Devil May Cry 5 Review — One Hell of a Good Time
11 years after we last saw Dante, Nero & Co., Devil May Cry 5 shows that the series is in fine form with one of its best installments yet.
Coming eleven years since the last mainline installment in the series released, it’s not hard to overstate that a new, “proper” Devil May Cry game has been a long time coming. And before we get too thick into the rest of this review, let me just clear the air by saying that as much as it’s been maligned by fans over the years, I enjoyed Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil May Cry and think it’s a perfectly fine game…aside from Emo Dante maybe being a little bit too emo for my liking.
That said, as much as I enjoyed DmC‘s fresh take on the series, I can’t deny that I’m happy to see the wise-cracking Dante that we’ve come to know and love over the years make his comeback. Given that it’s been over a decade since we last saw Dante kicking demon ass and taking names, if you’ve been concerned at all about Devil May Cry 5 feeling like it may have missed a beat in the time that the series has been away, you don’t have to worry at all. Devil May Cry 5 is very much the continuation of the series that fans have been waiting for, and it might just rival Devil May Cry 3 (my personal favorite) as the best entry in the series yet.
Devil May Cry 5 picks up some time in the years after we left off at the end of Devil May Cry 4, where Dante, Nero, and a mysterious ally known only as “V” band together to end a worldwide spree of demon attacks that are all being traced back to a deadly new foe named Urizen. In typical Devil May Cry fashion, Urizen is an intimidating demonic figure seeking an ultimate source of power from the Qlipoth, a demonic tree, by harvesting human blood to satiate it and harvest its intoxicatingly powerful fruit. From there, the story of Devil May Cry 5 takes several twists and turns as Dante, Nero, V, and the rest of the gang try to uncover the path to ending Urizen’s pursuit of power once and for all.
While previous Devil May Cry games kept their storytelling to a fairly linear fashion–with the occasional flashback here and there to tell the backstory of the Sons of Sparda–Devil May Cry 5 opts for a bit more of an ambitious narrative path by telling its story in medias res. By starting off in the middle of a climactic moment that sees Dante, Nero, and the rest of the Devil May Cry company facing off with Urizen, only to end in defeat, the remainder of the action in Devil May Cry 5 is woven through in a nonlinear fashion between the game’s three playable characters: Dante, Nero, and V.
The decision to unfold Devil May Cry 5‘s story in a nonlinear fashion is one that I wasn’t expecting, and I enjoyed seeing Capcom try something a bit unconventional with its storytelling approach this time around, let alone for one of its most anticipated sequels yet. That said, as much as DMC5‘s break from a linear storytelling structure is interesting, I can’t help but think that it might be a bit disorientating for fans that may not remember all the story beats from previous games, only to be thrust in the middle of the action with some unfamiliar faces, let alone players experiencing the series for the first time through DMC5.
Some of this is mitigated by the fact that Capcom seems to have gone out of its way to refresh players’ memories on the story leading up to Devil May Cry 5 as seen not only from a recent story trailer, but also from an in-game movie that briefly recaps the events of the past Devil May Cry games, even including the much-hated Devil May Cry 2 (briefly, at least). While I wouldn’t quite compare the level of in-depth story building and lore in Devil May Cry to something like the Kingdom Hearts series, I might recommend at least that you give the in-game video a watch to catch you up on the story so far, as Devil May Cry 5 is brimming with references to the previous games.
That being said, it doesn’t take too long for Devil May Cry 5 to catch players up to speed when it comes to its three main protagonists. Outside of their interconnecting roles in the larger scheme of Devil May Cry 5‘s story, what really helps the game to succeed so strongly is the fact that Dante, Nero, and V all play so stylistically different from one another. Though some players might end up having a preference for one character over another–with a few missions giving players the option to choose between the playable characters–I personally loved how the variety of combat styles between Dante, Nero, and V not only kept things interesting as far as gameplay and pacing, but to really give the player the chance to learn the ins and outs of each character and how they play.
First, let’s start off with Nero. After players were introduced to him in Devil May Cry 4, Nero is back in DMC5 and far more defined in his role as a demon hunter on the rise (and feeling less immediately similar to his infamous uncle Dante). Sporting a new partner in the feisty arms and weapons expert Nico, a mobile Devil May Cry van on the hot pursuit of demons to track down, and a new haircut, Nero returns not only with a fresh look, but a couple new tricks up his demon-powered sleeves. Most notably, this comes from the fact that Nero’s Devil Bringer has been replaced with an interchangeable range of new abilities from his newly-robotic arm.
Through the course of events that unfold in the beginning of the story (without getting too deep into spoilers), Nero ends up losing his Devil Bringer arm in a pretty bloody fashion, with Nico coming in to replace his missing arm with a new robotic limb that can utilize a range of new powers called the Devil Breaker. Functionally, the Devil Breaker arm works pretty much like Devil Bringer did in DMC4, as players can use it to either bring enemies in closer to Nero from a distance or allow him to break the gap between enemies more quickly. However, Devil Breaker expands on this with a range of interchangeable arms that give Nero a unique new special ability that can augment his combat powers.
Many of these Devil Breakers carry offensive abilities like Overture, which gives Nero an electric blast to shock enemies, and Rawhide, which changes Devil Breaker into a whip that can quickly slash at multiple enemies. Several of the Devil Breakers, however, provide Nero with unique abilities that he wouldn’t have access to otherwise in a non-offensive fashion, such as Gerbera that allows him to perform midair dodges and Ragtime, which can trap an enemy inside a ball of energy that slows down time.
While Nero doesn’t quite have the range of combat styles and abilities that his uncle has to offer, the expanded range of his powers through the Devil Breaker really helps him to stand out a bit more this time around than he did in DMC4. Though I wish there was more of an expanded way to customize or build out the Devil Breaker powers individually so players can specialize a bit more with them, the new powers at Nero’s disposal give him a style to call his own that I had a blast playing with.
While Nero’s new duds and robotic arm give him a bit of a fresh take this time around, he’s not the only one to have gotten better with age as players will find with Dante in Devil May Cry 5. With slightly more disheveled hair and white stubble to match it, Dante is visibly a bit older but has lost none of his charm or combat finesse in the years since we last saw him, as his combat style feels just as satisfying as it has in the series’ best installments, but with a couple new tricks and some outrageous new Devil Arms for him to play with.
Outside of his trademark sword and dual pistols combo, Dante’s combat style revolves around his ability to switch between four combat styles: Trickster, Gunslinger, Swordmaster, and Royalguard. With each style mapped to the D-Pad, players can quickly switch up Dante’s abilities and fighting styles on-the-fly to not only get a deeper level of fighting finesse from him, but also to maximize the ways that they can build up combos and take out enemies.
With so many options and abilities at his disposal between his fighting styles and range of Devil Arms, Dante is by far the most technical of the three playable characters and best suited for series’ veterans looking to get their SSStylish ranks on each level. That said, even if you can’t quite get a grasp on the level of moves and maneuvers that Dante has at his disposal–which at this point has the intricacies of a fighting game–there’s no denying that Dante is still a ton of fun to play as for those that might be new to the series, especially with some of the new Devil Arms.
While DMC5 includes plenty of familiar Devil Arms to players to utilize as Dante, my favorite of Dante’s new toys is Cavaliere, his new motorcycle that also happens to split into a pair of giant wheeled blades. There’s also one other incredible new Devil Arm that I don’t have the heart to spoil exactly what it is, except for the fact that it expands Dante’s combat style and makes him look oh-so-stylish while doing it. Its introduction, in particular, is a sight worth seeing, but I’ll let you discover that for yourself.
Of the three playable characters in Devil May Cry 5, V is by far the most interesting fighter of the bunch. Compared to the refined swordplay skills of Dante and Nero, V is meek and not adept at all to melee combat, instead leading him to rely on the use of his magical abilities. Instead of fighting enemies directly, V directs his three demon allies to fight for him: the demon hawk Griffon, the panther-like Shadow, and the hulking behemoth Nightmare.
Rather than getting in close like Dante and Nero, V stands back from afar as Griffon spews long-ranged attacks at enemies and Shadow comes in for close-ranged slashes, while V’s Devil Trigger (when fully charged) allows him to summon Nightmare to deal devastating damage to enemies, and even allows V to ride him with a special unlocked ability. After his three demon allies have whittled down an enemy’s health to the right point, V can then warp in to deliver a devastating killing blow to the enemy he is facing.
Compared to the traditional hack ‘n slash styles that players have used for years with Dante and Nero, V’s fighting style offers an incredibly fresh new way to think about building up combos and a completely different cadence to the series’ combat. While V might have a bit more of a learning curve to overcome for players compared to the more familiar styles of Dante and Nero, over time I really came to enjoy the abilities at his disposal and the satisfaction that came from landing the finishing blow on an enemy, combined with finding creative ways to combo the abilities of his three demon allies together.
Aside from the story and its trio of playable characters, Devil May Cry 5 looks and feels like it was worth the decade-plus-long wait with its visuals and soundtrack that truly captures the series’ signature look better than ever before. Running on the same engine that powered both Resident Evil VII: Biohazard and Resident Evil 2 before it, the RE Engine’s use in Devil May Cry 5 shows that it handles the fast-paced, energetic combat of the series just as well as it did showing the eerie, grimy environments of the last two Resident Evil games. Visually, Devil May Cry 5 explodes not just with gritty, demonic visuals, but also a surprising amount of color and flare in what is easily the best-looking installment in the series yet. This is only enhanced by the game’s thumping soundtrack that perfectly complements its signature stylish gameplay.
Much like the games before it, Devil May Cry 5 would have lived or died on how well it delivered the fast-paced action that fans of the series have come to know and love, and DMC5 expertly delivers just as much style as it does substance. This is arguably the best that the series’ combat has ever felt thanks to (largely) tight, responsive controls that allow players to rack up impressive combos and find new, inventive ways to keep them going. Stylish combat has always been Devil May Cry‘s combat card, and while it has been expanded more than ever before here in DMC5, it isn’t to say that it’s completely prohibitive to newcomers, as there is an Auto-Assist mode that allows players to utilize some of the more advanced combos with simplified button inputs.
While Devil May Cry 5 enhances the series’ visuals and gameplay to look and play better than they ever have before, a few of the series’ recurring issues do rear their head again from time-to-time. The most apparent of these is the in-game camera, which often feels like it’s a bit too close to the characters, leading to the chance to not see incoming enemies or getting attacked at inopportune times off-screen that can ruin an otherwise killer combo.
This is far from the first time that bad camera angles have sometimes gotten in the way of enjoying a Devil May Cry game (or other character-action games like it, for that matter), but it’s just one of the very few setbacks to the combat gameplay that Devil May Cry 5 has so nearly perfected. Likewise, target-locking onto enemies (and especially changing locks between targets) can often feel very finicky, which I found myself fumbling through at times trying to lock on to the proper target that I intended to land a combo on.
Given how much that the series relies on precision and timing, for the most part, Devil May Cry 5 holds up in delivering a consistent and steady level of performance despite the amount of action that is happening on-screen. As I played through the game on an original Xbox One model, by and large DMC5 managed to hold up to a near-60fps performance level, though I did see more aggressive frame rate dips during some of the game’s most visually-detailed cutscenes and at a couple of points during gameplay. While I hadn’t myself been able to test out the game on either the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro or on PC, the Xbox One version’s performance at least encouraged me that those playing the game on a standard console won’t be missing anything from the precision-minded gameplay that DMC5 demands.
With how long the wait has been for a return to the mainline canon of the series, Devil May Cry 5 is pretty much everything that a fan of the series could have hoped and asked for. Thanks to its stellar visuals, dynamic, pulse-pounding soundtrack, and the most refined combat gameplay that it has ever had, Devil May Cry 5 shows that the series hasn’t lost any of its fighting edge despite having been away for so long.
While DMC5 has upped the series’ style and flashiness to heights never seen before, it also packs in a surprising level of warmth and humanity that doesn’t completely let its focus on style overwhelm substance. After having waited over a decade, I realize that Dante might be a little older and grayer now, but I’m sure as hell glad to have him and the rest of the gang back again.