playing Nero has greatly increased. Not only has Nero come into his own narratively, but also in terms of game mechanics. I couldn't be much happier with Itsuno and the DMC 5 team's change to Nero.

DMC 5 Dante is more or less exactly what I expected and wanted. Dante essentially plays like his DMC 4 counterpart but now with more weapons, more combos and his own levels and bosses to play around with. He still has access to his Devil Trigger, an alternate form which increases defence and damage and regenerating your health. Dante also acquires the Sin Devil Trigger which is an even more powered up form. As you deal damage a red bar will fill up above your DT gauge.

When this is filled Dante can activate Sin Devil Trigger for higher damage output, unique combos, higher health regen and speed. Though small, Sin DT was a good addition since it encourages the player to think of the DT gauge more tactically rather than use it like a panic button. Dante will gain access to four ranged weapons and four melee weapons. Unfortunately, it's not as many as DMC 3 but this is mitigated by each having significantly more depth and the ability to carry as many as like at all times.

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4). Dante uses Ebony and Ivory to stay airborne and deal chip damage.
As with DMC 4 Dante has his style system which can be switched at any time using the d-pad. Switching the styles changes one of the control inputs. Trickster allows Dante to perform a dash or teleport closer to enemies. Swordmaster lets you perform additional melee combos, especially aerial based ones, with gunslinger essentially doing the same for ranged weapons. Royal Guard allows the player to mitigate incoming damage or parry an opponent for massive damage if timed correctly. Dante has access to his standard sword Rebellion, the nunchuck King Cerberus, the punch and kick gauntlets Balrog and finally the amazingly ridiculous motorcycle buzzsaw weapon Cavaliere.

Rebellion's attacks are reliably middle of the road in both damage and area of effect. When you've finished the game Rebellion can also be swapped out for Sparda and a new sword that I won't spoil for you. Cerberus behaves much like it did in DMC 3 with some nice additions. In its standard form, it attacks deal ice-based damage that can slow down enemies. Holding the melee button allows the player to perform the same moves but electrified, dealing great damage and having higher AoE. Using swordmaster attacks switches Cerberus into a flaming pole that allows Dante to pull off rapid, high damage AoE moves. Dante will also scream like some bad kung-fu movie character and it's just hilarious.

Devil May Cry V Review. DT Dante skewers an enemy with the sword Sparda
Every game with the exception of DMC 2 has had a punching and kicking pair of gauntlets. Balrog is available to Dante from the start of the game along with Rebellion and feels like an amalgamation of the most enjoyable features of gauntlets from past games. Players can switch between punch and kick options on the fly along with charged attacks like the uppercut Rising Dragon along with aerial combos and even a breakdance move with swordmaster attacks. Balrog feels immensely satisfying and deals high damage at the cost of range and AoE. This is definitely the best gauntlet set the series has seen to date.

I expected Cavaliere the motorcycle buzz-saw weapon to gimmicky or purely a marketing tool. I was however, pleasantly surprised with just how fun this weapon is to use. Cavaliere is the slowest and heaviest weapon DMC has ever seen but also having remarkably high damage and ability to stun. Slicing into an enemy with a saw attached to half of a bike might sound ridiculous (and it is) but its also the epitome of Devil May Cry, fun, silly and stylish. Using your swordmaster attacks even lets you put the bike back together and ride it into enemies. It's not only a great time but also highly effective.

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4). Dante takes Cavaliere for a spin.
Dante's guns are mostly for chip damage and maintaining combos at range, but are still fun to use. Dante maintains his classic dual pistols Ebony and Ivory along with his shotgun Coyote A. He once again has access to Lady's rocket launcher the Kalina Ann II, which can now be duel wielded provided the player finds Kalina Ann I, hidden in Mission 11. The last weapon is the incredibly strange fedora and scarf Dr Faust. Dr Faust's attacks require the use of Red Orbs which can be reacquired (with interest) if you successfully defeat the enemy you used it on without taking a hit. It's also the source of one of the funniest cutscenes in the game when Dante performs a Michael Jackson dance after receiving Dr Faust from Nico.

I can honestly say that DMC 5 Dante is the most mechanically complex, interesting and fun character I've played in an action game. Not only do his attacks feel cathartic and mechanically engaging but actually take significant skill to execute well. Between the array of melee weapons, switching styles mid-combat, firearms, taunts and jump cancelling Dante has an almost infinitely high skill ceiling.

When compared to past games V plays radically different to any character in Devil May Cry's history. V is depicted both in-game and in cutscenes as frail and weak, relying on demonic familiars to do the fighting for him. V commands three demons, there's Shadow a jaguar who performs melee combos. Griffon a bird who mostly focuses on ranged and AoE combat. Finally, there's Nightmare a massive golem who functions somewhat as a screen-nuke but cannot be controlled directly without an upgrade and costs Devil Trigger to have active.

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4). V commands Shadow and Griffon while building DT.
Your familiars, however, cannot finish off enemies, when their health is drained they entered into a petrified state and V must stick his cane into their heads to finish them off. Both Shadow and Griffon have limited health and will enter into a temporary stasis if knocked out, leaving V absolutely defenceless. Instead of using his Devil Trigger to enter into a state of higher damage and added health regeneration V needs his DT to summon Nightmare. Summoning Nightmare, aside from also revives Shadow and Griffin giving him a tactical use beyond simply being a panic weapon. Nightmare can also break down terrain in a level, which can reveal secret missions or upgrades. Since Nightmare is integral to V's combat system he can also read his poetry book in the midst of combat, slowing him to a walking speed but also gradually restoring his DT gauge.  

At, first I found V's gameplay involved a lot of button mashing as you are essentially controlling three characters at one time. In a way it reminded me of when I first played DMC 3 and mashed the inputs just to see what would work. After playing for a few hours and switching up some of the control inputs I found play a lot smoother. You get into a kind of rhythm with V's combat stacking Shadow and Griffon's attacks to effectively stun lock an enemy or group of enemies.  

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4). V summons Nightmare.
At the worst of times V's combat can feel either a bit too easy or hard to manage. At its best it was a frantic rush skillfully coordinating all of my familiars while avoid damaging. Summoning Nightmare is just a bit too easy with V's Devil Trigger functioning almost like an instant win button against weak enemies. I'd say overall I enjoyed V's combat a little less than Dante and Nero. Since you are effectively directing damage rather than dealing it there's significantly less catharsis involved in destroying a group of enemies. I will give Capcom some credit for taking a risk in this area though. V plays unlike anything I've ever experienced in a hack and slash and although perhaps slightly disappointing by DMC standards he's still mechanically excellent when compared to lesser action games. At the end of the day, Itsuno and his team know how to craft amazing action characters.  

Killing enemies and completing levels grants Red Orbs, the game's currency. These can be used to purchase additional abilities, health and DT upgrades and Devil Breakers for Nero. It's very satisfying to purchase and try out new moves. Players can now test out moves in an arena type area called the void, reminiscent of Bayonetta. My only annoyance is the fact that abilities like the double jump and attracting Red Orbs from a greater distance need to be purchased, it feels like pointless busy work.

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4). The upgrade shop.
Enemy and boss design was mostly great overall. There's everything from cannon fodder enemies to large armoured demons that take significant amounts of punishment. There felt like no enemies designed to simply frustrate the player like Blitz in DMC 4. I think the normal difficulty was a tad too easy for veterans of the series. This is only compounded by the fact that Gold Orbs used to revive the player are no plentiful. There's plenty that are easy to find throughout each level while the player gets a Gold Orb everything day they boot the game up again. I think this could have been remedied by having Son of Sparda difficulty playable from the start but that's a small issue overall.

There was some worry about the microtransactions that have launched with the game. Players can more or less input their credit cards and get Red Orbs for a few dollars. I can safely say that Capcom doesn't throttle Red Orb acquisition and by the end of the game I had more than enough to purchase all the moves I wanted. It seems like a stupid feature to me more than anything. The only real utility is for long-time fans who want to unlock moves from the start or people who are really, really bad at the game and want to buy health upgrades.

GRAPHICS

Graphically Devil May Cry V both looks fantastic and runs well. The game runs off the RE Engine which was also used by Capcom in Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 2 Remake. Animations are excellent from characters faces to the physics on their clothes to the swaying of Dante's hair, it all looks great and flows well. The cutscenes are especially great and are some of the most beautiful I've seen in a game. Aside from the occasional poorly rendered texture the game is graphically incredible.

DMC 5 is targeted to run at 60 fps which is absolutely necessary given the fast pace of the combat. Monitoring the frame rate, DMC 5 occasionally dipped on a standard PS4 but maintained 60 fps about 90% of the time. Given how many games these days look good in their trailers and either dial back their visuals or run like garbage it was pleasing to play a game that achieved good performance and great visuals.  

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4). Dante and Nero looking visually excellent.
Level design somewhat varies in its quality. The early cityscapes at the start of the game are an absolute feast for the eyes and feel like a real, living, breathing place. However, as the game rolls on the designers tend to fall back more and more on washed out city streets and the fairly monotonous looking organic hallways of the Qliphoth. DMC's levels are structured mostly to provide good places for fights but it's a little disappointing that the level design falters by the end.  

AUDIO

Sound design in DMC 5 is touch notch and probably the best the series has ever seen. The sound of a large demon's roar to a sword cutting through an enemy, it's all wonderful. I was initially apprehensive about the more electronic soundtrack but how it's implemented was excellent. DMC 5's combat features dynamic music with the songs becoming more intense and going into their choruses when players hit an S-rank in style. I'm still a bigger fan of the more rock and metal based soundtrack of DMC 3 but syncing the music to with the combat system is a stroke of genius that significantly elevates the soundtrack.

Devil May Cry V Review (PS4). Dante acquires Dr Faust.

CONCLUSION

Although it might not seem fair my biggest criticism of this game as a Devil May Cry fan is how totally safe it is. The gameplay feels exactly like it brings the excellent mechanics of DMC 3 and 4 to modern graphics and controls. The antics of Dante, Vergil's role in the story and the character arc of Nero feel designed to appeal to long-time fans and largely avoids taking risks. Gameplay wise this is the best we've seen yet out of Devil May Cry. In terms of narrative I'd say this game falls slightly short of DMC 3 which benefitted from a simple but engaging character-driven story. DMC 5 easily deserves to stand equal first at the top of the series pantheon.

This is a product designed to appeal to me and I'd say it overwhelmingly succeeded, I enjoyed my time with DMC 5 and will no doubt get hundreds of hours of enjoyment out of it in the future. The combat system typifies easy to learn but exceptionally hard to master all while being extremely cathartic and rewarding skilfull play. After Resident Evil 2 Remake Capcom have knocked it out of the park again. This game is a love letter to DMC fans but also fans of action games in general. It's absolutely a must buy for action fans.

PROS CONS
+ Fun and engaging combat.  – Safe story that requires DMC knowledge to fully enjoy. 
+ High replay value. – Occasional weak level design. 
+ Mechanically complex. Easy to learn, hard to master.  – Short initial play time. (10-15 hours)
+ Satisfying character development.
+ Excellent visuals and good performance. 
+ A love letter to long-time fans.
9
Amazing

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