Platforms: PS4, PC, Xbox One
Genre: Puzzle game where you figure out a 100 ways to kill a demon; of course it’s an action game!
For a good amount of time in the 90s and even the 2000s, Capcom was at their prime with arcade and action games galore. But let’s focus more on the latter. After the first Devil May Cry was released to much acclaim in 2001, they started churning out really great single-player action games like Viewtiful Joe, Okami, Resident Evil 4, and so forth.
And then there was a time in the mid-2000s and near the tail end of 2010 where they lost focus. They let Western developers play with their toys and that venture didn’t go down so well or made gangbuster sales, and they kinda screwed the pooch with everything else from Resident Evil to Bionic Commando. Street Fighter was fine, but not so much the rest.
It wasn’t until recently that it looked like the company was actually going to be in that 90s and 2000s renaissance period, what with Resident Evil 7 and that really awesome Resident Evil 2 reboot turning heads and making people believe in Capcom again. And I sincerely believe that their most recent blockbuster effort, Devil May Cry 5, is going to spearhead that to the fullest.
After all, it’s a damn fine game on its own merit. 16 hours in, and I’m still playing it to try to get the best rank possible and upping my demon-slaying game on the higher difficulty levels. With great action beats and three distinct characters to power through, Devil May Cry 5 is shaping up to be potential GOTY 2019 material. It’s pure fun with each swing of your devil hunter’s blade and swipe from your panther-shaped shadow spawn.
Having said that, it has quite a few ways to go to be “greatest of all time” and that “one game” to revolutionize the genre in a game-changing way.
I’ll elaborate further.
Anyone can tell you that the key to a great action game is its setup, its controls, and its pacing. Devil May Cry 5 has all of these down pat probably due to the lessons learned by its director Hideaki Itsuno. He’s the same guy who directed Devil May Cry 3 and 4 as well as Dragon’s Dogma, so you know part 5 is in good hands. After playing through it, I’m just glad that everything went to clockwork.
The kicker of this game is its three distinct protagonists: Nero, V, and Dante. You play as Nero in the first few stages to get the hang of his fighting style, which is a mix of swordplay, revolver gunplay action, grappling enemies from a distance or ziplining to demons, and his Devil Breakers. The latter lets him equip special arm types that let him do additional special attacks like a simple zap to a rocket arm ala Mazinger Z except this being a DMC game, Nero can ride it like a skateboard to stylin’ effect.
Oh and he also can do a “get off me” burst (called a Breakaway) which lets him cancel from his Devil Breaker effect or attack chain to get him out of harm’s way. Think of Nero as a beginner-friendly character for an action game, one that gets you through most of the game that still throws a lot at you.
And then you get to play V’s scenarios, where you control an Adam Driver lookalike still in his The Cure-worship phase who can summon a bird called Griffon and a panther called Shadow to do the attacking for him. His playing style takes a while to get used to, but it feels like as if Hideaki had answered the question “What if Dragon’s Dogma had a wizard who can summon two ass-kicking familiars?”
The answer amounts to a rockin’ good time with DMC 5’s weird-yet-satisfying-to-play segments. Playing keepaway while letting your minions attack in your stead can be quite a sight, as you see Shadow doing combos while shapeshifting into axes and buzzsaws while Griffon attacks simultaneously with lightning projectiles and an AoE multi-hitting move that saved my bacon on occasion.
At the same time, you may have to be on standby because your partners in crime can go out of commission and go into “stalemate” mode if they take a ton of hits. And you also have to finish off enemies with V’s cane attack, so you also have to get into the fray somehow.
To cap off the demon-filled roller coaster ride of hyper action goodness, you end up playing as Dante where he’s pretty much a revved-up version of his DMC3 and DMC4 counterpart. You have your four styles that you can switch on the fly using the d-pad: the offensive Swordmaster, the dodge-heavy Trickster, the long-ranged Gunslinger, and the counter-savvy Royal Guard. You also have a plethora of guns and weapons to switch to on the fly, with melee weapons like the iconic Rebellion sword, and his ranged fares like his Ebony and Ivory pistols.
While being the most complicated character to master, he also has the best arsenal to use. If you aren’t impressed and sated with his motorbike chainsaw-esque heavy weapon Cavaliere and his Dr. Faust ranged weapon that lets him garner a lot of Red Orbs at the expense of some of his own, what’s wrong with you?
One’s a pretty slow but damaging melee weapon that requires you to anticipate its winding time to use effectively, while the other lets you put a hat onto a demon to get more Red Orbs out of beating it to an inch of its life with other weapons. What’s not to love?
And we haven’t even touched upon his Devil Trigger mode and the many extra moves that come with each different style he’s in, as well as the other upgrades like phantoms swords, an ice nunchuk that can also combine into a flaming pole, and a rocket launcher.
It would be enough if Devil May Cry 5 had just Nero to contend with, but with the other two who are fleshed out as player characters, you have a game that somehow blends in three distinct playstyles that fit the hack-and-slash action mould. Coupled with a slew of stages that not only look gorgeous but also have some good linear layouts and action beats to them, playing as either one of these devil hunters is a blast. You don’t need me to tell you how slick and responsive these controls are; you’ll be putting the hurt on demons with style as you dodge and fight your way through Red Grave City.
This being a city that’s already been infested with demon plant-esque roots, expect to see half the insides of a former metropolis and half a demon underworld to explore. All of it is lovingly crafted and looks as realistic without coming off as too cartoony and off-kilter. One minute you’re taking a Nidhogg bug to open up a disgusting-looking door through a hotel room filled with demons, the next you’ll be falling down what I think could be Satan’s multiple assholes as you descend through a gauntlet of, you guessed it, demons.
Personally, I don’t mind a bit more saturation in my action games, but the graphics here tread that line between realistic and not-too-muted colours that makes it easy to spot your character amidst the chaotic fiend-laden mess that you will be subjected to.
The Town’s Already Painted Red
Speaking of overrun cities, there’s a decent plot to follow. It’s basically “a big bad demon called Urizen took over a city, and it’s up to our heroes to stop them” type of narrative; nothing big, but nothing too complex either. The fun of it all is just seeing how it all unravels within a span of a day with the cast of van-riding demon hunters, with a few flashbacks to play through here and there to add more context as to why these events happened.
Devil May Cry lore fans will definitely get a kick out of how it all unfolds especially if you’re one of those who dig DMC 3 and its one standout character, who also made guest appearances in fighting games.
It’s a shame a few side characters who were prominent in the past games were kept in the sidelines, but the game’s main focus is still concerning the three devil hunters. I should also add that new helper Nico is quite a barrel of laughs and help keep the over-the-top vibe light and cheery.
But you’re not here for the plot. You’re here to use said three hunters and get high rankings for fights and be challenged. And challenge you’ll get by the boatload, my action-craving friends.
In the game’s default Devil Hunter setting (ie Normal), the challenge ramps up at a decent pace, with the earlier levels being a playground to getting your combo and weapon-switching groove on to the later levels cramming in enemy-spawning contraptions and armoured foes that require you to pull out your heavy-duty arsenal and Devil Breakers.
From the axe-wielding demons who get enraged when knocked down to the flying Baphomet flying goats who can freeze you on the spot if you’re not paying attention, you’ll definitely die a number of times getting the hang of crowd control and your character’s playstyle.
And then we come to the bosses. While most of them aren’t that memorable, they do have standout patterns and damaging attacks that require you to be on your toes so that you don’t use up your Red Orbs or Gold Orbs to revitalize yourself when you’re out of the count. The fights aren’t as out there and as eye-popping as a Platinum Games’ title, but they’re not too shabby.
My personal standouts include the Neo Angelo knight fight, the giant walker demon thing whose legs you have to knock down, and the real fights with Urizen.
Every other boss encounter? It’s what you expect from a Devil May Cry game: big giant demons with fire coming out of its belly, a flying angel-like winged demon with lasers, a three-headed giant dog with elemental attacks, and some demon with three wyrms that need taking down to get to the main guy. While that’s not a bad thing, they should have at least taken a few pages off of Hideki Kamiya’s past efforts and be a little more creative in design and fight setpieces.
Thankfully, the “Son of Sparda” and “Dante Must Die” difficulties up the stakes with remixed enemy placements and additional enemy health and attack damage. So far, the enemies don’t have any other unlocked moves in higher difficulty levels, which is a real shame since action gaming experts will not find that much of a special challenge with this iteration of Devil May Cry. It’ll still bust your balls, but not in a special Ninja Gaiden 2 or Dark Souls kind of way.
Since we’re on the faults nitpicking bit, it wouldn’t hurt to at least have a few Quick Time Events here and there to cap off the fight in a more satisfying manner instead of relying on cutscenes. As awesome as that intro to Devil May Cry 5 was with Nero going all slo-mo with the development team’s names popping up, I felt that it would have been a bit more effective if it was an interactive in-game scene.
And what is up with that “Devil Trigger” tune that plays during Nero’s fight that’s trying so hard to be a catchy earwig but ends up being annoying? It’s not a complete dealbreaker since they do switch it up with better music to accompany the fighting, particularly the themes of V, Dante, and the final few bosses. However, I’d rather Capcom mix it up with something akin to Noisia and Combichrist’s metal and electronica fusion from the Ninja Theory Devil May Cry game.
I should also point out the amount of loading going on, but that’s more for the console versions. The PC version is pretty fast if you have a beefy PC. That Bayonetta practice mode in-between loading and transitions would be very beneficial here.
Almost A Jackpot
So the question remains: Is Devil May Cry 5 better than Bayonetta & Bayonetta 2? Of course not, but nothing is.
What we have here instead is a pretty damn good action hack-and-slash title featuring three awesome-to -play-as power fantasies that oozes style and substance; something that’s rare in this day and age. True, it’ll be a while to decide if this will be placed high in the best action game of all time shelf, but it’s definitely a noteworthy action title for this year that succeeds and is arguably superior to the games that preceded it.
It may not score platinum, but it deserves many gold medals simply for making up for its past sins of the series. So keep the hits coming, Capcom!
-Awesome controls, weapon choices, & combat.
-The three playable heroes are fun & unique from one another.
-Challenging yet fair gameplay & difficulty.
-Detailed and lush aesthetics.
-Not-so-memorable boss fights.
-Could use more over-the-top setpieces & action beats/QTEs.
-Tryhard battle music.
Final Score: 80/100