The Devil’s in the Details
As I played through Devil May Cry 5 I quickly felt right at home. Capcom’s latest entry into the critically and commercially acclaimed series feels like a relentlessly enjoyable but mindless experience during even its weakest moments, and an adrenaline-fueled joyride in its strongest. The story hits a lot of interesting notes but lacks some of the compelling character development the series has boasted in the past, while the gameplay feels like the smash-hit hack-and-slash fans have been waiting for.
The story is a wild ride of twists and turns that are sure to surprise even the most astute series veterans.
Dante and Nero are back to slicing up demons in the same smokin’ sexy style that you’re used to, this time joined by the well-read but mysterious V, a character who gets his due introduction throughout the game’s course of events as you face off against the demon king Urizen, who proves an intimidating figure, hulking above your character in every instance while proving that he is not a force to be taken lightly. Series favourites like Trish and Lady make their stylish return, though once again they take a back seat for most of the story, as the focus remains on the three playable characters Dante, Nero, and V.
The story is a wild ride of twists and turns that are sure to surprise even the most astute series veterans. Full to the brim with references to past events and fully developed characters, an unfortunate by-product of which being that the game fails to reach the high bar of character development that its predecessors set for it. It will also surely be confusing for anyone jumping in at this point. The developers did think to include a video history lesson, though it feels like more of a reminder for longtime fans than anything else.
If you are one of those longtime fans and found yourself disappointed at Dante’s smaller role in the fourth instalment, you will be pleased to find him front and centre for a large portion of this game’s run time. He is once again the title’s most gratifying character to play as, and will feel markedly comfortable to longtime fans. He wields all the same abilities and styles as before, but with a larger arsenal of weapons than any previous title. Pulling off an SSS combo makes you feel like even more of a demon-slaying badass than ever before, backed up to its fullest potential by each character’s unique and adrenaline-pumping battle themes.
Pulling off an SSS combo makes you feel like even more of a demon-slaying badass than ever before
Nero is back as one of the three playable characters, and he comes with a host of welcome upgrades, first and foremost of which are his Devil Breaker arms which allow him to wield the same abilities as before but with a tonne of new abilities added into the mix. Abilities such as the Tomboy Devil Breaker which powers up all of Nero’s weapons while active, or the Rawhide Devil Breaker which madly flails around a metal wire like a whip to slice up demons add a flavour of variety and tactics to combat. These Devil Breakers aren’t as overly powerful as they sound, however, since they’ll easily break if you get too cocky and take even a single hit while using them, which adds a welcome aspect of risk/reward to his gameplay.
The newest playable character, V, also offers a new and vastly unique playstyle compared to the aforementioned Dante and Nero. V doesn’t actively participate in combat himself. Instead, he summons his pet demons; Griffon, Shadow, and Nightmare to do his bidding, with V only entering the fray to finish off any demons made weak enough by his pets. You still control these demon characters though, with each being bound to separate buttons on the controller. It’s a clever idea and certainly a fresh approach to combat, but it’s one that can often make you feel as though you’re left just to mash buttons and dodge attacks, since you don’t always have a line of sight on your pet demons, and it often feels as though they are reluctant to move where you want them to.
…I often found myself deciding to restart from a checkpoint rather than revive myself simply because it felt devilishly easy.
The boss battles in V’s levels can also feel like a drag, since you dodge and attack with separate characters, you don’t have that feedback of getting a few hits in and rushing back to dodge an incoming projectile or melee attack. These boss fights, while sometimes visually stunning, don’t offer as much as the rest in terms of player engagement. If you have been a fan of the series, then you will also notice as you progress through this entry that, while in general the boss fights often come close to being as technically satisfying as the third and fourth titles, your first, and possibly even second playthrough will feel like a considerable walk in the park in comparison.
The primary reason being that gold orbs are littered throughout the levels (they’re also offered as a daily login bonus for some reason I can’t quite figure out), ensuring that you’ll never run low even if you’re popping them like candy. This takes most of the challenge right out of these otherwise well-crafted boss encounters, and I often found myself deciding to restart from a checkpoint rather than revive myself simply because it felt devilishly easy. This difficulty change doesn’t put much of a dampener on the enjoyment overall, however, and didn’t stop me from wanting to replay the story a few times on harder difficulties.
There is also a multiplayer component which lets friends or random players drop into your game as one of the other playable characters, though only during levels in which more than one character is meant to be present. It’s a confusing addition, since each player is on an entirely separate track through the level, rarely crossing paths. On the occasions that you do end up in the same area, it just seems like an excuse for the other player to steal your sweet S ranks.
The world, while changing up the setting a fair amount, lacks a certain level of variation in terms of palette, offering only the most sombre selection of grays and reds for the majority of the experience. Most levels are confined to dismantled city streets or the dank tone of the underworld. Though it’s an offence that could be forgiven by the game’s fantastically detailed graphics, and you likely won’t notice much since you’ll be too busy killing your way through the levels. The subjects of your slaying spree – Demons – look more grotesque than ever before, as DMC5 removes the puppet enemies of past titles in favour of a more grounded approach to enemy design; a change that is all too welcome in terms of tone.
DMC5 is more Devil May Cry, just as you remember it, just as you like it. It pushes the series forward with a wealth of positive changes and some slightly puzzling online features, but ultimately feels like the next step in the series’ evolution, in both story and gameplay alike. The story kept me gripped throughout and shocked at its pinnacle. It lacks some proper character development but ultimately feels like a worthwhile endeavour. Slaying demons is still at the game’s heart, with a strong emphasis on the rush of stylish combos and obtaining S ranks. Although it stumbles through a few attempts to innovate, this is a game for series fans, no doubt.
Yes, if you:
- Are a fan of the series
- Enjoy high-octane action
- Enjoy games with a steep mastery curve
No, if you:
- Are completely new to the series
- Prefer slow paced gameplay
- Don’t enjoy linear, shorter games that are designed to be replayed