Dante do well?
Capcom seem determined to make a statement in 2019, and that statement is that their classic franchises are all doing very well, thank you very much. So far we’ve already had the superb remake of Resident Evil 2 in February, and the house of Ryu are now following it up with a spanking new release for their nearly 18 year old Devil May Cry action adventure series. It’s remarkable that this is the first numbered instalment in this series in over 10 years; while 2013’s DmC: Devil May Cry was a complete series reboot with new characters and mechanics, Devil May Cry 5 is a follow up to 2008’s Devil May Cry 4 and right from the start it’s clear that Capcom want to brush DmC under the carpet, with this latest game bringing the series back to its roots.
And how effortlessly it does this. With three playable characters, including series regular Dante, his nephew Nero and newcomer V, and a story that’s mad as a bag of badgers, Devil May Cry 5 embraces its silly B Movie roots from the get go. Nero’s arm has been torn off by the demon king Urizen who’s in the process of taking over Red Grave City! Dante and his femme fatale’s, Lady and Trish have gone to sort him out while V and Nero follow. The seemingly unstoppable king beats everyone and covers the city in a parasitic Qliphoth tree, seemingly killing Dante, Trish and Lady in the process – it’s up to Nero, V and Nero’s weapon tech, Nico, to take down the demons and save the day.
If none of that made any remote sense to you, then don’t worry. If you’re a series newcomer and don’t know your Sparda’s from your Vergil’s then there’s a helpful “Previously on Devil May Cry” movie which catches you up on the main series key plot points to date before you jump into the action. The star of the show here is really Nero who you’ll play as for the bulk of the game and he is an absolute dream to control, with tight mechanics allowing you to zip around the battlefield with ease. Close combat is dealt with using his sword which can be powered up using the left trigger, while a pistol can be used to keep distant enemies at bay. Nero’s severed right arm, meanwhile, has been replaced by biomechanical tools designed by Nico – the Devil Breaker.
These interchangeable arms provide numerous special abilities but come at a price – if you’re attacked while using one, it breaks. You can forcibly break them as well by triggering a devastating explosion which is handy for getting out of tight spots, and Nero can carry a magazine of up to 10 breakers into any mission with him as well as picking them up mid action, but the mechanic feels a little unrefined. There’s no way to switch breakers in your magazine on the fly, meaning they’re a bit of a grab bag of powers with little opportunity for experimenting and comboing different loadouts, something that the mechanic is crying out for. Still, the arms on offer give some mad effects, from a simple electrical zap, to a rocket powered punch, even going as far as a replica of Mega Man’s Mega Buster, they do feel great and satisfying to use on a demon face. Nero also has a grappling hook which, in addition to being required to traverse some stages, can be used in combat to pull enemies closer, allowing him to control large crowds, dragging smaller enemies away for a pummelling where their mates can’t retaliate.
In addition to Nero you’ll also be able to play as both V and Dante throughout the story with different missions casting you in different roles. Both these characters have very different playstyles to Nero, with Dante controlling as he did in previous instalments, much slower and more methodical. In place of Nero’s Devil Breaker, Dante has four special attack types which are toggleable using the d-pad, making his special attacks focus on dodging, ranged damage, melee attacks or defensive shields. You’ll also be able to switch between a number of different weapons in mid combat, from his traditional sword, Rebellion and twin pistols, Ebony and Ivory, to a selection of other demon pounding implements that will make long time series fans happy. Finally, Dante has a Devil Trigger gauge which, when fully charged, can be used to activate a devil form for increased damage.
V, on the other hand, brings a very different spin on the series combat. While you control the new kid on the block directly, all attacks are dealt by his demon familiars; a chatty hawk called Griffon, a panther, Shadow, and the hulking Nightmare. Shadow and Griffon form V’s main attacks, Shadow dealing melee damage while Griffon conjures up ranged attacks. These attacks can’t defeat enemies directly, with the final blow having to be dealt by V himself using his cane. Charging up V’s Devil Trigger gauge will let you activate it to bring Nightmare onto the battlefield, dealing massive damage to enemies. The flow of V gameplay is definitely an interesting one and is very much about positioning. The familiars all have their own health meters and V can heal them when in close proximity, but risks damage to his own frail frame, so it’s a balancing act with keeping V out of danger and preventing the familiars from being KO’d, leaving you without attack power.
The story ebbs and flows and has more flashbacks than a series of Lost, filling you in on details and allowing you to spend time with the different characters at various parts of the narrative. It’s an interesting non-linear approach for the series, one which the 4th installment played with by having players switch up to Dante part way through the story, but delivering the plot in chunks like this allows for twists that would make a Curly Wurly jealous, with mid and late game reveals that lend different light to previous events. There’s also a pretty cool asynchronous multiplayer mechanic which allows players to choose a character for certain missions. The character that you DON’T choose will then be represented by either another player or a ghost recording of their particular playthrough, which you can then rate at the missions end to say whether you thought their combat was “stylish” or not. Yes, combat ratings are back.
While you hack through the demonic hordes you’ll earn points for varying up your play style and combos, with each encounter netting you a rating from D to SSS. These in turn contribute to an overall rating for that particular mission, lending the game replay value. There’s also hidden missions to find which represent challenges ranging from defeating waves of enemies in a set time limit, to traversing a level without touching the floor, using only Nero’s grappling hook. Completing these challenges will often result in a rare orb reward, boosting your health and or Devil Trigger.
As with previous DMC games, orbs are your main collectible with red orbs serving as the games currency, allowing you to level up your skills and weapons between missions, as well as restock your Devil Breaker and buy items such as blue health orbs which will extend your health bar and gold orbs which allow an instant respawn should you succumb to hells forces. Green orbs, meanwhile, top up your health, while white orbs recharge Dante and V’s Devil Trigger meters. Each of the three characters will share orb counters and health, but will require their abilities to be levelled up separately. As is tradition, DMC5 rewards those who explore. The missions themselves are fairly linear, but you’ll often find areas off the beaten path, sometimes hidden or requiring the use of specific abilities to access, that will provide a rich source of red orbs or a super secret blue orb. They’ll also give you a chance to take in the architecture of Red Grave City.
Once again, Capcom are using their RE engine to excellent effect here, with a wide array of worn down post apocalyptic architecture and some superb lighting effects. Characters as well are excellently animated with expressive faces, but the gothic design can become tiring after a while. When compared to the previous games in the series, the “urban decay” look misses some of the grander, cathedral style environments that Dante and co used to venture round. One of the biggest disappointments, however, comes with a particular area that will be revisited multiple times during the story which is, put simply, really boring. It’s a shame as this is a fairly key area, but the world design feels cookie cutter and a bit bland, rather out of sync with the visuals on display elsewhere.
Overall, though, DMC5 is tons of fun – an old school brawler shot through the lens of modern technology. While probably not as revolutionary an update as Resident Evil 2, the game will evoke strong nostalgia with its familiar characters and audio beats, from the impact of weapons to the whomp of orbs as they’re collected, and the action moves along at a solid clip, with action (mostly) hitting that coveted 60fps, and missions that never really outstay their welcome. Sure, some of the mechanics don’t feel as fleshed out as they could and some of the locations get stale on repeat visits, but Devil May Cry 5 is another solid release from Capcom. They really don’t make em like this any more, but they probably should keep doing so!