Devil May Cry 5
The questionably named ‘character-action’ genre has always been my favourite. Ever since I played the original Devil May Cry in 2001, when I was but a babe, I’ve been hooked on the stylish combat prevalent in the games of the genre. Anyone who knows me probably knows me as the Devil May Cry guy. Well, no, they probably don’t, but they COULD know that I have a weird affinity for the series. These aren’t games you’re focused on completing, rather, they’re games you’re focused on mastering. You learn the ins and outs of the combat system; every weapon featured; every enemy faced; and every ability gained, til you can pull off the most ridiculous shit you can in a vain effort to be as flashy as possible. Who are you impressing? Nobody really, but the game knows with its always-on-screen, ever-judging ranking system. Noone wants a big fat D rank on their screen while they lazily pummel enemies in the most yawn-inducing way possible now do they? Everyone wants that glitzy, shimmering SSS while you rope-a-dope five enemies at a time pulling off jump-cancels, and moves that border on possibly game breaking. And ever since DMC4 was released I waited for any whisper in the wind of a sequel, and when DmC: Devil May Cry was announced, as many did, I wept openly at the death of my favourite franchise. It looked like like a hot mess, and, obviously, the franchise was ruined forever. Actually, it turned out that game wasn’t all that bad, bar the unapologetically heinous story and characters. So, along with both Bayonetta games and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, I had something to cure my ‘character-action’ itch for a while. Still something was missing. And now, after eleven tediously long years filled with a continuous barrage of open world FPS games that all inexplicably contain the most trifling RPG elements imaginable, the king of the ‘character-action’ genre has returned.
I’m not going to sit here and tease out how the game is over the course of a nearly 2500 word article. I’m going to be outright and say that Devil May Cry 5 is one of the tightest action games I’ve ever had the courtesy of playing. It is everything the series once was, but completely refined and expanded on in the best ways possible. It’s a sleek, polished and completely realised affair. One I think anyone who even has a passing interest in video games should experience.
Devil May Cry throws all players, newcomers and veterans alike, into the thick of it by starting the story in-media-res. The demon Urizen has risen a great demon tree in the middle of Redgrave City; and our heroes Nero, Dante, and the new protagonist V must band together to cut this hellish arboriculturist down a size. As the game jumps back, forth, and sometimes sideways in the timeline, the players eventually see how the plot came to be. New players might feel a little lost as they’re bombarded with all these unfamiliar characters, but the trusty devs at Capcom have put together a little five minute video that provides a synopsis of the previous four games.
However, we all know the plot of these games is just the cherry on top of the action-centric combat cake. And, as with DMC4, in the first bite you take the reigns of the weighty slasher Nero. He still plays like he does in 4, cleaving foes with his revvable sword Red Queen; shooting enemies with his chargeable and devastatingly powerful revolver Blue Rose; and snatching enemies closer with his demonic arm the Devil Bringer. The focus of his combat tends to lean more towards mobility, aerial combat, and killing demons in the most devastating way possible.
Nero always felt like he was lacking some depth in DMC4. Now, thanks to losing his demon arm to the antagonist Urizen, he has been outfitted with a new array of mechanical gauntlets called the Devil Breakers, courtesy of his new partner, Nico. The Devil Breakers all have the same basic Snatch maneuver, but each have distinct normal and charged abilities. Overture, for example, features a wide hand-shaped electric burst that knocks enemies flying, and the charged ability turns the arm itself into a timed bomb that can be planted on an enemy and detonated with a bullet. There’s also Gerbera, one of my personal favourites, which essentially gives Nero a dedicated dodge button that scoops up enemies into the air with you, with the charged attack firing out a destructive electric beam that tears up any enemy silly enough to get caught in the blast.
However, the Breakers are fragile, will shatter using the charged attacks, and, more importantly, will also shatter if you get hit while using them. This keeps the tension high in the middle of hectic battles, as you dodge and weave through enemy attacks while simultaneously using your arsenal and array of Bringers to get that golden SSS rank. While you can’t switch between the Breakers you have equipped on a whim, if you get into a jam you can intentionally destroy the current one you’re using, which switches to the next one in line. While Nero only has one ranged and melee weapon, his Devil Breakers add great depth to the solid foundation of his base gameplay. It’s immensely fun playing around with all of the Devil Breakers, and I often found myself experimenting with ones I’d use less because I don’t want to just destroy and waste them, I’d rather see what they’re capable of against whichever enemy mad dogs me.
Returning is everyone’s favourite white-haired pizza enthusiast, Dante. Being the main character of the series, Dante feels the most traditional and well rounded. He is also the one with the most robust and extensive moveset. At all times you’re able to swap between four melee weapons, four ranged weapons and four styles - Trickster, Swordmaster, Gunslinger and Royal Guard - all of which unlock a whole new plethora of distinct abilities.
Dante’s arsenal of weapons has always been an odd and eclectic one. In DMC3 you had ice enhanced nunchucks, an electric guitar that summoned electric bats; in DMC4 you had a briefcase that could turn into an assortment of heavy duty weaponry. Continuing this trend, Devil May Cry 5 features what may be the most diverse set of weapons yet, spanning from traditional swords, a cowboy hat that uses red orbs as ammunition, flame-gauntlets that have a built in hype man, to a motorbike that splits into two giant buzzsaws. From the get-go Dante dons his trusty sword Rebellion, which features all the tricks and moves from previous games; his beloved pistols Ebony & Ivory; the ass-blasting shotgun Coyote-A; and an entirely new gauntlet weapon named Balrog. Gauntlet weapons have been a series staple since DMC1, and while all share the same basic movesets they each have distinct abilities that set them apart from each other. Balrog is no different as it can switch between a kick and punch mode, essentially turning it into two weapons in one. Switching between Eddie Gordo-esque capoeira kicks, and a flurry of lightning fast punches feels exceptionally fluid and just plain awesome.
As Dante’s arsenal grows throughout the course of the game and his gameplay becomes more and more diverse, the options you have can honestly feel a bit intimidating. With the new loadout system you can change how many you want to cater to your playstyle. Do you switch between as many weapons and styles as possible to dizzy the enemy as they attempt to comprehend where Dante keeps all of these weapons; or do you stick to two main weapons, and one style to go for a more focused and direct approach? The choice is entirely yours.
Last, and definitely not least, we have the mysterious newcomer V who - instead of taking an I’m-in-your-face-buddy approach to butt-blasting like Nero and Dante - prefers to take a step back and let his three summoned demons do the work. The three demons include the aerial wise-ass laserbeam shooting Griffon, the shapeshifting swiss-army knife Shadow, and the towering cyclops Nightmare.
Playing as V is more about taking a tactical approach to combat as you predominantly use both Griffin and Shadow at the same time while keeping an eye on where they are, where your enemies are, and where V is. Griffin’s ranged based attacks are usually charged and quickly engulf the battlefield with devastating laserbeams, and Shadow’s melee attacks are usually quick and nimble; you may also mix and match both demon’s attacks to barrage the enemy with as many blows as possible. You can dive bomb an enemy with Griffin, knocking them into the air, then keep them there with Shadow’s mid-air saw blade attack, and ending with a charged lightning storm with Griffin. When the enemy’s life is depleted, V himself will have step in to finish them off as, apparently, demons cannot kill other demons. Nightmare, who is summoned with V’s devil trigger, acts independently of V’s control, shooting destructive laser beams from his single eye, or clubbing enemies around with his colossal fists. V can take direct control of Nightmare by jumping onto his back, allowing the player to use all of Nightmare’s abilities, with a few unique ones suited for this occasion.
Both Griffon and Shadow can be downed temporarily, so it’s good to keep a close eye on their health and surroundings as you dish out the punishment. They’ll revive after a set time, which is shortened if daddy V stands close to them. They can also be revived instantly by summoning Nightmare, the greatest father figure of all.
Now, all this gameplay finesse is great and all, but what does it even matter if the game surrounding the gameplay sucked? I’ll say it: DMC3 had some shit enemies. The Fallen, who did more floating around than fighting; the Dullahan, who you could only attack from the rear; and basically the entire chessboard squad all sucked a fat one to fight against. DMC4 had near enough the entire roster to groan at. My problem with enemies like this revolves around the restrictive playstyle their design puts the player in. You have only one real way to defeat them. In a game series wholly about expression through action this is a massive problem. It’s often frustrating when you’re on a roll during an insane combo, and mid-fight a Fallen spawns with a sly smile, as if they know how badly designed they are, and force you to take a more constrained approach to ass-kicking as you take them on.
Thankfully, Devil May Cry 5 does not have that problem. Every enemy in the game can be fought against in many different ways. They can be styled on, comboed, and oftentimes parried directly. All enemies, from the common fodder, to the elite squads are extremely fun to fight against as you still can use every option available to you. They’re all well rounded in their designs, and provide some of the most diversity in a DMC game yet. Of course, being unrestrictive is not synonymous with being a pushover, as the teleporting Fury has already been acknowledged by the players as the biggest palm-sweat-furrowed-brow-inducing enemy in the game. While looking up some tricks to deal with them I found many uniquely different ways players have used to combat his rapid teleporting. We’re no longer limited in our approach to different enemy types, so we’re free to style on enemies in any way our insane combo obsessed minds can muster up.
The bosses are also entirely on point. Tackling the often-chastised repetitive nature of previous games’ bosses, every boss, bar three notable exceptions, are entirely unique and cater directly to whichever character you’re currently controlling. For example, the battle between Nero and the colossal Gilgamesh is predominantly air based due to the latter’s height and feels designed specifically to suit Nero’s extensive aerial abilities. Even the three exceptions counter repetition by throwing new abilities and variables into the fray during the second bout. In some cases you’ll actually fight these bosses with a completely different character and have to change up your strategies accordingly. These changes help keep things fresh even if the game is repeating something you’ve seen before. Through the game you’ll face a towering pummeler, an aerial sharpshooter, a time-slowing horse, a lightning-powered Knight, and many more. Each boss feels distinct, with their own unique design and accompanying boss theme.
The level design is streamlined so much that you won’t go a few minutes without finding yourself in another battle which is, of course, what the game is all about. No more lock-and-key puzzles, or overly long and clunky-as-hell platforming sections, these levels are focused entirely on the combat encounters. More importantly, backtracking has been completely eliminated. I can almost hear the crowd’s cheers from here. Dante and the boys will slay waves of enemies while exploring the wreckage of the London-inspired Redgrave City, dank waterways, and the gunky insides of the bulbous Qliphoth tree. However, the environments themselves can get a bit aesthetically repetitive, as the Qliphoth tree specifically doesn’t exactly have the most diverse level design. Though, this is a minor problem overall, and still makes for a less repetitive experience than backtracking.
The game also features a few quality of life improvements, like a Secret Mission select, along with the Mission Select itself; a practice room called the Void where you can test out your abilities against any enemy with any character of your choosing; a photo mode so you can take cinematic and hilarious screenshots; completely rebindable controls for individual characters; and the previously mentioned loadouts. The PC port also has many graphical options, so you can toy around with how you want the game to look. Obviously I turned off motion blur and chromatic aberration as soon as I could, because I’m not a monster.
Devil May Cry 5 is not just a sequel, it’s easily one of the best in the series. It completely expands on everything 4 brought to the table through Nero; refines Dante to his most impeccable form yet; adds the dynamic and extremely fun V; and wraps it all up in a fully realised and extremely polished title. Devil May Cry 5 gives an experience other contemporary games just don’t right now. Honestly, you can play this game and tell that the director, Hideaki Itsuno, wanted this to be the best Devil May Cry game yet, and it definitely comes close.