It’s been more than a decade since Devil May Cry 4, and it’s hard to believe that a franchise so beloved has gone without a follow up for so long. While Ninja Theory’s DmC reboot game attempted to revive the franchise by taking it into a different direction, many fans have been hoping for a return to the original franchise that made the series as staple in the Playstation 2 days. Now, Capcom is finally bringing DMC back with Devil May Cry 5, and after almost 20 hours with the game, I’m happy to report that the wait was well worth it.
The events of DMC 5 takes place a few years after those of DMC 4. A mysterious man with a cane named “V,” who looks like an even more emo version of Kylo Ren after a shopping spree at Hot Topic, enters the Devil May Cry office and hires the legendary devil hunter Dante to kill a powerful demon named Urizen. Meanwhile, Nero, an aspiring devil hunter who made his debut in the previous game, hunts demons out of a mobile Devil May Cry office with his enthusiastic friend Nico. As Dante, Nero and V follow the trail of demon attacks that seem related to Urizen’s appearance, their paths once again intertwine as they find the source of the demons and Urizen’s power: a rapidly-growing otherworldly tree called the Qliphoth. The conflict that unfolds thereafter is filled with shocking twists and turns, breathtaking setpieces, badass boss fights, and more stylish demon slaying than any game you’ve ever played.
Without going into too many details, DMC 5’s narrative is the best it’s ever been, even giving my beloved DmC (2013) a run for its money. While all three of the playable characters play a hugely consequential role in the overarching story, each also has their own arc, and I found myself surprisingly invested in all three. The sarcastic, wise-cracking Dante serves as a nostalgic centerpiece whose story offers few surprises, but is by far the most entertaining character (and has the best dance moves to boot). The mysterious newcomer V gives players something entirely new, whose story is filled with mystery and hardships. And most impressive of all, Nero’s story manages to complete redeem the lackluster debut he made in DMC 4, and ended up being my favorite of the three by the time the credits rolled.
Despite Devil May Cry’s long history of complex narratives, I found DMC 5 surprisingly easy to follow, avoiding the usual pitfalls that many long-running franchises often run into. But that doesn’t mean the game’s storytelling structure is without issues. Like lots of games nowadays, DMC 5 makes use of non-linear storytelling, and like many games before it, DMC 5 sometimes becomes unnecessarily complicated in doing so. Every cutscene is preceded by a date or timestamp to help avoid any confusion about the timeline, which only serves to make the heavy use of non-linear storytelling more irritating. Sometimes the jumps in time are useful tools to obscure an upcoming twist in the story, but other times they’re just pointless sneak peeks of something cool around the horizon that we could have just as well waited to enjoy later on.
But of course, in between the epic cutscenes, snarky banter, and unexpected dance numbers, you’ll be kicking the living crap out of demons of all shapes and sizes, and DMC 5’s incredibly complex hack-and-slash combat is better and more chunky than it’s ever been. As Nero, you’ll try out a variety of different mechanical arms and dart around the screen causing mayhem, as V you’ll use your summoned demon pets to weaken targets before stepping in to deal the final blow, and as Dante you’ll pull of insane combos by switching between dozens of combinations of melee weapons, ranged weapons, and battle styles. As with previous entries in the franchise, more important than the obvious goal of winning the fight is doing so with style, and your performance in battle is constantly displayed on the right side of the screen, urging you to reach for even greater heights of badassery every step of the way.
And DMC 5 is without a doubt the most stylish game you’ll play this year. Awesome tracks blast in the background as you dance through the air laying waste to the hordes of hell. Enemies assail you with ice, fire, electricity, claws, and teeth, which fills the screen with color and dangerous obstacles. When you finish off a group of enemies, time slows down and the camera pulls in close to highlight your character’s smiling face as the final demon is slain. Every piece of DMC 5 is perfectly tuned to reflect the rebellious, over-the-top, action-packed spirit that has become a hallmark of the franchise, and you can’t help but smile even in its cheesiest moments.
Since DMC 5 has three playable characters, by necessity you’ll need to master three entirely different playstyles if you have any aspiration to see the credits roll. The first character you’ll play as is Nero, a badass devil hunter with a robot arm, called a Devil Breaker, that can be swapped out for one of many different versions. As this character, all things revolve around the Devil Breaker. You’ll pull enemies towards you by using your arm as a grappling hook, elect to detonate your limb in order to escape otherwise unavoidable situations, and swap your Devil Breaker out for several different models, each with their own power. One model allows you to temporarily slow down time in a concentrated area, another empowers your attacks with increased lethality, and another allows you to dart around areas with incredibly improved mobility. The sheer options and versatility of the Devil Breaker quickly made Nero my favorite of the pack, and I never go bored of customizing my loadout of lethal appendages.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Devil May Cry game without Dante, and in DMC 5 there are more options for him than there ever have been. You’ll swing a demonic motorcycle at your enemies, become incredibly agile and acrobatic when utilizing your melee fighting style, and even use a demonic cowboy hat to make the minions of hell beg for mercy. In addition, you’re able to switch between a variety of fighting styles that make you better a certain aspects of combat. For example, one fighting style will make your ranged weapons more deadly, while another allows you to perform deadly counter attacks by utilizing a defensive fighting style. Switching between weapons and fighting styles in battle improves your style ranking, encouraging you to make use of your entire arsenal in each fight.
Finally, there’s the newcomer V, who is too weak to keep up with the likes of Dante or Nero and instead keeps his distance and allows his demonic pets to do his bidding. Griffin, a demonic eagle, makes use of powerful ranged attacks from the sky. Shadow, a fearsome panther, gets in close to deal deadly melee damage. Then there’s Nightmare, a massive and terrifying golem who smashes everything in her path and unleashes a devastating explosive laser beam. As V, your goal is to avoid getting hit while commanding each of your demonic allies from a distance. While you’re not in any immediate danger, you can choose to read from your satanic book of bad poetry, which fills up your devil trigger meter, but leaves you completely open to attack. Once your allies have done enough damage, you must move in yourself to deal the final blow with your cane. While V’s combat style is certainly more passive than playing as Dante or Nero, it offers a fresh type of gameplay that breaks up some of the repetitiveness.
And what’s so awesome about DMC 5’s three excellent playable characters, is that in many levels you decide which you’d prefer to play. Not only does this mean you get to play the character you prefer more often, but also that some levels have three different versions, one for each of the characters, lending some much needed replayability to the game. While I thought I might just choose Dante at every available opportunity, I surprisingly found myself picking Nero or V on occasion just to break up the experience. I cannot stress how great it is that you’re able to make this choice throughout the course of the campaign. Regardless of the mood you’re in, there’s an option for you, and that’s truly awesome.
My only complaint where gameplay is concerned is that the hardest difficulty available to you when you first play the game is far too easy to provide any kind of a challenge. I was easily able to get a high level ranking and blow through any enemies before me without a problem, and the very few times I slipped up, I had plenty of revive items that got me back in the fight in no time. While it’s great that they provided a way to brute force your way through the game for players who would rather not repeat sections, it’s a little disappointing that a more challenging experience isn’t available at the start, meaning that players have to get through an entire laughably easy playthrough before they’re able to access more demanding options.
In terms of presentation, DMC 5 is a joy for the senses. The game looks absolutely gorgeous, both during gameplay and cutscenes, and has some of the most unique setpieces and colorful designs in recent memory. Similarly, the audio design is stunning, as the game is filled with loud music and violent sound effects that suit the game perfectly. The voice acting is also extremely high quality across the board, even for the game’s weirder characters like Nico. By the end, even the B characters feel like old friends that you’re happy to see on-screen again, and that’s no small feat.
Finally, I need to talk about loading screens. When a review mentions loading screens, it’s rarely a positive thing, so it might be weird for me to compliment DMC 5 on its stunning lack of loading screens, but I feel compelled to do so. I was so rarely in a loading screen in the game that at one point it actually seemed bizarre that the game looked and played so well and didn’t have any. Either they did an incredible job at hiding their loading screens with cutscenes, or they performed some satanic ritual that allowed them to make this game immune to them. Either way, this is a nice touch that I’m endlessly grateful for.
Devil May Cry 5
DMC 5 is probably the best hack-and-slash game you’ll play all year, and definitely the most stylish.