Devil May Cry and I have gone through a troubled relationship ever since yours truly ran into Dante’s Awakening in a ladies stationary store (of all places) back in 2007. Don’t ask. It was a different time. Deeply engrossed in the characters and the setting, yet turned off by the abysmal PC port, I’d go on to play Devil May Cry, Devil May Cry 4 and even everyone’s favorite semen sock DmC later down the line. So while that doesn’t make me a total fledgeling, I have never played a single Devil May Cry to completion. Taking a look Backlog Burner shows that there might be some sort of pattern in there. With Devil May Cry 5 dragging longtime fans out of their slumbering hidey-hole and filling my social media feed with lewd yet titillating memes, it’s a good time as any to go all-out on the latest outing of the most messed up family this side of the Earth. Does it live up to the nigh-impossible expectations of the fans or at the very least, wash off the bad taste left behind by DmC? Let’s find out.
Devil May Cry 5 is a character action /hack ‘n’ slash developed and published by Capcom. The game will be released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One simultaneously on 8 March 2019. This review is based on the pre-release PC version.
Story & Narrative
Look, it’s really hard to have a detailed breakdown the story of Devil May Cry 5 without spilling the whole beans and that’s the last thing I want to do. The short version is that the big bad demon Urizon plans to take over the earth and it’s up to your merry band of misfits to kick his ass and spew campy one-liners.
Taking place several years after the fateful events of DMC 4, the game opens with demon hunter Nero and a mysterious character named V rushing through what looks to be satan’s poophole searching for Dante amidst an apocalypse. The player is presented with a short taste of things to come (or kill) before the game fast forwards a month into the future. Apparently, things didn’t get any better. You are once again put into the one-armed Nero’s nimble shoes, once again, to kick some ass and spew corny one-liners. The game opens up with our hero, accompanied by the brash “artist” Nico roaming the devastated streets of Red Grave City, only to pull a Memento once every few missions to go back and forth between timelines for the sake of story development. Wow, that was hard to explain without spilling any of juicy bits.
What one might expect from a Devil May Cry story is indubitably present here. Players looking for a classic DMC experience filled with moments of over-the-top badassery, emotions, reconciliations, revelations larger than life characters, corny one-liners, towering villains and a subtle sense of the bizarre won’t be disappointed. That being said, it takes a while for the story to pick up the pace after it goes adrift after the initial hours, but once that happens, it’s a rollercoaster ride from there.
Gameplay & Mechanics
The gameplay of Devil May Cry 5 treads familiar ground while adjusting some of its mechanics to suit the modern standards. It’s still a no-nonsense character action game that’s easy to pick up but a vixen to master. The game still plays out in a third-person perspective through a set of linear missions with boss fights in between. Devil May Cry 5 differs from the other numbered titles in the series by allowing the implementation of a fully rotatable camera and a behind-the-back perspective, thanks in no small parts to DmC.
General Combat & Controls
Much like the previous entries, Devil May Cry 5 gives utmost importance to indulging in fast-paced combat against waves of enemies and encourages pulling off precise, rhythmic combos to fill up the rating meter in tandem. The combat in DMC 5 is fast, fluid and precise. It’s is basically sex on a plate. I’m glad to report that in the process of streamlining the controls, Capcom didn’t dumb down on the combat system. However, I found maintaining ratings to be pretty easy this time around if you’re at least semi-good at the combat. The Jump Cancel mechanic is also a lot easier to pull off and can be exploited to your heart’s content to pump the ratings way up, rendering the combat a bit too easy. But whether or not you do that, is up to you. Aside from these, this is the combat you know and love. Just refined.
Complementing the satisfying combat are the buttery controls. Even though you can complete the game using the keyboard and mouse combo, usage of a controller is highly recommended. The game reacts to your button presses without delay or stiffness. You can also remap every button to your liking. Overall, I had a better time with the controls in DMC 5 than any of the prior games. As tradition demands, if you expect to just button mash your way through the game, you might not make it past Human difficulty.
The Rule of Three
The major highlight of the game is the presence of three playable characters in the main campaign sporting their own signature playstyle and weapon-specific upgrades along with new moves. The player controls Nero, V and Dante at pre-designated sections in the story with some missions even offering you the option to play as your prefered characters, thereby increasing the already existing replayability a bit more. Capcom wasn’t kidding around when they said that each character will bring their own distinct playstyle to the game. Nero, V and Dante all play significantly different from one another, so much so that I need to write a separate section to detail all the nuances.
Nero might have had a haircut or two since DMC 4 but his style remains more of the same with the exception of the Devil Breakers. The story demands that Nero had his right hand taken away below the elbow. Thanks to Nico, he now has the option to switch between sleek (or funky) cybernetic hands to bring the pain (Is there anything Deus Ex can’t predict?). While the arsenal of Nero is just limited to his signature Red Queen and Blue Rose, these Devil Breakers bring some much-needed variation and experimentation to his playstyle. Atop the Wire Snatch which lets Nero grapple onto enemies and pulls them closer/pulls him closer to them, these prosthetics can be used to deliver crackling shockwaves, slow down time, deliver a vicious right jab, healing mid-fight and on and on. You can also customise your Devil Breaker loadout prior to a mission and replenish your supply (yes, they can be used up in battle when they’re fully charged up to unleash devastating attacks).
Nero is the most casual friendly of the three and it somewhat explains the simplified controls and limited moveset. Playing as Nero would have definitely gotten monotonous if it wasn’t for the Devil Breakers. This is a good time to mention that I low-key despise Capcom for making some of Breakers exclusive to the Digital Deluxe edition.
V comes off as the refreshing smell of wet dirt in the hot summers of South India. What I mean by this completely unnecessary comparison is that just as Nero was making things a little too casual, V comes in and completely changes the gameplay formula. Thanks to his frail nature and his summoning capabilities, V takes a backseat to the center row gameplay of Nero to bring down heaven and hell on demonic entities. V is accompanied by a sarcastic demonic raven called Griffon, a demonic black panther aptly named Shadow, both of which can be directly controlled by V and a bigass demonic golem (you see the pattern here, don’t you?) called Nightmare that does what it does best on his own: smash! The only time V has to directly enter the fight is to finish off weakened enemies wrecked by the ranged attacks of the raven and the relenting assault of the panther.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy playing as V. In fact, I prefer V to Nero by a small margin (hate on me all you want). It might be a more safe-bet way of playing but it’s also more hectic to keep up the precious SSS rank when you have to control two characters simultaneously, all the while keeping a safe distance.
It goes without saying that Dante is the most complex and rewarding character to play as. Sporting 4 melee weapons and 4 ranged weapons, (their identity shall remain a secret for the sake of keeping this review spoiler free), four playstyles from the prior games (that can be switched at any time) and his signature Devil Trigger, Dante is an absolute orgasm to play. The combat of DMC 5 is at its best when you’re given absolute free reins of the Son of Sparda. The dynamic playstyle of Dante completely changes the pace of the combat and offers something new in almost all of his levels, thanks in no small parts to the story getting tighter by that point. Veterans of DMC 1,3 and 4 will feel right at home with Dante. Sometimes, it even made me wish I could play the whole game with him.
It’s commendable how the 20 mission campaign of DMC 5 evenly divides the campaign to Nero, V and Dante without anyone feeling left out. On Devil Hunter difficulty (the highest difficulty at the start of the game ), I was able to complete the single-player campaign at about 12 hours. Your mileage may vary depending on your playstyle. As of the time of writing this review, the in-game purchases have not been enabled and thus I won’t be able to speak about the nature of microtransactions.
Level & Enemy Design
If there is one thing Devil May Cry 5 does wrong, it’s the level design. You’d think that a franchise with such cool lore and locations would give you playgrounds other than the generic ruined city or hellish landscapes. One only has to look at the first and third entry in the franchise for examples of excellent level design with gothic castles, macabre geometries and grand set pieces. Sadly, DMC 5 slightly disappoints in this regard. Even if you discount the aesthetics, the level layout is painstakingly simple outside of a handful of missions here and there. It mostly boils down to going from A to B in a straight path with hardly any backtracking or the inclusion of any of the puzzle elements. At least it’s better than the asset flipped levels from the second half of DMC 4.
While the game sports a decent amount of variety in the enemy design, they only appear in small packets of 4-5 at any given time and leaves you wanting for more (at least in Devil Hunter difficulty). Most of the enemies are re-imagined versions of their previous counterparts and those who are memorable, are far and few in between. This also holds true for the boss fights. While there are 4 or so excellently designed boss fights, others belong to the tried and true variety. But that just might be me expecting every boss fight to be as goosebumps-inducing as Nelo Angelo from the original. With that said, there is enough in DMC 5 for the fans to not be disappointed and newcomers to be excited.
Visuals, Performance & Sound
God bless whoever came up with the Resident Evil 7 Engine. In short, the engine elevates Devil May Cry 5 to a whole new level of visual fidelity. Cutscenes are masterfully designed and animated, the motion capture is top of the line, the texture work and particle effects are decent and the PC version, from my experience, is the best one in the series so far.
The game was tested on the following specs:
- Intel Core i5 7500 3.40Ghz
- GTX 1070 8 GB
- 8×2 GB 2400Mhz DDR4 Ram
- 256 GB SSD
Like Resident Evil 7 before it, I found DMC 5 to be well optimised. At 1080p, the game ran well above 60 fps (usually it stayed between 80-120) with everything set to ultra (except motion blur. Just kill it with fire) in every single level except two, where it stayed above 50 fps. With a better CPU, you can probably achieve better results. On an SSD, the load times were less than 15 seconds. I did run into a nasty bug in one of the secret areas of the game where an integral enemy refused to spawn and as a result, I was stuck in the room unable to progress further. A checkpoint reload fixed this issue.
Sound design and music have always been an unavoidable part of the Devil May Cry series and DMC 5 has done the series’ legacy proud. From the sound design to the battle music is implemented well. Nothing beats hacking demons to bits while having your eardrums blown up rock/electronic tracks. A major change in this department is how the battle music in Devil May Cry 5 will change based on player’s Style rank. Honestly, I was having so much fun with the combat that I hardly noticed the chorus rising and falling. Ok, I did notice it occasionally, but it hardly became a concern for me. Voice acting for the characters are top notch. I did, however, end up disliking the voice acting for V just because it came off as too dramatic and tryhard-y. But that might have been intentional.
Devil May Cry 5 is a back to form for the series in almost all departments. The beloved characters and storytelling make a triumphant return along with well-polished gameplay, an addictive and nuanced combat system and a shiny coat of lustrous paint courtesy of the RE Engine. There is no reason why fans and newcomers alike shouldn’t pick the game up at full price. The prodigal sons have made a triumphant return.