Does DMC5 Deliver?!
Believed dead after the attempted franchise reboot in 2013, Devil May Cry is back and returns to its roots in many ways. Devil May Cry 5 is developed in-house by Capcom, picks up where 2008’s Devil May Cry 4 left off, and it brings back all of the characters beloved by fans and introduces the mysterious V.
The demon Urizen has resurrected and it’s up to Dante to bring him down. In a show of overwhelming strength, Urizen is able to defeat Dante and his allies, Trish and Lady. Nero arrives on the scene to fight the imposing demon, and he, too, is dispatched in short order. Dante makes a last ditch effort to buy Nero time, and V manages to pull Nero away as Dante is ultimately overwhelmed by Urizen’s power.
If you are unfamiliar with the names above, the main title screen features a “DMC History” video that will catch you up on the first four games. It’s a great video for fans to see where the series has been, and for new players to get caught up on the story before jumping into this title.
The plot unfolds at the beginning and end of most missions, which feature a scene rendered in the game’s graphics engine. Each scene starts with a date and time (for example, June 15, 11:00 AM), which helps to keep the inter-weaving storylines straight and eschew the messy storytelling of Devil May Cry 4.
The game starts with you controlling Nero, armed with his sword and revolver, the Red Queen and Blue Rose, respectively. Nero, hacks, slashes, shoots, grabs, and explodes enemies, all of which are quite responsive and very fun to do. Instead of his Devil Bringer, Nero now uses Devil Breakers, developed by the charming and sassy Nico. Different Breakers grant Nero different abilities, adding an element of strategy to your loadout. Even without a Devil Breaker equipped, Nero always has the grapple equipped, which will pull enemies to him, or pull him toward larger enemies and grapple points. It is exceedingly useful for pulling more stubborn enemies off the ground and dealing with them on your terms. In addition to furnishing equipment for Nero, Nico also functions as the game’s shop, where you purchase all of your skills, some combos, and several items.
V’s control style is the most dramatic departure from the series’ normal rough-and-tumble gameplay in the history of Devil May Cry. Instead, V commands Shadow, the shape-shifting panther, and Griffon, the wise-cracking eagle. Shadow functions as V’s primary melee attacker, and Griffon peppers enemies with projectiles, but can also swoop into the thick of battle. The only time V gets involved with combat directly is to finish off a weakened enemy with his cane. V’s minions have their own health bars, and if depleted, temporarily die in a state called “stalemate.” They revive automatically over time but revive faster if V is near where they have fallen. V utilizes a Devil Trigger, which allows his summoned minions to attack harder, or he can summon the mighty Nightmare. V cannot control this hulking mass of lasers and hate directly, at first. Instead, it attacks the enemies on the field on its whims. It is, however, great for crowd control.
Veterans of Devil May Cry 4 will feel right at home with Dante in this installment. He has four unique play styles, toggled with a press of a direction on the D-Pad. The evasive Trickster, the defensive Royal Guard, the furious Swordmaster, and the explosive Gunslinger can be activated mid-combo for maximum style. Dante can also use his Devil Trigger which heals him over time and gives him massive buffs to strength and defense and giving some of his attacks noticeable upgrades temporarily.
The hallmarks of the series combat return with a wide variety of enemies that stand in the path of Dante and his allies. Each enemy requires tactics that should be exploited for maximum damage. Performing the same attacks over and over will result in enemies blocking and later countering those attacks, forcing you to change up your strategy. Enemies are generally introduced individually, or as groups of the same type of enemy, and are later mixed together to keep you constantly dodging and countering.
The style system provides positive reinforcement for the player to do well. Each combo string will be graded from D to SSS. The higher your rank, the more style points you receive, the better your grade at the end of the stage. This system also encourages you to not spam the same attacks repeatedly, and instead mix up your attacks to bring up your style rating.
Overall, the controls feel tight and responsive. The glaring exception is V. Perhaps it is because his style is so different, or perhaps by design, but controlling what Shadow and Griffon do is far less precise than old-fashioned guns and swords. While not problematic, but it adds an element of frustration to an otherwise flawless combat system. The other issue is that, due to the inherent play style of V, the camera tends to get stuck on the environment, which can make evading very frustrating. Dante and Nero play similarly, but the weapons at Dante’s disposal versus Nero’s more grapple-heavy style help keep the two feeling different enough.
Most missions end in a boss fight, which in and of itself is not a bad thing. None of the bosses are recycled and they all feel natural in their environments. However, if you’re spending a considerable amount of time exploring and then have to fight a boss at the end, missions can feel like they run a bit long. The difficulty curve tends to spike dramatically, with some missions resulting in a quick clear and no deaths, and other missions requiring multiple retries and deaths just to slog to the end.
One interesting new component of Devil May Cry 5 is the online player component. In addition to leader boards, some missions have more than one Devil Hunter (for example Nero and V), and another hunter can be controlled by a person via network. You will see a notification on the left that says “Starring <PSN Name>” on the side, and the game will let you know how the other player is doing by showing the style rating next to their user name. At the end of the mission, you can give them a rating (or not). If the game’s AI is controlling the other Hunter, the game simply says “starring the Devil May Cry Team.” It’s a fun, small component that helps you connect to other players and fans. This option can be turned off, or set to “friends only.”
Devil May Cry 5 runs on the RE engine, which was originally developed for Resident Evil VII. Everything pops off the screen and looks really smooth. Sword swings have distortion effects that are fun to look at, and explosions are blinding bright followed by an occluding thick smoke. Every aspect of combat is satisfying to look at. Male characters all look good with realistic facial expressions. Female characters look a little weird. Their skin is too smooth or shiny, and their movements look awkwardly motion captured. It does not look bad, but it is a little distracting.
The first chime of creating save data will fill veteran players with nostalgia as it sounds the exact same as Devil May Cry 1. The sound design for DMC 5 is top-notch, with footfalls having the appropriate sound effects depending on the terrain. Audio cues help you determine when to dodge or release a button to execute an attack. Every gun has its own unique bang; every melee weapon has its own woosh and swish.
A lot of love, care, and effort was put into Devil May Cry 5, and it shows. Boasting the largest number of playable characters in the regular campaign, it’s clear the Devil May Cry team applied all the lessons they learned 11 years ago. If you like action titles that challenge you but are not overtly punishing, you’ve probably already played a Devil May Cry game, and this is an easy recommendation. If you never have played a game in the series, this is also a great place to start.