Bang bang bang, Pull my Devil Trigger…
The Devil May Cry franchise, and even that of Ninja Theory’s standalone DMC, is a game built around spectacle. It’s outlandish, cheesy, and wildly over the top, not just in its action, but in the dialogue of its boastful and overly cocky protagonists. Devil May Cry 5 releases some 11 years after its 4th entry, a game that doesn’t necessarily feel that old, yet when compared to the visual fidelity of what Capcom has been able to do here with this latest sequel, and its impressive RE Engine, makes it look almost ancient by comparison. Devil May Cry 5 is not just the best in the series, it’s one of the best looking games released in years.
Considering how long it’s been since Devil May Cry 4, it is very possible that either this is your first entry into the series, or if your only exposure to the franchise is through 2013’s DMC, a rebooted origin story for the series lead, Dante. If either is the case, DMC 5 has a story recap feature that will get you up to speed with the series and who several of the characters are, making it less confusing when you start hearing names toss around like Vergil, or who the legendary Sparda is. It’s pretty comprehensive, and if not, then you can always track down the previous entries and be entertained by each and every one of them, yes, even Devil May Cry 2. If you’ve only ever played through the comparable Bayonetta entries, then Devil May Cry 5 will be right up your alley as the Bayonetta franchise was created by the Game Director of the first Devil May Cry and plays incredibly similar.
Devil May Cry 5 can feel initially overcrowded in the available moves and the somewhat drastic changes in controls across each of its three protagonists, but it is in that complexity when each player can find their groove amongst how each character plays. When you bring up the customization menu’s across Dante, Nero, and V; the latter being a new character to the franchise, it can almost feel overwhelming when you are see all the attacks and abilities available to each of them. Now, you do get the chance to test out these moves and choose which ones to equip, should you have the red orbs to purchase them, so you are always gaining new moves at your own pace, expanding the character’s skill set on your own terms. Now, that said, there are several times where Nero or Dante will gain new weapons or abilities during a mission or cutscene, furthering their assortment of ways to kick ass and look good while doing it. While V does have his own sense of style and a twist on the traditional Devil May Cry combat, he doesn’t quite live up to the level of badass that we’ve come to expect from the Son of Sparda and his protege. Don’t get me wrong, he is still very interesting to use, but his moments are less impressive than that of Dante and Nero.
The story, while fairly basic in its scale, is beefed up by showing three different perspectives through their own respective paths that more or less weave together at numerous points. Some missions will end at an event where you previously progressed to with another character, having the cast meet up in a location where the last one left off. Often, you’ll see other characters in the background, fighting their own assortment of demons, and it may very well be them fighting through a location you’ve been to previous, or a tease at an upcoming mission, when you end up swapping to that very character. These background fighters are either controlled by an AI programmed by the DMC crew, or an actual player, indicated by the “Starring CrispyBacon420” tag featured on the screen. It’s very rare that these characters will fight alongside you, normally as their presence is deep within the background, or on the other side of a fence, limiting how their inclusion affects your own combat rank. I believe there is only one actual moment in the story where you’ll fight alongside, in the same room, each of the other two characters. There are also several missions where you can choose your hero, allowing some missions to have far more replayability than others.
Devil May Cry 5 takes place 5 years after the events of Devil May Cry 4, with Dante now fighting alongside Devil May Cry 4’s Nero, out on a mission given to them by the mysterious V, a character that looks like if Star Wars’ Adam Driver would front a goth metal band. While their mission is initially to take out a demon named Urizen, the narrative pushes further into territory that becomes rather predictable, yet remains wildly enjoyable. For those looking for Devil May Cry to expand in a whole new direction, you may be let down that it follows a lot of the same beats from previous entries, unwilling to let go of certain characters or themes. The real strength in the storytelling, however; comes from how they use that character swapping to show certain events from each perspective and how certain twists and reveals are handled.
During the 10-12 hours that a single playthrough should take you, you’ll meet up with a few familiar faces in Trish and Lady; however, these two are used very minimally in just a few scenes. One new face added to the cast is in Nico, the Gunsmith for Nero in his Devil May Cry business. Nico is sassy, southern, and obsessed with crafting the latest instruments of death from the pieces of demon leftovers you find after an intense battle. Without question, Nico is my favorite character featured in the game and made me excited every time she would meet up with the cast, smashing the Devil May Cry van through walls or having it drop from the sky, ready to have you upgrade your character in a hurry. The RE Engine really does a great job rendering characters and allowing for some stunning facial animation and Nico has these small subtle expressions that really nail the personality given to her.
After the spectacle that is watching Nico burst onto the scene, you can outfit Nero with an assortment of Devil Breakers; retrofitted mechanical arms to replace his missing appendage. While Nico will have a few styles ready for you at the start of the game, you will defeat a few bosses and give materials found on them to have Nico fashion a few additional ones. While it’s never really explained, Nico has placed additional arms all over the environment, ensuring that Nero is never without a few options as he explores each location. These range from arms that punch and throw enemies, ones that freeze time, fire shockwave blasts, penetrate enemy guards with a drill, and more. These Devil Breakers are very fun to use but shatter on impact if you are struck during their use. The only problem with their inclusion is you cannot scroll through them to find the right tool for the job at the moment you want them. To somewhat accommodate this, you’ll need to self-destruct the Devil Breaker you currently have equipped to progress to the next one you have lined up. While this is a functional way to load up the next one, it feels wasteful considering there are a few buttons not used by Nero, at least in the early game. It’s a small gripe that doesn’t break the game or make it really any less fun, but it seems like a very weird design to implement.
Apart from a few combat mechanics like using parts of a demon bike to rev the tires across some demon faces, or the use of elemental nunchucks, Dante and Nero mostly function the same way from a gameplay perspective. While Nico will make Devil Breakers available for Nero, her van will still act as the overall skill store for both Dante and V as well. While Nero and Dante both use a sword and an assortment of guns, that is mostly where the similarities end. Dante fills this gap by being able to wield a demon motorbike as a weapon, or a pair of elemental nunchucks, as well as a few more goodies to round out his arsenal. Combat for Nero and Dante again is similar as you will use the pair of them to juggle enemies into the air with gunfire, or dashing towards them with a sword drawn, ready to pull off numerous combo attacks and an array of different skills to unleash upon them before they have the chance to hit the ground.
Dante also packs in four different skill sets in the form of Swordmaster, Royal Guard, Trickster, and Gunslinger. These sets each have different moves and skills that you can unlock to make them even more capable of raising that combo score. Each character can equip a certain amount of gear to use during a single mission, so you’ll need to choose between a few weapons that you’ll unlock, or come across, such as an additional rocket launcher that you can eventually dual wield, should you track down the secret one you’ll find as you wander off the beaten path. While DMC 5’s environments are not openly massive by any means, there are countless dead ends and secret areas to discover if you put time into exploring.
The newest entry to Devil May Cry, from a playable perspective, is V. I’ve touched upon his design already, but V brings a very different aspect to combat than the small differences between Dante and Nero, or even that of when Trish and Lady were playable in the previous title. V acts very much like a Pokemon trainer, for the lack of a better example, moving around the battlefield while his Griffin, Panther, and monstrous nightmare creature do his bidding. Each shadowy creature, which has a cooldown timer to use should they perish, has a single face button assigned to them, affected by the use of other buttons and directions to unleash a wide variety of different attacks. When enemies are weak enough, V can quickly phase towards them, stabbing them with this personalized cane. It is an interesting twist to the gameplay here that can sometimes feel disconnected from the action, mainly considering the traditional combat systems that have become the default standard for the series. One of the interesting gameplay aspects to V is he can recharge his Devil Gauge while walking around the battlefield, among the chaos you are triggering with his pets, while reciting poetry. Yup.
Among the three main characters, you’ll use the massive selection of attacks, weapons, and skills, to keep consistently kicking ass as you build up a combo rating system that will rank you in Apocalyptic, Badass, Savage, Sick Skills, or Smokin’ Sexy Style, should you bring some serious skills, or Crazy and Dismal, should you take the combat a bit more slower and less frantic, or just receive too much damage during your combat attempts. These ranks will not only affect the red orbs you are earning, but depending on how well you are maintaining that high rank, the background music will change to reflect how much style you are bringing to the table. Dante ends up receiving a special item in the late game that can affect the use of red orbs and how it’s possible to earn a lot more during each and every encounter. It’s a interesting item that comes complete with the most bizarre cutscene to ever be featured in the series.
Red Grave City will be the focal point of where your adventure takes place. Clearly an adaptation of London, you’ll fight down several city streets and open city center’s, before diving into the gruesome and grotesque locations that take place either deep underground or on the inside of a demon tree that has taken root into the heart of the city. While the environments are gorgeous in every sense of the word, the game does lack variety in its tone. Several environments are dark and brooding, a solid theme to have in a game based on kicking demon ass, but when the game brightens up and brings in a strong element of color, it’s really where the visuals just pop. It’s in these locations where you are able to see a lot of the action that isn’t normally hidden among the dark, pitch black environments that make up the bulk of the journey. Many locations give off the same look or when you are backtracking behind another character in another mission, some locations start to blend together, making you wonder if you’ve been there before.
Where most games are eager to offer up a new game plus mode or patch one in weeks later, DMC 5 brings that right from the start. Should you blast through the game on Human or Devil Hunter mode, you can load in the next tier of difficulty which will unlock as you complete the game further. Jumping into another difficulty allows you to start from the beginning, still bringing with you all the powers, items, and skills you already have unlocked on previous playthroughs. The initial battle during the prologue can actually be beaten, should you have the power and skill, instead of its usual method of losing the seemingly unwinnable battle and pushing the story forward. This special fight comes with a secret bonus ending worthy of the few who can push through this punishing fight, one that at times can feel impossible no matter how much you’ve powered up Nero.
DMC 5 also adds in secret missions which are unlocked upon finding special points in the environment that will light up red as you approach them. These locations then have you position your view to form some supernatural shape by finding the right perspective to have it glow a bright red, unlocking the challenge. Some challenges are simple; defeat all foes before the timer ends, but some challenges are based on more difficult challenges such as defeating a tough foe with a single bullet. These challenges will reward you with Blue Orb fragments, used to give each of your characters more vitality. You’ll also track down numerous Purple Orb fragments, expanding your Devil Trigger allotment as well.
I’ve touched on it a bit so far, but Devil May Cry 5 is simply gorgeous. From highly detailed environments to jaw dropping character models, boasting some of the best facial animation I’ve seen without the game entering the uncanny valley. The characters are highly expressive with small subtle facial animations that really sell the dialogue and personality of each character, Nico especially. I will say that while every character is highly detailed and overly polished, Trish has a new face that doesn’t quite match up with the look she’s maintained for several games. Given how amazing this title looks, one would assume that this would impact performance, but you’d be only partially wrong. Devil May Cry 5 runs at a very steady 60 fps in native 4K on the Xbox One X, the platform I have for this title. Where the game suffers, however; is when played on the Xbox One or One S as the title can barely hit a reconstructed 1080p resolution and maintain its 60fps framerate. The PlayStation 4 Pro is very close in quality to the One X version, with only having a slightly lower resolution, and the standard PS4 does out perform the One and One S, but that is usually a given when it comes to multiplatform titles.
Rounding out some incredible action and jaw dropping visuals is a metal rock score that is punctuated by one hell of a song in Devil Trigger. This song, by Casey and Ali Edwards is so catchy that it became my phone’s ringtone after just one listen. The game’s metal rock soundtrack is composed by an assortment of artists in Kota Suzuki, known for his work with many Capcom franchises such as Monster Hunter, Resident Evil, and Onimusha, as well as Devil May Cry 4, is joined also by Casey Edwards, Cody Mathew Johnson, and Jeff Rona. While the quips and one-liners are beyond cheesy, even for the what the series is known for, the voice acting quality is top notch. Reuben Langdon, who has been the voice behind Dante for years, is back and doesn’t miss a beat. Johnny Yong Bosch is solid as Nero, as is Brian Hanford as the mysterious V. I’ve mentioned Nico a few times already, but Faye Kingslee is a standout here delivering a wonderful southern accent alongside the sass written into the character.
My only real issues with the game are two things; its camera, and the way in which the screen capture system is used on the Xbox One, a problem that might also be an issue with the game on PlayStation 4, but since I pay for my own games, buying it on both platforms isn’t financially viable or worth it for me to own both for the ability to compare them. While third person games have been notorious with poor camera systems that make gameplay either extra difficult or flat-out impossible, Devil May Cry’s 5 camera can often require a bit too much manual movement to keep the action front and center. This is made further frustrating due to the fact that most enemies can blend with the dark tones provided by the environment, making it hard to keep your combo going when you can’t even see them and your moving the camera all around to even glimpse them. Lastly, it’s almost impossible to take any decent screenshots of the cutscenes due to the fact that pushing the Xbox button to bring up the ability to snap a capture or record gameplay skips the cutscene immediately. I’ve had to replay some levels to capture a few shots and it’s puzzling why this is even an issue. Given how gorgeous this game is, it’s a shame you can simply capture a shot of the insanely detailed character models.
While Devil May Cry 5 does feature a few microtransactions in the form of Red and Blue Orbs, I never once browsed or was even made aware of the store until I heard the “uproar” about their inclusion. I’ve completed the game a few times now and never once had any desire to even browse the offerings or even noticed the game mentioning them in any regard. While it sucks that they are there, essentially throwing the balance of its difficulty out of whack, they are completely avoidable and are not ever in your face.
Capcom has really been hitting it out of the park these past few years; Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite aside; Monster Hunter World, Resident Evil 7, and its stellar remake in Resident Evil 2, have all been critically well received and shown that the company knows how to breathe new life into its popular gaming catalog. Devil May Cry 5 has been a long time coming, considering that its previous “official” entry released almost 11 years ago. Despite that wait and drastic change in the industry, Devil May Cry 5 is as classic as it needed to be and as fresh and unique as the series has always been. The action is consistently chaotic and given the sheer volume of available abilities, skills, and weapons, there is a tremendous skill range here to allow veterans and newcomers to the game to always feel as if they are kicking tons of demon ass. This is hands down my favorite of the series and it’s really all in part to its engaging cast of characters and fun moments between them, that, and the action is incredibly fluid and paced extremely well alongside its over the top demon killing shenanigans.
Devil May Cry 5 was purchased by the reviewer and played on an Xbox One X.
All Screenshots were taken on an Xbox One X.