It has been more than a decade since the release of Devil May Cry 4. Since then, the character-action genre has changed considerably. With the notable exception of the Bayonetta series – created by the first Devil May Cry’s director – these games have shed some of their goofiness and irreverence in favor of more serious stories. The 2013 reimagining DmC: Devil May Cry was no exception, and though it still ended up being a fantastic game in its own right, Devil May Cry 5 feels like a response to it. Capcom’s latest adventure revels in excess, and it shows that Dante and company still have the goods after all these years.
This party’s getting crazy
Chronologically last in the Devil May Cry timeline, Devil May Cry 5 once again puts us in the boots of devil-hunting Nero. Separated from his demonic Devil Bringer arm by a shadowy figure and outfitted with a mechanical replacement, he seeks to uncover the truth behind an enormous tree that’s sprouted from the underworld, as well as a nearly invincible demon named Urizen who is terrorizing the city of Red Grave. Nero isn’t alone, joined by longtime series protagonist Dante and a mysterious newcomer named “V,” whose true intentions are kept hidden for much of the game.
The developers of Devil May Cry 5 evidently couldn’t decide on who should be the main character of the game, and that works to your advantage as you get to follow all three. Nero and Dante’s personalities continue to clash in this entry, with the younger hunter’s noble determination contrasted by the veteran’s cockiness, and V is a different type of character entirely. Never before in a game have we seen a button dedicated solely to reading poetry, but V has it, and it’s hilarious.
V appears to have fallen out of a universe where Evanescence and Tripp jeans never went out of style.
Just like in Devil May Cry 4, Nero gets the majority of the screen time in Devil May Cry 5, giving you plenty of opportunities to test out his powerful abilities. He’s armed with the Red Queen sword, fitted with a combustion engine for more powerful attacks, and his powerful Blue Rose revolver packs a punch at longer ranges.
The biggest addition is the swappable Devil Breaker arms, which give you access to additional attacks and abilities. They’re destructible if Nero is hit during an attack, so learning to balance your standard swordplay with his other moves is crucial to staying alive and getting the best possible stylish rank.
If Nero’s move-set primarily emphasizes brutality and power, Dante’s is all about versatility and speed. His flashy swordsmanship is complemented by several other melee weapons by the time the credits roll, including a three-part nunchuck weapon and an entire motorcycle. The latter weapon can be split into two pieces and ground against enemies like a circle saw, and this sort of design choice helps to show just how different Dante and Nero are in the game.
Nero rarely smiles, hell-bent on defeating Urizen and saving Red Grave before it’s too late. Dante, meanwhile, is prepared to stop and moonwalk – complete with fireworks – after acquiring a new hat.
To V, or not to V?
Last up is the dark, brooding V, who appears to have fallen out of an alternate universe where Evanescence and Tripp jeans never went out of style. His manner of speaking is simultaneously curious and unsettling, providing us with just enough detail on his motivations without revealing them outright.
Devil May Cry 5 builds on the series roots in clever and creative ways, resulting in a game that only gets better the longer you play it.
More bizarre than his characterization, however, is his combat style. V doesn’t attack enemies directly, instead relying on panther and raven demons named Shadow and Griffon to do his dirty work. They’re occasionally joined by the enormous Nightmare, a golem-like monstrosity that can deal remarkable damage to enemies of any size.
V is unlike any character we’ve played in an action game before, as you must simultaneously focus on dodging incoming attacks while also giving out orders to your demons. It’s almost like a twisted game of Pokémon, and though the combat style does begin to wear out its welcome by the end of the story, it does show potential for more experimentation in the series. Still, we were ready to go back to Dante or Nero whenever we were given the chance.
One consequence of having three protagonists is that the story jumps around a lot, with flashbacks and “meanwhile” segments connecting them all together. It can make things a little confusing during the game’s more hectic moments, but it all comes together in a climax that is both satisfying and exciting for the possibilities it brings to the series in the future.
Style and substance
The heart of Devil May Cry 5 remains its demon-slaying combat which is just as flashy and over-the-top as it has ever been. Chaining together combinations of attacks requires knowledge of characters’ entire move-sets, which grow more complicated and more effective over time. Ground-based sword strikes might work well against the weaker demons you face in the beginning of the game, but when you start fighting enemies with armor or enormous scissors protecting them, you have to get more creative.
Every fight becomes a bit of a puzzle, and when you begin replaying the game on harder difficulties and make use of all of your moves from the get-go, the action really comes together in a satisfying way. This does mean that the opening stages of the game feel somewhat simplistic in comparison to the rest, but they’re transformed on your second time through.
Devil May Cry 5 both respects its long-running series’ roots while also building on them in clever and creative ways, resulting in a game that only gets better the longer you play it. It’s quickly becoming one of our favorite games of 2019 so far, and it’s the second time Capcom has delivered a knockout entry in one of its classic series this year. Even if you’re new to Devil May Cry and worry about not understanding what’s happening, you can still bask in the glory of its style.
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