Ten years since the last release of a numbered Devil May Cry game, veteran series director, Hideaki Itsuno, joined the stage at Xbox’s 2018 E3 Press conference in announcing Devil May Cry 5. Although Ninja Theory’s 2013 reboot; Dmc: Devil May Cry, was criminally underrated, Hideaki expressed an interest towards a sequel for the original series, returning to its fun, stylish roots for the hack-and-slash action adventure genre.
Listening to main soundtrack; Devil Trigger, on repeat since it’s E3 reveal, I’ve been in a limbo of hype for the last nine months, hoping this return to an adventure with Nero, the original Dante and new protagonist V, would be worth such a long wait. Thankfully, Devil May Cry 5 repays the fans’ decade of patience in spades with what’s the best entry in the series.
It kicks down the door of today’s gaming era and declares loudly that the DMC everyone knows and loves is proud to be back.
In a campaign that’s quick to the punch from start to finish, you’re taken through 20 missions, shifting back and forth between playing as Nero, V and Dante. Nero, who takes up the leading majority of the gameplay, is a welcome return since his introduction in Devil May Cry 4.
Sharing the spotlight of playability has been a stumbling block for the series in the past. 2003’s DMC2 campaign was split into two playthroughs between Dante and unnecessarily boring character, Lucia. DMC4 in 2008 remedied this slightly by making both playable characters, Nero and Dante, equally fun to play as but was fumbled by making the latter having to repetitively repeat the levels of the former.
Devil May Cry 5 seems to have finally found that magic formula in balancing multiple characters. With each sporting their own diverse abilities, the thought of their play styles fill you with excitement instead of dread at each character swap. What’s more, the campaigns levels have finally been refined in the most fitting way. Removing the vast majority of the puzzle solving aspect Devil May Cry is known for, you’re left with missions of pure action platforming, providing a much more focused experience that doesn’t let your exhillaration slow down.
Nero’s combat style has been changed up from DMC4, although he’s still using his definitive flame-revving Red Queen Sword and Blue Rose Revolver. Losing his demonic arm, he’s now sporting a robot replacement, a Devil Breaker, that comes in a variety of models with varying combat mechanics. For example, Overture, the first prototype Devil Breaker, emits powerful shockwaves that harshly damage weaker demons. Punch Line, a Devil Breaker you unlock further in the story, is basically a rocket fist that homes in on enemies and Nero can even ride it like a jet hoverboard.
You unlock more Devil Breakers as you progress through the campaign, along with spending Red Orbs to expand the number Nero can carry at a time, just as you can spend the same currency on new combat abilities for all three characters. Red Orbs return as the main in-game currency that you obtain from killing demons and the many red orb trees lying around each level. This is where the element of strategy comes into play. With your many skills and weapon upgrades spread across all three characters, you’ll start learning to be careful in choosing what to spend them on, catering to your preferred play style which offers you a decent sense of choice.
The aspect for planning your approach also applies to organising Nero’s Devil Breakers, which also turns out to be an unfortunate drawback. As well as being able to buy individual types of Devil Breaker arms to refill your magazine, you find several as you traverse across each level. Devil Breakers are fragile, breaking after being interrupted during an attack, charging a special move or activating each one’s self-destruct, replacing the destroyed arm with the next one in the magazine. The problem is not that any Devil Breaker you happen to pick up moves to the front of your magazine. It’s that there’s no way to shift between Devil Breakers to a particular one you might want to use, over time becoming a slightly irritating restraint despite the variety the rest of the mechanics offer you.
Don’t let that sour your whole perception of it though. Standard use of the Devil Breaker is a joy to use in combat. Niro can use its universal grapple feature to bring enemies towards you or vice versa, leaving you able to land a continuous string of satisfyingly heavy combos. The silver lining of the fragility of the Devil Breakers make you think twice about how and when to use them, adding a welcome sense of intensity throughout each level appropriate for the series, giving you a sense of achievement when you come out unscathed.
Combat, in general, is absolute perfection in Devil May Cry 5 with a tightened flow of maneurving with stylish animation to top it off, making you come to the realisation fully when Dante becomes playable around halfway through the campaign. Equipped with swords and guns as Nero is, Dante fashions a much larger assortment of weapons that grows larger as more of the story unfolds, each with their own movesets. Most notably is the Cavalier Bike: a demon-infused motorcycle that splits apart to be dual-wielded as two heavy weapons, rejoining it to ride on top of a demon’s face just as quick.
This is complimented by the multiple styles Dante can quickly switch between to enhance his fighting: Swordman for melee attacks, Gunslinger for ranged, Royal Guard for defense and Trickster for dodging. Utilising these with the right weapons at the right times can make devasting attacks with your weapons feel oh-so-satisfying: combos like sword-spinning an enemy demon into the air, switching to the Cavalier bike, and using it to run over it’s whole body.
It’s retellings of gameplay like this alone that get you eager to take another crack at playing even after completing the campaign, testing out so many outlandish combinations that you hope will earn you that Stylish ranking at the end of each encounter and mission.
Out of the three characters, the most fascinating is the mysterious V which is quick to understand given his combat style is in such a different direction than the rest.
Due to being too weak to fight himself, V has three demon pets that take on enemies for him: A black panther named Shadow for physical attacks, a demonic bird called Griffon for range and Nightmare, a powerful, collosal golem-like demon that V summons when his Devil Trigger guage is full. Whilst coordinating attacks with all three to get the highest levels of damage and combat rankings, you have to also make sure V dodges any attacks that come his way. V also is the only one capable of delivering the final blow, having to finish foes off before they recover, then retreating out of harm’s way again.
This is a lot to take in at first. After a few battles however, V quickly becomes the simplest to play out of the three, due to the key of winning his battles merely being having patience in knowing when to dodge, not being too hasty in dealing damage and waiting for that opportunity for a fatal strike.
Having such well-designed characters balanced in what’s a part of such an astonishing combat system would be pointless without some believably great demons to shoot, stab and maul to death. These savage, sometimes gorey waves of demons are presented in a way that you’re familar with from many games before, starting off as weak demonic foot soldiers and steadily throwing more intimidatingly difficult foes at you further along.
With a plethora of ranging blood-craving beasties and bosses with differing attacks, movement patterns and weaknesses, your familarity with the combat system grows along with the scope of demons that will come for your head. You’re ultimately gifted increasing amounts of gratification as you overcome the challenges of these many swarms of foes
Gold orbs, the revival items that grant you a full restore of health, makes a return in DMC5. Always treated like a precious resource in the past, the way gold orbs have been implemented this time around slightly hinder their significance. Being found rarely or being very expensive to purchase in past games, gold orbs are put in your path at many more opportunities. You’re given one a day as a log-in bonus, another for stylish rankings, often finding at least one or two on each level. Cameo mode, an interesting yet underwhelming multiplayer concept in having random players matched up with you to play as one of the other characters, can have you rank eachother as stylish at the end of each mission, also rewarding you another gold orb. After completing a 5-playthrough, I was left with 22, meaning 22 extra lives.
Other DMC games, especially Devil May Cry 3, had a much smaller tolerance for failure. Whilst being frustrated by incredibly tough bosses with few gold orbs to rely on as insurance, the sometimes nerve-racking challenge from past Devil May Cry’s is what’s an iconic trait of the best from the series, in a sense of moulding great gamers in the buring heat of battle. In an attempt to make Devil May Cry 5 more tolerable towards newcomers not familar with the mechanics, you’ll end up with far more gold orbs than you’ll ever need in Devil Hunter, the hardest difficulty mode available before you complete the campaign for the first time. Whilst the developer’s intentions are understandable, a small portion of the edge is taken away for that first playthrough.
Despite mainly catering to players already fans of the series, Devil May Cry 5 has made it’s way in being open to newcomers as well. Right from the title menu, you’ll find a catch-up video that does it’s best in efficiently getting you up to speed on the events so far. Without at least a massive amount of the series context that this can help give you, anyone unfamiliar with Devil May Cry would surely be lost in what’s going on storywise.
Soon after the loss of his right arm, we find Nero storming a hellish headquarters in efforts of revenge on new demon king, Urizen. After being forced to retreat with V after Dante and co suffered a brutal defeat, we follow the heroes journey seperately and come together in gathering the necessary solutions in defeating the demonic overlord.
Corresponding with how riveting they all are to play as, Nero, Dante and V are all equally superb to watch as shared protagonists. Each being charismaticly badass in their own way, the three earn their time in the spotlight, shining in each of their roles of the narrative without overstaying their welcome. With it’s blend of humour and hardcore action performed by a talented cast, every cutscene could be mistaken for a high quality series.
As far as newcomer NPC’s go, Nico is an inarguable delight, being finely crafted measurements of sassy, intelligent and hilarious. Being the designer of Nero’s Devil Breaker arms, it gives the opportunity for some marvelous back-and-forth with the young devil hunter, something he lacked in Devil May Cry 4. Meanwhile, returning devil hunters from past games, Trish and Lady, are just kind of there without anything significant to do. Although it’s nice to see them again as part of Dante’s devil slaying crew, it can’t be helped to think that they were merely thrown in for the sake of it.
In terms of what’s most satisfying for the story, it’s the long overdue continuation of some elements you wouldn’t expect. Some unexpected and impactful twists come along, full-on motivating you to want to see this journey through to the end if not already. Sure, it may not tug on the heart strings for those not that invested in the series before now but it superbly serves as a splendid treat for those that have been following the Devil May Cry lore for quite some time.
Audio & Graphics
Upon your first glance of the presentation Devil May Cry 5 has to offer, you’ll surely come away feeling enthralled. Using a photo-realistic graphic style supported by the scanning of real-life models and even clothes running on Capcom’s own RE engine, you’re visually submerged into a world you could almost see yourself in. The latest facial expression technology and the further utilisation of real-life people and objects make DMC5 close to raising the bar in what a visual art gaming has become. Even though in later missions of the campaign you’ll be met with a few too many instances of the same level designs, any of the splendidly rendered cutscenes will make any of those grievances instantly disappear.
Mentioning Devil Trigger previously, it goes without saying that the audio from Devil May Cry 5 is equally a treat for the ears as it is for the eyes. Along with Devil Trigger being Nero’s own battle track, V and Dante’s combat encounters are also accompanied with their own compositions of stylish rock’metal wonders. In tandem with the sounds of roaring gunshots and slick slices of a sword, you’ll still be hearing the cocktail that is Devil May Cry 5‘s soundtracks weeks after finally putting the game down.
Compared to the thrill ride that this devil-killing adventure takes you on, any gripes had with Devil May Cry 5 feel like mere nitpicks when thinking about what this fifth entry has brought to the table.
When gorgeous visuals and what will be a loudly classic soundtrack is just the icing on this ginormous cake of a game, you know you’ve got something special. With a fitting continuation of beloved lore and a cast of equally fleshed out protagonists that are a delight to watch, years of waiting have been met with one of the best real-time combat systems ever put in video game form. Being crafted down with the development equivalent of a chizzle to a statue, it’s to tight and refined but still packing so much fun, variety and challenge for perfection, that you’ll keep wanting to go back on a higher difficulty to become a master of style.
It turns out the fifth time was the charm after all. Devil May Cry 5 definitely pulled my devil trigger.
|+ Perfectly varied, stylish combat||– Can’t swap between Devil Breakers|
|+ Three equally brilliant protagonists||– Too many gold orbs = too easy|
|+ A story that’s first-rate for franchise fans|
|+ Stunning visuals and soundtrack|