It’s been 11 years since Hideaki Itsuno released Devil May Cry 4 and since then it is still considered the benchmark for high-quality deep Hack and Slash combat. Now, with Devil May Cry 5, it seems Itsuno has struck gold, again. Devil May Cry 5 not only exceeds Devil May Cry 4 in every way, but it is the definitive experience for both new and returning players and here’s why we believe that.
Story and Characters
Devil May Cry 5 takes place after Devil May Cry 4, and it seems with recent lore videos by CAPCOM, Devil May Cry 2 has been removed almost entirely from the timeline. The story is told in a disjointed manner, with some events taking place a month back, and the game keeps jumping back and forth between certain dates. However, most of the main game will take place on the 15th of June in the game world.
The main plot of the game revolves around this extremely powerful Demon King, Urizen taking over the world and feasting on human blood to become stronger. Dante and the gang (including Trish and Lady) are hired by the mysterious V, the newest character in the franchise to take care of this demon invasion. Nero and Nico (another new character) are dragged into this mess for a personal reason and together with V and Dante, you’ll take on all sorts of demons and bosses through this surprisingly personal tale in the Devil May Cry franchise.
The story itself is engaging and it was hard to put down the controller because I wanted to find out exactly what was going on with each character, and what has actually led to the events in this game. The game does a fairly good job at explaining everything, not only in the context of this game but the franchise as a whole. There’s tons of fanservice and it’s one of the rare cases where it doesn’t come off as forced.
Devil May Cry is a character-driven franchise, and the new characters, both Nico and V are absolutely fantastic. Nico is Nero’s companion and aids him throughout the game by upgrading his Devil Trigger, abilities and more. She’s witty, full of heart and a worthy addition to the demon hunting gang. V, on the other hand, is melancholic, mysterious and a far more serious character than Dante or Vergil.
A lot happens in this game, and it’s a far more personal story this time, that will provide a very fulfilling experience for the fans, and while it will be a lot to take in for newcomers, I’m sure they’ll be just fine if they have seen some recap videos of the previous games.
Gameplay and Combat
DMC games employ the Style Rating System, which constantly rates your current combos based on how stylistic, varied and successful they are. The style rating starts from D and moves on to SSS based on how you’re performing. Most new players will struggle with this but it shouldn’t demotivate them as getting familiar with each character will take a lot of time.
There are 3 playable characters in Devil May Cry 5, Nero, Dante, and V. Most missions are meant to be played with a certain character that is tied to the story, while a few of them allow you switch between the characters allowing you to take different paths in the same mission. You are prompted with a select character screen before the mission starts.
V is the new addition to the roster and we’ll talk about him first. V’s combat is very different from what fans are used to as he doesn’t directly engage with enemies. He has 3 demons that fight for him, and weaken enemies enough for him to deliver the finishing blow. The demons include Griffon, a fiery bird that can control both wind and lightning, Shadow, a panther that can morph into spiked forms to attack and Nightmare, V’s devil trigger entity that does a lot of crushing damage. Both Shadow and Griffon have their dedicated buttons and it’s up to you how you want to tackle enemies.
V is vulnerable and can be easily killed if overpowered by enemies, so it’s best to maintain a safe distance and let your demons do the work. Each demon has a variety of attacks that you’ll get used to and become creative with. You can lunge enemies into the air using Shadow, create a lightning force field mid-air with Griffon, as they land you can perform a lunge attack with Shadow and weaken them enough with Griffon again using his many of his lightning attacks again.
Playing with V is an absolute delight and spectacular to see, as the screen will become this chaotic mixture of lightning and spikes. V can activate his Devil Trigger that summons Nightmare, a giant golem entity that V can mount as well. Nightmare can deliver devastating blows, and shoot lasers as long as it’s around, the active time of which you can upgrade.
Both Griffon and Shadow can also be buffed with the devil trigger by spending bars directly on them. During their devil trigger form, V doesn’t have to control them as they’ll attack on their own. During their engagement with enemies, V can resort to reading his book, that increases the Devil Trigger bar much rapidly than usual. If any of your demons are downed, their recovery time can also be increased if you stand close to them. V’s combat is an absolute blast and will end up being a lot of player’s favorite.
Nero’s Devil Bringer has been taken from him by a mysterious hooded figure, and now his arm has been replaced by a Devil Breaker created by Nico. Throughout the game, you’ll be able to choose between a variety of Devil Breakers that are all unique and add to the gameplay in many ways. Since these are Devil “breakers”, these will break when used excessively and can be detonated completely by the press of a button if the player wants to get out of a tricky situation.
You can increase the number of Devil Breakers you can carry by upgrading it at Nico’s Van. Each Devil Breaker has a different cost, and you have the ability to buy in bulk as well. You need to master locking on enemies to successfully execute combos as well, and quickly change your target using L3 (on PS4) as well.
Nero’s combat is more or less the same as Devil May Cry 4. He’s volatile and blunt and does massive damage. He’s equipped with his Red Queen and Blue Rose, that function exactly as you remember. The Red Queen can be revved, and deals more damage that way, and the Blue Rose can be charged to weaken defenses much more. Firearms in DMC games aren’t meant to deal damage, but to weaken defenses or keep enemies in the air. Nero despite not having the Devil Bringer anymore, can still snatch enemies using his Devil Breaker. He can do this mid-air as well, and it never gets old. Playing with Nero has never been better, now with the improved camera controls, and his Devil Breakers, that you can use during combos, mid-air and passively as well.
Nero is very hard to master and can be frustrating for some players, that are used to Dante’s gameplay. His combos are harder to execute and chain, and given how his firearm is a revolver, it can only do so much to keep enemies in the air. The player can also visit “The Void” to practice any move they want by each character.
Most players will be used to a dedicated dodge button by now, with all the recent action games in history having one, and even though DMC doesn’t have one, its approach is far more elegant and rewarding. First off, you won’t be dodging too much in this game, it’s more about chaining combos that deal enough damage for enemies to not get the chance to hit you at all, or jumping out of a situation on the right time. Each character has a different dodge mechanic that complements their style, Nero can dodge during his combos by holding R1 and X (on PS4) and moving the left analog stick to the direction you want to dodge to. The need for this is to maintain a lock-on and not lose the flow of the combo, which is why DMC’s dodge while controversial is actually a far more elegant approach to the system.
Dante is the third playable character and has been in the franchise since the first game. Fans of previous games will feel right at home, and Dante is an absolute joy to control. His styles system returns where you can change his style with the D-pad between Trickster, Royal Guard, Swordmaster, and Gunslinger. Each style adds unique moves that you can use to control the flow of the combat. These styles can be changed during combos, adding an insane amount of depth to the combat, that I barely scratched the surface of. Dante also has various weapons in his arsenal that fans will recognize including the Rebellion and Balrog.
As Dante progresses through the game, he’ll get even more weapons that are just as fun to play with as his main sword. You can switch weapons during combos, mid-air and even during style change and it never gets old. Dante is also one of the easier to learn but hard to master characters, that players will get quickly as his gameplay is more akin to regular action games.
Dante also has access to his Devil Trigger form, that increases the damage he deals exponentially and heals him as well. It also enhances his abilities that are tied to his various styles as well.
The amount of polish in each character is astounding. While the main campaign merely serves as an introduction to these characters in terms of combat, you can easily spend hundreds of hours with each character to master them fully. I can’t wait enough for the Bloody Palace mode to come out in April so I can spend hundreds of hours in it.
Nico’s van can be accessed during missions by calling her at phone booths. Don’t worry, you won’t ever miss a single of these as the character makes it clear there’s one in the area. If you do choose to call her over, a unique cutscene will play every time, and we suggest you don’t skip it.
Each character’s abilities for themselves and their weapons can be upgraded at either Nico’s van or at a Divinity Statue during the game. The game’s main currency to purchase and upgrade abilities are red orbs, that the game generously provides throughout the main campaign. I don’t think any game before has swarmed me with these many orbs as this one. Players can find Purple and Blue orbs during missions to increase their vitality or devil trigger bar. While these can be purchased at Nico’s van as well, it’s best to find them on your own as you’ll be given enough anyway, and use Red Orbs for upgrading only.
Green Orbs heal you and a very rare Golden Orb can be used to revive you if you choose to use it once your health runs out. Use these wisely as these are very expensive at Nico’s Van and hard to come by in the game as well.
There are tons of boss battles in the game, that each character will face. Each boss is unique in its own visual design and abilities but their depth and difficulty can only be truly experienced at difficulties higher than Devil Hunter. For the most part, returning players won’t really struggle with them. Apart from a few, most of these bosses lack distinct personalities and have their visual flair to rely on looking menacing. Though I will add that the final boss is absolutely brilliant and will have you on the edge of your seats. The rest? Not so much.
Presentation and Level Design
The game makes use of CAPCOM’s fantastic RE Engine, that was used in the development of Resident Evil 2 as well. Character models are gorgeously detailed and lifelike. The lighting both indoors and outdoors is decent and the texture usage isn’t blurry or low-res. Areas range from ruined cities, destroyed subways, tendril infested corridors and the interior of an alienlike tower. While the areas themselves aren’t as detailed as something like Resident Evil 2, you’ll be traversing through a variety of sections that feel different and fresh.
Cutscenes in this game are exactly what you’d expect from DMC, over the top, action-packed and badass. From Dante trying out his new weapons to the hilarious banter between characters, it’s DMC, and nothing less.
Each mission’s structure is simple, you move from one to the other, and obliterate everything in between. Previous DMC games usually had some platforming sections and puzzles, but DMC 5 doesn’t have any of that. While the previous games never had outstanding puzzles or said platforming sections, it does feel a bit lazy that those have been completely removed and not improved upon. I’m not saying I miss the terrible dice section from DMC 4, but that doesn’t mean I would’ve minded something other than hacking away demons.
Make sure you observe your surroundings carefully, as there are hidden areas with orbs and secret mission entrances. These aren’t hard to spot but you’ll want to move your camera around especially during sections where you are ascending or descending.
Pacing and Length
The game has a bunch of missions that can be replayed anytime and within them some secret missions that you can find and replay later as well. No mission in the entire game felt overly long and has various cutscenes to keep you engaged. The missions are cleverly designed to give you a sense of scale by showcasing cities in the background, but never having to actually traverse them.
I managed to finish the main campaign in around 16 hours and didn’t manage to find all the secret missions. You can easily add more time into this at higher difficulties, and thoroughly exploring areas.
Score and Sound Design
The game makes use of a Dynamic Soundtrack like Metal Gear Rising and its implementation is fantastic. It works with how well your combos are rated by the Style Rating System mentioned earlier. The higher the style rating, the louder and explosive the soundtrack feels. Speaking of the soundtrack, each character has their own battle music that fits in with their personalities exceptionally well.
However, while the character’s personal battle music is great, boss battle music wasn’t as memorable as something like Vergil’s Battle theme 2 from Devil May Cry 3, or Credo’s soundtrack from Devil May Cry 4. I honestly can’t remember a single boss battle theme that really felt distinct or unique. Compared to games like Metal Gear Rising where each soundtrack selection added much more to boss battles, Devil May Cry 5 struggles with it’s boss’s identities.
I’m going, to be honest with you, the moment I finished this game, I went right back to the prologue mission to start it all over again. Getting a better mission ranking is what makes Devil May Cry games so special. This hasn’t changed at all in this entry, as you’ll be going back to every mission later on with different devil trigger combinations, better abilities and try to get that sweet mission ranking at higher difficulties.
The replay value of this game is phenomenal, and I can’t wait for the free Bloody Palace update coming in April.