Devil May Cry 5 Review – A SSStylish Return
After 11 years and a generally unfavorable reboot, the original Devil May Cry series is back. Dante has white hair again and there are no sniper rifle abortions in sight. Was the game’s director, Hideaki Itsuno, correct when he said this game will exceed our expectations last year? I’m happy to say that he absolutely was.
The story of DMC 5 starts off with Nero, V, and Dante attempting to take down the new demon in town by the name of Urizen. Urizen proves to be the strongest challenge Dante and gang have faced yet, with all of them being absolutely bodied without Urizen even needing to get up from his seat. They all regroup and decide that getting stronger before taking him on is a better option than getting slapped around until they die. Continuing from there, the story has some twists and turns that are probably easy to predict if you’re a longtime fan of the series, but are still good surprises if you weren’t expecting them. Predictable doesn’t necessarily mean it’s written poorly, especially in this case, since everything that happens in this story plays out as a DMC game should, as well as a couple of Kingdom Hearts-esque moments. (You’ll know it when you see it.)
Devil May Cry 5 continues with the same cast that 4 ended off with before the series’ hiatus, along with a couple new characters, like Nico and V. Nero, Dante, and V are perfectly fine characters, but the return of Trish and Lady feels very flat since they don’t really do anything but hang around for the entirety of the story. I was honestly expecting more from them, especially since they’re totally able to hold their own in combat, as proven in the past games. They kind of just felt like a cameo, and unfortunately, new players won’t see their purpose or understand why they’re even there. The series has made its name on stepping the line between cool and cringey and 5 is no different. Dante and Nero are still making fun of their enemies before battle with corny, but enjoyable jokes that give the series its campy charm. There’s even a Michael Jackson dance sequence in the last half that showcases its campiness perfectly.
The gameplay of DMC 5 is the best that the series has ever had. That’s a strong statement for a series that single-handedly started and popularized the character action genre, but after playing the game on Devil Hunter and again on Son of Sparda (Hard mode), I wholeheartedly believe it. The combat felt a bit difficult at first, but when you’re able to buy more moves and combos and are able to master the rhythm of the combos, you’ll be having an absolute blast with the game. There are also a wealth of little tricks you can find out that are fun to experiment with, like Nero revving his sword when he hits an enemy or all of the insanely different moves Dante can pull off between stances.
DMC 5 features three playable protagonists, Nero, V, and Dante. They all play very differently, so you’ll undoubtedly have a favorite.
Nero is who you start out with mostly and he was my favorite character to play as, partially because I got so much practice with him from playing the demo. He still has the Red Queen that you can rev up on hits, and even when he does his air taunt, but instead of his Devil Bringer arm, he now has a mechanical arm called the Devil Breaker. Devil Breakers come in all kinds of wildly different varieties, some add moves for you to use in combat, some act as projectiles or another gun, and others make for a good complement to your moveset. You’ll definitely figure out which ones work best for how you play as you go along. Nero also easily has the best combat music, “Devil Trigger” never gets old, and the fact that the songs are layered with your style makes it so much better when you get to rank S and above.
V is the newest to the series and he’s also the most different to play. He’s not nearly as physically strong as Dante or Nero, so he uses his summons, Griffon and Shadow, and with his Devil Trigger, Nightmare. When fighting, your melee attacks come out through Shadow and your ranged attacks come out through Griffon. You don’t control Nightmare directly until you buy the Promotion skill, but he’s great for crowd control and instantly getting your rank up to S. V stands away from the battle while controlling them and goes in to finish off the weakened enemies, but they do have their own health bars, so when they’re both down, the enemies are coming for you. The execution of this character is great, but with how different he is, he of course has some issues. My main issue is not being able to directly control where the summons go, there’s been a few times where I’m targeting the enemy I want my summons to attack, but they just don’t move over to him to actually attack. Shadow sometimes just teleports back to V, does 2 attacks that hit no one, then teleports back to V, and it’s really frustrating when V actually needs help since he can’t defend himself. Since V is so reliant on his summons, he literally has no combat options of his own when his summons are down and he has less mobility since he uses Griffon to back dodge and double jump and Shadow to side dodge. There’s a mission in the late game that has V fighting previous bosses, but gathering his summons one by one between fighting them. Meaning, the first boss fight, you choose one of your summons and you’ll only be able to use them for that boss fight. In the second boss fight, you add back another summon, which makes it a bit easier, but it’s still a bit rough. Needless to say, this mission was infuriating. While incredibly frustrating, it turns V into a game of strategy rather than stylish combos, which may not be my particular cup of tea, but I’m sure a lot of people can appreciate it. My gripes aside, he’s still a great addition to the cast and he’s also the easiest to get a high style rank with since his moves are partially reliant on AI and there’s a slight delay on when they come out.
Longtime fans will not be disappointed by how Dante plays or looks in this iteration. He has four stances, Trickster, Gunslinger, Royal Guard, and Swordmaster, and he can do an insane amount of different combos and tricks since he has so many weapons and he can switch weapons and stances on the fly. Same with Nero, the way you play will largely influence which weapons you choose to use, whether it’s his sword, the Balrog gauntlets which are amazing, the Cavaliere motorcycle swords which are ridiculous, but satisfying to hit, and a few more he gains as the story continues, and that’s just his melee weapons. Dante took a second for me to learn, but as the game went on, he was amazing to use. Beating up a demon with Balrog, then switching to Cavaliere to finish them off is so incredibly satisfying.
As I said, the gameplay of this game is the best it’s ever been. This is one of the few games where I played all the way and with no break, played it all the way through again on a harder difficulty. It’s that much fun. There’s so much depth to the combat that it honestly doesn’t get old. After 2 playthroughs, I’m still learning little tricks I can pull off and watching videos wanting to try out new combos in the game. If you love character action games and a challenge, this game is definitely for you.
Lastly, this game looks absolutely gorgeous. The RE engine that was also used for the Resident Evil 2 remake and Resident Evil 7 looks great for a Devil May Cry game. The facial animations in cutscenes look just about photorealistic and it helps breathe life into DMC‘s hellish environments. I’ve seen a few people complain about this game’s environments looking the same, and while I can agree since a lot of the game takes place in a giant demonic tree, I still really enjoy how it all looks since it all looks so good. When you’re not in the tree, the environments look very different, and you can really tell that the DMC team took a bit of inspiration from Ninja Theory’s DmC reboot with the graffitied brick walls and moving, distorted streets. Aside from the environments, the monster and boss designs look awesome. A lot of them looked like they could be in a Guillermo Del Toro film and I loved it.
Devil May Cry 5 is an incredible game that definitely exceeded my expectations for it. I loved almost every second I played of it and I still feel the urge to go back just to try out combos and beat it on Dante Must Die difficulty. The only real negative I can think of is that it lacks features since you can really only play the story and the secret missions, but Bloody Palace is going to be a free update on April 1st, so that’ll remedy the issue perfectly. If you’re new to the series, I would definitely recommend trying this out, there’s a free demo that’s available where you play a chapter as Nero. If you’re a longtime fan, I’m sure you already have the game, and if you don’t, absolutely pick it up because not only do I believe that this is the best game in the Devil May Cry series, I think it’s one of the best and most satisfying action games I’ve ever played.
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