After eleven long and frustrating years, Devil May Cry is finally back in its stylish demon killing glory. In 2013 when Capcom rebooted the franchise with Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil may Cry, longtime hardcore fans were rightfully furious with the Western team’s take on the action game. Coupled with simplified mechanics, a baby’s first “The government is full of demons, the media is lying to us” plot, and dialogue that would make only the simplest of 12-year olds feel glee, fans thought it would be the end. However, a spark of hope shone through in the form of Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition, a remaster of the 2008 entry with 3 new playable characters, Lady, Trish and fan favorite Vergil. Then 2018 E3 happened, the trailer for Devil May Cry 5 graced us with the promise of the same action and balls to the wall gameplay the franchise was known for. Met with nearly universal praise, the game was set to debut just 10 months after its first trailer dropped. Devil May Cry was back and all was right with the world.
To say that Devil May Cry revolutionized the action genre would be 100% the truth. Back at the beginning of the 2000s, Capcom released the first Devil May Cry and set the stage for a mixed and complicated series. Devil May Cry 2, which released two short years after the first never was intended to be a Devil May Cry game but was changed to cash in on the first’s success. With legendary game director Hideki Kamiya no longer behind the wheel, they brought in a new director within the 11th hour of the game. Hideaki Itsuno tried his hardest to salvage the game but it released to rather mediocre reviews. Though this wasn’t the end because Itsuno started the directing for Devil May Cry 3, a prequel to Dante’s adventure and for the longest time was considered the pinnacle of the franchise. It had it all, fantastic gameplay, the addition of Dante’s style forms, a rocking soundtrack and thematic depth that is still discussed amongst gamers till this day. It even set the standard for the rival characters in the form of Vergil, Dante’s twin brother, who is seen on many a top 10 best boss battles lists. And two years after that, Devil May Cry 4. While directed by Itsuno again, it faced major budget cuts around 35% into its development forcing the team to scrap major parts of the game in order to have it shipped. This led to a huge division in the game. While the gameplay was fantastic and praised by all, it suffered in the story department, boss and level design, which the series was known for. The enemies were optimized to be fought by Nero, the series’ new white-haired protagonist, and not Dante. This game gave birth to style switching for Dante, allowing him to change the effects of his action button (circle for PS, B for Xbox) when he used to only be able to equip one for the level. On top of that Dante’s levels were just Nero’s in reverse, with the same bosses and very few new enemies, leaving fans disappointed. Two more years after that, the most curious trailer played out, of a brown-haired young man, smoking a cigarette and firing two guns, one black, one white. Then he called himself Dante. People were confused, this wasn’t the beloved character that they fell in love with. In a strange, almost insulting campaign by Ninja Theory and Tameem Antoniades, DmC: Devil May Cry, released to much backlash by fans and reviewers smart enough to not get duped by the game’s pseudo-intellectualism and refusal to accept its campy and over the top nature, for a grittier, edgier look. Then there was the dreaded five-year gap of no information until the E3 trailer of Devil May Cry 5, and thus begins our story.
Devil May Cry 5, is an artisan of wickedly fun gameplay, stylish antics, and edge of your seat difficulty. In most battles I found myself standing up, getting closer to the screen to see my marvelous skills dispatching demons with haste. The game is made up of episodic linear missions with minor exploration with the occasional “get the key item to continue kicking more ass”. This set up gets you to the most important part, combat. The combat, while keeping the core essentials since its PS2 days in 2001, is the best in the action genre only matched by games like Bayonetta and Ninja Gaiden. Fights lock you into a single area and force you to dispatch the enemies. But no, you just can’t spam your strongest move, not if you want to boost your “Style Gauge”. The game loves incentivizing the player into doing well in gameplay, the Style Gauge is the key motivator. In the right corner of a screen a letter will appear from D-SSS, the better you do in combat, the higher the Style Gauge rises. To do this you have to utilize all your moves, no spamming allowed or you’ll never leave the D rank. Juggling enemies, dodging at the right time and taunting will send you to the S’s in no time flat. On top of that, along with the dynamic soundtrack, the better you do, the more you hear of the song, from a low thumping instrumental to hearing the chorus loud and clear. The combat is never boring with dozens of enemy types and 3 unique playable characters to test your mettle. With Nero and Dante back in the driver’s seat, the game adds a new character. His name is V, and his gameplay is like no other. Instead of taking a close and personal approach, he summons three familiars, Griffon, a wisecracking bird who is the demon love child of every animated Disney bird, Shadow, a shapeshifting swiss army knife cat and Nightmare, a golem only accessed by expending your Devil Trigger gauge. V is very slow and his gameplay takes some getting used to as you want to stay away from the heat of the battle unless you like to live on the edge. Nero, returning from the 4th game, keeps most of his kit but due to plot reasons has eight disposable robot arms called Devil Breakers. Each one performs a different function in combat whether it be adding another dodge, overcharging your weapons, or replicating Nero’s Devil Bringer from the previous game and unleash an intense wrestling move on an opponent. Dante keeps his style changing gimmick plus one new power which is a spoiler to say but he’s better than ever with several unique weapons.
Devil May Cry has never been big in the story department, roughly being equivalent to a superb action story and with only 2 hours of cutscenes. This doesn’t mean that thematically the story is bad. While the plot jumps around between a month period, that is indicated on a timeline in between mission. Though the only reason it does this is to have you play characters in a specific order. The game is set years after DMC 4 and has Nero operate a mobile branch of Dante’s demon hunting business along with a new female character, Nico, an engineer/gunsmith who crafts Nero’s awesome robot arms since he lost his demonic Devil Bringer to an enigmatic stranger. Dante gets a job from V, our new mysterious demon summoner, to kill a powerful demon king named Urizen. Dante accepts because he is as broke as he is cool and so begins the journey. Unlike previous games, the characters are perceived to be vulnerable. Urizen trashes every named character in the franchise without as much as a thought which instantly raises the stakes. You want to beat this guy because no one has been a match for Dante and crew until now. The focus, however, focuses on Nero after his and Dante’s defeat by Urizen and must reclaim Redgrave City from the demon horde and the demonic and nearly unpronounceable tree the Qliphoth. Without spoiling too much the game’s theme centers around family, love, duty and the origin of one’s true strength. Each character perceives this differently and displays it in a show not tell sort of way. This sort of storytelling is why fans praise the third game so much with keeping this theme. Each character travels individually but will sometimes team up in a level or two which makes everything feel more connected. Even if there were a couple of obvious plot twists by the end of the second act, the game was still very enjoyable and I felt like the story did not take a backseat this time around. Though if you’re really good I heard you can finish the game within the first hour.
Unlike a certain modern action game franchise that abandoned its roots to be the most mainstream mediocre nonsense this side of the console generation DMC 5 stands above it and says “hey I don’t have to sacrifice my core beliefs to be marketable”. Every enemy and every boss are satisfying to battle. No weapon feels overpowered, no enemy too annoying, no boss the same. Devil May Cry is 100%, great combat. While briefly mentioning each character’s playstyle previously, each one teaches you the ins and outs of its gameplay. Nero teaches the player about how to build the style meter with his varied sword combos, management of his devil breakers and when to use them or lose them, and proper dodging by having the arms break if he uses them while being attacked. V teaches Devil Trigger management with Nightmare and setting his demons on auto-attack mode. Dante is the culmination of all these skills and possesses the highest skill ceiling of the three characters. Nero hangs around the middle, being the bread and butter of the characters. It’s easy getting S ranks with his air combos and wire snatch. V again is the hardest to get used to, staying back and letting his demons do the hard work but getting in closer and putting your nose in a good book will do wonders to your style meter. Dante has several new weapons, with a couple returning from previous games but with new bells and whistles, mainly King Cerberus. Though Balrog is supposed to be the generic punching and kicking weapon that’s been in every game besides 2, they add something completely new to it in the form of blow and kick mode.
Blow mode is a boxing-inspired style all about quick hits to set Dante’s demonic gloves ablaze to add damage to his attacks. Kick mode is inspired by Capoeira and performs deadly and acrobatic kicks that are just so satisfying to perform. Cavaliere, Dante’s motorcycle/twin saw blades is as amazing as it sounds, tearing through enemies with big powerful sweeping attacks. Don’t worry, his signature sword, Rebellion is there too and just as easy to use as ever. Each new weapon has a gimmick to justify learning its deadly arsenal of moves. Dante’s guns are also the same, his dual pistols Ebony and Ivory, the shotgun Coyote-A, and a couple of new ones but one is more of a familiar face with a couple of new tricks. This is even before mastering the style switching which makes Dante the true legendary devil hunter the game tells you he is. Admittedly this is the first time I ever really learned how to fully utilize Royal Guard but I felt invincible once I learned the timing. Skills are learned by spending red orbs which are acquired throughout the levels by defeating enemies, destroying anything that looks bright red or walking onto secret spots. What you spend it on is up to you and the freedom of choice is still one of the game’s best selling points. Next is the bosses. In Megaman X like fashion, the game organically teaches you how to beat the bosses by setting up the boss’ gimmick throughout the level, whether it be grappling, dodging spikes or adjusting to the new environment. Each boss is unlike any other and throws something new at you every time. It never felt like I got to be complacent, each raised my adrenaline to a whole new level and forced me to perform my best every time. This is only amped up by the game’s dynamic soundtrack once again and its awesome boss songs. And this time there is only one small boss rush and you only have to fight a small handful. The difficulty is still high compared to other games in the genre but it never felt unfair and the trickiest of boss fights just needed a change of thinking, a change of style to come out on top. Overall in a market where people are afraid to make video games FEEL like video games, Devil May Cry tells you it’s alright to be able to double jump again.
Despite being a revival of the franchise, it felt like a farewell. All the important characters took center stage, for one last big blowout before taking a much-needed rest. I could say the game was brief but I’d rather say that I didn’t want the game to end. Both the gameplay and story wanted me to stick around and I will be playing this game over and over till I beat all the difficulty modes. However long that will take I don’t know, but all in all… Devil May Cry is back and is the best action game of this generation.
- Fantastic gameplay
- Beautiful graphics
- Rocking soundtrack
- Varied enemy and character design
- Lack of varied environment design
- The slightly short campaign may be a turn-off for more casual players
Suggestions and pro tips
- Invest in Air Hike and enemy step, they will act as extra dodges if you don’t feel comfortable with the controls
- Air taunting raises your style meter and gives you temporary invulnerability
- Always be attacking, your style gauge may not go up but it will decrease slower
- If this is your first game, watch the “History of DMC” in the main menu
- Always call Nico when you can, you may not know what abilities you can buy with your red orbs.
- If you feel you’re doing badly in a boss fight, restart from the last checkpoint to give you a slightly fresh start