I imagine most Devil May Cry fans are feeling a severe sense of whiplash by now. The series has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, and even side swipes that nobody saw coming. I could talk about the franchise history for days, but know it’s been a rough road getting here. Devil May Cry 5, thankfully, returns the franchise to a time when it was at its best. It has some issues, for sure, but it’s easily the best Devil May Cry yet.
Devil May Cry 5 takes place in Red Grave City, some time after the events of the second and fourth games. Suddenly, without warning, a demonic tree-like structure has appeared in the city, absorbing the blood of its human victims to grow taller and taller. At the apex of this malicious growth is the newly crowned demon king Urizen, said to be more powerful than anyone ever encountered by our devil hunting heroes Dante and Nero. It’s a nice little scheme spearheaded by one of the most bad-ass villains the series has seen, though standard stuff for Devil May Cry.The most surprising thing about Devil May Cry 5 is just how entertaining the narrative is. The beats the story hits are all intriguing and the cast is a great bunch too. Nero and Nico’s friendship is literal friend goals and seeing cryptic newcomer V interact with the no-nonsense Nero and Dante is entertaining. The whole cast just has great synergy and there’s nobody on the cast I outwardly disliked. Franchise fans will be happy to know that many storylines, even those left hanging in the original game, will be tied up by the time the credits roll. It’s not final, by any means, but it is satisfying.
Devil May Cry as a series has you beating up droves of enemies with crazy, over the top weaponry and techniques. The key difference when compared to other action games is that it rewards you for how much you change up your combat skills and how stylishly you eliminate your enemies. Rely on the same moves or even the same weapons and the game will grow bored and your ranking will be lower. It’s a simple, yet fantastic system that keeps you on your toes.
In the game, you’ll play as Nero, Dante or mysterious newcomer V as the story sees fit. Each of the guys has a unique way of battling enemies that changes up the gameplay quite a bit – though as per tradition Dante is arguably the most complex of the three. V is the most interesting here, as he doesn’t fight directly but instead conjures demons to do the fighting for him. The catch is he must finish them off with his cane when his demons are done.
There’s an understandable concern that the series is headed in a direction that is ostensibly simpler or easier. For newcomers, I’m happy to say that Devil May Cry 5 is a much more accessible game than its predecessors. Whether you play on an easier mode or turn on the assist mode that strings together flashy combos for you, there’s bound to be a way for most players to enjoy the experience. But it’s very important to note that the game is by no means shallower as a result of this – there’s still considerable depth to the combat system and later difficulty levels are some of the hardest in the series.For diehard fans, there’s still heaps of depth to unpack here. Dante is easily the most complex of the three, and the tools you’re given in Devil May Cry 5 is truly exciting. I can’t wait to see what exciting combos and techniques will emerge once the game has been in the hands of the pros. V, on the other hand, is easily the simplest of the three. While his play style is unique, in that he does no fighting directly himself, there’s only so much you can do with him. He’s not a bad character at all, but he’s probably the easiest character to get the highest rankings with hands down. Great for newcomers though, which seems fitting.
Nero is the one you’ll be spending most of your time with (by a small margin, mind you) and brings with him all the abilities he had in Devil May Cry 4. He can charge his sword with flames for devastating attacks, use an ability to pull enemies closer to him and charge his revolved to deliver explosive shots. His new ability is the Devil Breaker, a set of man-made arms that have all kinds of crazy properties. Some launch missiles, others create shockwaves while some even slow down time. The catch here is that the Devil Breakers come loaded in magazines and can’t be switched between.So, you can’t pick which Devil Breaker to use at any specific moment. Instead you can destroy the current one and move on to the next or lose it by getting hit while using it. Admittedly, this does mean that picking and choosing which breakers you’ll take into a mission becomes a strategic choice, but it does feel like an artificial way to limit Nero’s capability. I like the Devil Breakers as an idea, but I’m not sold on the Magazine system that restricts their use. Yes, they’re meant to add an element of strategy to the combat, but they also add a degree of unpredictability to Nero’s skillset.
Thankfully, there is a lot to sink your teeth into here. The game itself will take most players around twelve or so hours to finish on your first run – but in that twelve hours you can expect to do battle with over fifteen different enemies and even more bosses. Those attempting one of the four extra difficulty modes will be pleased to know these aren’t just enemies with more hit points; their behaviours become more aggressive and some even gain new moves as you turn the difficulty up.
There is another new feature called the “Cameo” system, which plops either a live, online player or their ghost data into a mission with at certain points in the story. It’s a fantastic idea in theory; my version of Nero will appear alongside someone else’s version of Dante as they intersect, for example. But it’s one that unfortunately feels pointless as all the situations that the game puts you in, the character is at such a distance that you don’t truly feel like you’re fighting together. If the game didn’t show me the “Starring:” moment I wouldn’t have even realised it was happening at all. Many would think this is the time that Devil May Cry went truly co-op, but it really isn’t anything like that at all.
Much like Resident Evil 2 before it, Devil May Cry 5 enjoys an absolutely stunning photorealistic visual direction thanks to the RE Engine. Every character looks fantastic in and out of cutscenes and clothes billow as you zip around arenas bathed in perfectly ambient lighting. It’s a visual feast and quite frankly shocking that a game can look this good and run so smoothly at the same time, although the environments themselves lack a bit of variety. You’ll either be in a city or a writhing, bloody tentacle demon world and that’s it.Thankfully the voice work is superb and unlike other certain Capcom properties, the major cast members return to voice their respective characters which is a win for long term fans. Perhaps even more impressive is just the sense of synergy between the cast and the direction between them makes this for one of the most cinematic Devil May Cry games ever. The soundtrack also doesn’t disappoint, being a high-octane blend of the now ubiquitous Devil Trigger theme with other pieces of heavy metal, full blown techno and even some witch-house, dare I say it.
When all is said and done the question remains as to whether this is a better game than the previous ones. It’s an easy and cheap shot to say that Devil May Cry 5 is better than DmC, in almost every way. But in terms of depth and complexity of its combat, it’s simply too early to call whether it’s a better game than Devil May Cry 4. In terms of everything else – Devil May Cry 5 is easily better than anything before it. This is the most satisfying Devil May Cry games for fans since Devil May Cry 3, make no mistakes, riddled with intelligent and thoughtful callbacks to the previous games.All of this comes together to create what can only be described as an unapologetic love letter to the series history and one I couldn’t help but play with a big goofy smile on my face from beginning to end.
THE XBOX ONE VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED ON AN XBOX ONE X FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Devil May Cry 5 rights all the wrongs of its predecessors with style and gusto, whilst being incredibly welcoming to series newcomers. The three playable characters bring great combat variety against the games huge slew of enemies and bosses. There are a few little niggles that stop the game from being the best it could be, but Devil May Cry 5 is undoubtedly one of the best in the series.