I’ve got a VERY special place in my heart for the Devil May Cry series. Besides the original being one of the first games I played on the PlayStation 2 (and blowing me away with its epic combat and unbelievable enemy encounters), I’ve always had a fondness for the way that the series consistently managed to do something different in-between entries to freshen it up whilst also maintaining that core stylish experience that made it so much fun to play in the first place.
Well, it’d been a while since we got to play through the adventures of everyone’s favourite son of Sparda (f*** you, Vergil) with the last new release being the brilliant but under-appreciated ‘reboot’ DmC: Devil May Cry back in 2013, but Capcom have finally decided to return to the mainline series with a proper follow up to 2008’s Devil May Cry 4. Yes, Devil May Cry 5 is finally here, bringing with it some of the most spectacularly stylish combat that I’ve encountered in any action game. I remember being in awe at what Capcom did with the original game all the way back in 2001 and even now, eighteen-years later, they’re still able to amaze me.
Devil May Cry 5 begins with the protagonists in a bit of a pickle. Nero, Dante, and newcomer V find themselves up against a truly vicious foe in the demon Urizen, who’s able to defeat all three characters in the epic opening showdown whilst barely moving from his throne. Never in the series has an enemy seemed so formidable and with Nero and V taken away from the showdown, Dante’s fate is left up in the air.
A month passes on following Urizen’s attack and Nero finds himself looking to rid the world of the demon’s threat, with his power coming from a demonic tree called the Qliphoth that’s growing across the city of Redgrave and absorbing the blood of its inhabitants. With one of the deadliest threats encountered across the entirety of the series to face off against, plenty of nods to the other titles, and some unexpected twists-and-turns across the tale, Devil May Cry 5’s narrative is easy to get totally engrossed in and offers plenty of fan service as you work towards its grand conclusion.
Anyone who has encountered the Devil May Cry series before will know it mixes up over-the-top action-packed cutscenes with a bit of heroic (and often cheesy) charm, and that’s the same case here. I mean, it wouldn’t be Dante and Nero without some corny one-liners, right? V is a bit of an enigma though, with his intentions and words shrouded in mystery throughout. It’s another one of the mysteries that’ll unravel as you get through the game, though V is a pretty likable character for the most part anyway. He also looks a bit like an unmasked Kylo Ren, which is always a plus in my eyes…
Of course, this is a Devil May Cry game, and whilst a neat narrative and spectacular action-packed cutscenes are a big part of the experience, it’s the combat that’s at the forefront. It’s here that Devil May Cry 5 hits the pinnacle, with its expertly crafted combat mechanics making for some of the finest I’ve seen in any video game.
So you’ll take control of all three protagonists across the story, with each one playing in a completely different way. Nero will feel familiar to those who’ve played Devil May Cry 4 thanks to the use of his Red Queen sword (which can be literally revved for more damage) and his powerful Blue Rose pistol. He also has a grapple that can pull enemies towards him (or him towards them if they’re particularly big), which is incredibly neat when you’re airborne and want to get your foes a little closer for a beat down. However, he’s missing his devil arm this time around (you’ll see why early on), though you’ve got some substitutes that can take its place: the Devil Breakers.
These Devil Breakers are collectible mechanical arms that each come with different powers, be it sending out projectile attacks, electrocuting your enemy, or healing Nero. You can even get one based upon Mega Man’s Megabuster, which can only be seen as a freaking cool thing if you’re a fan of Capcom as a whole. You can carry multiple Devil Breakers at a time, but you can’t switch between them freely – instead, you have to dispose of them by blowing them up in the middle of a combo. It’s a good way to dish out damage, whilst the transition to your next Devil Breaker is instant so it won’t mess up your combo either. However, if an enemy attacks you whilst you’re using a Devil Breaker attack you’ll lose it anyway, so you do have to pick your moments otherwise you might find yourself losing a favourable attacking option in the midst of a battle.
Dante will feel pretty familiar too, with him utilising the style system which was originally introduced in Devil May Cry 3 and made more flexible in Devil May Cry 4. You can switch between the four different styles on the fly (you’ve got Swordmaster, Gunslinger, Trickster and Royal Guard) with each giving him different abilities, whilst you’ve also got four different sets of melee and ranged weapons to use too. Dante will feel the most accessible character to players returning to the game thanks to his familiar move set, though he has some new tricks up his sleeve too including a damage-dishing motorbike than can turn into chainsaw-like swords (it’s as cool as it sounds) and even a magic hat (which isn’t as uncool as it sounds).
Then you’ve got V, who isn’t just a new character but also one that brings something completely fresh and original to the game’s combat. V doesn’t do much fighting himself in battle though, but actually has creatures come do the work for him – however, V has to be the one who lands the killing blow with his super-duper ultra-powerful cane. The creatures themselves have a good range of attacks between them, with Griffon attacking from the air and Shadow getting more close and personal, whilst the Devil Trigger-enabled Nightmare just goes for all out power by wiping out enemies with ease. You don’t control any of these creatures and instead watch on as they attack enemies freely, which makes for a unique experience given that the Devil May Cry series is famed for giving players the freedom and flexibility to pull off whatever attacks they want – with V you’ve just got to make sure you track each creature’s attacks and then pick your moment to finish each foe off. It can make for a neat experience, but it’s one that’ll take some adjusting to when moving from playing as the more accessible Nero and Dante.
Between the three characters there’s a hell of a lot of variety on offer in combat, with Devil May Cry 5 essentially re-inventing itself for each character you play as. Sure, the core mechanics and controls will remain familiar each time, but the way they all feel to use is certainly unique and offers a whole new gameplay experience for the player. One thing that remains consistent though is just how fun it all is – honestly, there wasn’t a moment throughout the game’s twenty missions where it just wasn’t so damn satisfying to wipe out enemies. All of the gameplay mechanics are tightly refined to offer combat that is fluid and relentless in design, whilst you’ll genuinely feel like this demon-slaying badass who’s pulling off outrageous attacks and manoeuvres with ease whilst nailing each spectacular combo.
The game just makes it easy to fight with style no matter your skillset (though there is a combo-assist you can turn on to make it easier if you prefer), which is imperative given that there’s a big focus on varying your attacks and nailing longer combos to get more points in the game. Much like other entries in the series, Devil May Cry 5 will rank your combos from D to SSS with players who hit a higher variety of attacks nailing those higher grades. Besides affecting your end-mission ranking, it’s a good way to gauge just how good you are at the game – believe me, finally hitting those SSS combos is incredibly satisfying, whilst only seeing some Bs or As will push you to up your game.
Whilst combat is slick, it’d be nothing without some grotesque beasts to take down. Luckily, Devil May Cry 5 delivers here too, with it sending out some of the most aggressive and well-designed monsters I’ve seen in the series – there are returning favourites from previous games too, so don’t be surprised when you see a few familiar faces (and then slice right through them). The boss battles are absolutely on point too, with plenty of epic showdowns against giant beasts that’ll really push your skills to the limit. It really feels that Capcom have gone all out in all areas of the game’s design as far as combat is concerned and it really makes Devil May Cry 5 feel like the stand out action title of this generation.
There’s plenty to keep you coming back for more too, with multiple difficulties, a chapter select to beat your rankings, and even the free Bloody Palace DLC this coming April. Then there are the Secret Missions to discover, which’ll give you extra challenges to complete along with some bonus items. As before, there are a load of skills to unlock and level up too, so you’ll spend plenty of time investing yourself into each character’s abilities and fine-tuning them to suit your playstyle. It’s worth mentioning that you can actually purchase some red orbs (the currency to level up) with real-life cash if you prefer, though simply playing through naturally will make it easy to unlock everything you’ll need in the game anyway. Everything is just perfectly balanced.
Presentation-wise, Devil May Cry 5 looks stunning throughout. It managed to hit a consistent 60fps on the Xbox One X too, which made the action a lot more fluid and ensured each showdown with enemies looked the best they could. The environments also looked impressive throughout, with no detail spared across the modern setting – however, it could be argued that the level design itself was a bit too linear in design. It’s not that you don’t get the opportunity to explore each environment, but rather that they were a lot more straight-forward than in previous entries in the series. There are a few moments where you can head off the beaten track to discover some Secret Missions or some additional items, but for the most part it’s clear which way you’re going to need to go.
It’s worth mentioning that the soundtrack is absolutely banging, though what would you expect from the Devil May Cry series? There’s a good mixture of hard rock and more sombre pieces as you go through the game world, with the harder-hitting pieces kicking in when in the midst of a battle and then calming down when exploring. It’s something the series has always been known for doing with the music itself essentially matching the pace of the player’s action, but it was something I could appreciate even more this time around after spending so many years away from the series.
Platform(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC