Review: Devil May Cry 5 is a frenetic and rhapsodic return to a Capcom classic
After playing Devil May Cry 5, I’m pretty convinced Capcom can do no wrong anymore. Resident Evil 7, Monster Hunter World, Resident Evil 2 Remake, all the stuff they’ve done with Mega Man, and now… this. Let me tell ya folks, I’ve played a lot of video games, reviewed dozens (hundreds?) and Devil May Cry 5 is one of the most smile-inducing games on the market.
DISCLAIMER: A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), PlayStation 4, and PC
Release Date: March 8th, 2018
After over a decade since DMC 4 (yeah, DmC exists but Capcom is choosing to mostly forget that game), Dante is back and a mysterious man calling himself V wanders into his office. V hires Dante to investigate some demon attacks but these aren’t any ordinary demon attacks, they’re the beginning of the end of Earth as we know it.
The Underworld is rising up and consuming the planet with a mighty force known as Urizen at the helm. After losing his left arm to him, Nero seeks out the demonic figure in Red Grave City and crosses paths with Dante and V. Things quickly go awry and this is where the game truly kicks off, it’s up to this trio of playable characters to fight through the demon-infested city and ensure Urizen doesn’t completely conquer the world.
A predictable yet still enjoyable story made for the fans:
Devil May Cry 5’s story starts off rather by the numbers, in all honesty. Good guys must save the day from a rather generic enemy who wants to take over the world. For a while, I was a bit disappointed by the very predictable and basic nature of the overall narrative, some of which can get confusing and can feel contrived, but it’s carried by a small cast of charismatic characters who hold it up.
This is far more character driven than I initially expected, it’s a plot largely centered around the melodrama of these characters we’ve been following for nearly 20 years. Devil May Cry 5 features the continuation of damming family feuds, one big twist that made me audibly gasp, and much more.
Sometimes it’s clear they were going for a big, shocking reveal but you just say to yourself “Wow, I figured that out hours ago,” That’s not to say the story is bad, just don’t expect anything that consistently keeps you on your toes. There are still plenty of moments that are great fanfare and deliver cathartic resolutions to arcs players have been following for years.
It’s clear that Capcom was very keen on delivering a game that pleased the fans and that could be a bad thing, sometimes that means playing it far too safe. Devil May Cry 5 feels gratifying and I have no doubt that those that were perhaps betrayed by the reboot done several years ago will feel like their beloved series and characters have been redeemed.
Nero goes through an incredible arc which ultimately makes him feel like the lead protagonist of the game, Dante never fails to be a charming hero, and the newcomer that is V… well, he’s quite dry but he has a cool bird that cracks some jokes every now and then.
Fast-paced frenetic gameplay that plays like a dream:
Where Devil May Cry 5 truly strives is in its gameplay which is just… *chef kiss*. Devil May Cry is known for founding the hack and slash genre, a genre which has more or less fallen off this generation. Gamers and developers alike have largely left behind this type of gameplay in favor of following the Dark Souls formula of slower, more strategic and intense melee combat.
Even God of War, a huge hack and slash series, has shifted to something that could be seen as more thoughtful and methodical. That’s not to say the likes of a Nier: Automata or Darksiders doesn’t exist but they seem less prevalent in comparison to when DMC came on to the scene.
Devil May Cry 5 is a huge return to form for the genre with glorious combo rankings, frenetic gameplay, awesome metal music scoring the chaos, and plenty of large swords and guns to slay demons with. Each character plays differently than the others, giving the game constant variety through the flow of action and the controls themselves.
Nero has his sword, a gun, and an arsenal of prosthetic arms known as Devil Breakers. They can shoot out grappling hooks to pull enemies closer, send out shockwaves, and even be propelled like rockets which can then be ridden on to fly towards enemies. You can’t actively switch between Devil Breakers on the fly, you have to destroy the one you have equipped by blowing it up which makes Nero slightly less smooth to use.
Dante plays somewhat similarly to Nero except has more freedom in his weapons. He comes equipped with different guns and melee weapons which range from pistols and shotguns to brutal fisticuffs and a motorcycle that he has split in half. Said motorcycle can be used almost like a Transformer with the ability to push it together to ride it towards an enemy or use it as two big weapons where the wheels rev up and grind against an enemy’s body.
Unlike Nero, Dante can switch these on the fly by pressing the triggers on the controller (on console) which creates incredibly fun free-flowing combat that relies heavily on creativity and combining different weapons together. You can go from smashing an ugly bug-like creature’s face with the rear end of a motorcycle, tossing them up in the air, shooting them with your pistol to juggle them up a little further, then finally switching to your bare hands and going Mortal Kombat on them by rapidly swinging your legs or fists into their ribcage.
Dante also has far more intense special abilities such as twirling his sword like a vertical fan, dashing around like The Flash to quickly move towards and away from enemies, and more that I won’t spoil. He’s by far the most fun and versatile to use, creating the most engaging experience across the board.
Now… there’s one other character, V, the guy who looks like discount Timothee Chalamet. Straight up, V is the worst character to use. Thankfully, you’re only forced to use him the least of all the protagonists but oh man, I really did not enjoy my time with him all that much. Part of V’s nature is that he has these supernatural creatures and animals that do all the fighting for him because he’s physically quite weak.
Because of this, you’re usually positioned out of the action and watching your minions kick-ass. It’s important to note, this all controls like the other two characters in terms of mashing the attack button and whatnot so these creatures aren’t purely autonomous AI but it feels quite disconnected due to where V and the camera are placed in the action itself.
For a game all about finding and maintaining a rhythm in combat, I was rarely ever able to accomplish that when playing as V. When playing as Nero or Dante, you’re in the thick of it, getting covered in blood. On the other hand, V is more or less popping up a lawn chair and sitting on the sidelines while sipping on a beverage as he lets his pets roll up and take care of it all.
There’s not a whole lot that feels engaging about him and that applies narratively as well, he falls flat in every way which is seriously frustrating. He’s such a huge oddity when the gameplay is almost pitch-perfect otherwise, his segments stick out like a sore thumb. If it weren’t for the fact that he’s forced upon the player so sparsely, it would be more of an issue.
Moving beyond just how the characters themselves play, the overall gameplay feels almost like playing music. Finding the set of notes that sound good in a particular order and creating a rhythm out of it, expanding on it to find an even larger flow that’s not too repetitive, and being – as the game likes to say – stylish.
You can find success in just being frantic, smashing buttons to defeat enemies, but you will find much more satisfying results from putting some thought in it. Having a general idea of what you want to do, creating a sequence of events in your head, and then executing it can lead to moments of pure euphoria.
A visually impressive game with a less than stellar art style:
Devil May Cry 5 also finds success in its visuals with really beautiful graphics, animations, and cutscenes. Capcom boasts their relatively new RE Engine once again in this action title and just like Resident Evil 2 Remake, DMC 5 is a hell of a looker. I frequently found myself quite astonished by the attention to detail on the characters with Dante’s very detailed grey five o’clock shadow, photorealistic facial animations, and more.
That said, the overall aesthetic of the game felt consistently generic. You’re either running through very grey, bleak city ruins with a lack of flair or fleshy, red corridors home to the demon infestation. Within the first hour of the game, you’ll have basically seen everything the game has to offer in terms of scenery and it ends up coming off as quite uninspired.
There are two set pieces in the game that managed to set themselves apart (which is incredibly vital given the context of these scenes in the narrative) but they come towards the end of the game, pretty much back to back so it doesn’t help bring any diversity to the overall look of the game.
Even though it sometimes feels uncharacteristically by the numbers in some places or fails to have a noticeable amount of pizazz, Devil May Cry 5 is a hell of a good time. With plenty of wonderful character moments that’ll make fans gush, a glorious frenzy of bloody action, and a healthy dose of great metal music to score it all, Capcom has triumphantly returned yet another beloved franchise to its former glory.
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