There’s only a handful of game series’ that holds a claim to the creation of an entire genre. Metroid and Castlevania had to be combined to fusion dance it’s way one of the best genres in gaming. Devil May Cry managed to do it solo.
Not knowing what they’d created initially, Devil May Cry was spawned from the depths of a failed Resident Evil 4 prototype and kickstarted the character action genre that, unfortunately, doesn’t get as much love as it undoubtedly should.
As Devil May Cry slowly disappeared from the general populous after an interesting reboot split fans, people clamored for a return to the series roots. Low rumblings petered throughout the industry that the beloved series was set to make a return to its smoking sick style of old.
The rumblings were not loud enough. Devil May Cry is back.
Not to be outdone by previous entries into the series, Devil May Cry 5 provides you with 3 playable characters. You have the cocky, desperate to prove himself Nero, the enigmatic V, and Dante, the legendary demon hunter. Each character is wildly different from the others, which means you have some learning to do.
The Devil May Cry formula that you all know and love returns full force. The gameplay loop is simple. Kill whatever’s placed in front of you and, while you can just attack wildly at anything in front of you, it’s not the way of the true devil hunter. Devil May Cry is all about style and that’s never been more present than in Devil May Cry 5. Every attack causes your style meter to rise, all the way from a pitiful D to the lofty heights of an SSS. Using the same moves lowers how they’re weighted, so you’ll need to be on the ball with all aspects of your characters if you ever hope to S rank every mission
Nero’s gameplay is based around his new Devil Breaker arm, which replaces the aggressively removed Devil Bringer and the Rev mechanic of the Red Queen, his motorcycle engine blade. There’s a rhythm to Nero, that isn’t present with V or Dante, though they also have things that we’ll get to. Timing a trigger pull just right will ignite the Red Queen, adding flair and damage to your combos. The Devil Breaker mechanic adds to the learning curve, by presenting you with varying “arms” that give you different skills, ranging from electric blasts, rocket punches, and even a healing hand.
V differs massively from Nero, as instead of pummeling the denizens of hell in the face directly, V uses demons as his primary form of attack. Instead of a sword swing, V summons Shadow, that takes the form of a panther for the most part, and instead of a ranger weapon, he has Griffon. Not content with just these two demons, V also has the ability, once his Devil Trigger gauge has filled, to summon in Nightmare, which allows Shadow and Griffon to fight without direct input from V, as well as causing an almighty clusterfuck. Eagled-eyed players will notice that these summons are based on bosses from Devil May Cry 1. Interestingly, though V’s demons can deal damage to the enemies you’ll encounter, they can’t actually kill anything, forcing V to deal the killing blow whenever enough damage has been done. A huge portion of V’s gameplay is focusing on not getting hit while you let your demons deal with your attackers.
Dante is, unsurprisingly, also completely different to the other playable characters. Dante has access to a plethora of weapons, ranging from his classic sword Rebellion to a demon infused motorbike. Each melee weapon has its own set of moves and combos, but this also means that you have to rotate through the weapons to really boost your style rating. Dante also has the ability to tap into his latent Devil powers, by activating Devil Trigger, which allows him to heal, do more damage and have extra effects added to a few of his moves. Not to be done with just these, Dante also gets to play around with his varying styles.
First introduced in Devil May Cry 3, then rejigged into Devil May Cry 4, Dante can switch between four different styles. Trickster, Sword Master, Gun Slinger, and Royal Guard. Trickster allows Dante to dash around, Sword Master adds extra moves for Dantes swords, Gun Slinger is the gun equivalent of Sword Master and Royal Guard allows you to negate damage from enemies then use that negated damage against them. The beauty of Royal Guard comes from perfectly timing the guard as hitting the perfect timing allows you to avoid the Devil Trigger cost of Royal Guard. Combining these four styles with the multiple weapons is the key to Dante in Devil May Cry 5.
Devil May Cry 4 had the two character deal with Nero and Dante, but Dante always felt like an afterthought, especially when you consider his levels were just running back through Nero’s sections and fighting the same bosses, but that’s not the case with Devil May Cry 5. V, Dante, and Nero all have unique sections, as well as a few nice little moments where the game presents you with the option to choose who you want to play as in that moment in time, meaning you’ve got reasons to go back and revisit levels as different characters.
What’s arguably most shocking is the fact that the story in Devil May Cry isn’t ham-fisted shite and, while it’s not the most original, it does serve up some great “oh damn” moments. V seeks out the legendary devil hunter, Dante, to take down Urizen. Not content with just Dante, V also enlists the help of Trish, Lady, and Nero, though Nero is more of an insurance plan. Obviously, our heroes aren’t anywhere near strong enough to take out the obscenely powerful Urizen, and Nero and V escape with their lives while leaving Dante to work his magic. Naturally, Dante loses and we’re jumped forward a month as V and Nero journey back to end Urizen. There are a fair few time warps throughout the story as we figure out what’s going on, but every character reaches a natural conclusion before you hop back in time and into a different character’s shoes.
Tonally, Devil May Cry 5 is kind of all over the place. It’s kind of how the series has always been and while it’s not always worked massively in previous iterations, it shines here due to the nature of having 3 characters with vastly different motivations. Gone is the strange jump from goofy to serious as Dante, Nero and V all handle these duties separately. What helps is, while Nero and Dante tend to be flashier than V, Dante is the only character that’s going to pull off a Micheal Jackson impersonation and have it feel natural and not forced. Wait ’til the Dr. Faust hat, you’ll understand.
Graphically, Devil May Cry 5 is beautiful. Traveling through the city shows some beautifully destroyed landscapes while moving through into Hell shows a disgusting, living, breathing, organic playground for our trio to traverse. The character models, from our main characters, to fodder enemies, are beautifully detailed but never cluttered. Character action lives and dies on being able to tell if you’re about to be attacked and there’s never a moment where you can’t work out what your aggressor is about to do. Animations are smooth, clean and crisp. As Thanos says everything is “perfectly balanced, as all things should be”.
While the series staple Bloody Palace isn’t currently in the game, there’s more than enough content to keep you going. Devil May Cry 5‘s not just about beating the main game. It’s about learning the enemies and learning the bosses so that you can beast all over the place. It’s the ultimate show-off series because the whole premise of Devil May Cry is “do the thing, but do it in the coolest way possible”. Bosses have attacks that you’ll only see on harder difficulties so beating the game once is no way to play at all.
When Devil May Cry 5 was announced, I was skeptical. Surely they couldn’t recreate the awesome feeling of Devil May Cry 3 again? Surely they’d drop the ball somewhere? But it’ll definitely be sat in the upper echelon of character action games for years to come. I don’t see myself putting it down anytime soon and I don’t think you will either.