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Devil May Cry 5 – Review

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The darkest of night falls around your soul, and the hunter within loses control. After more than 10 years, the Devil May Cry series performs the rarest of video game industry feats- the elusive de-boot and returns to it un-rebooted universe with Devil May Cry.

For those not in the know, the Devil May Cry series posits the simple question: what if we added another layer to character action where the objective was more than simply “kill all the monsters”? The result is the thesis of the Devil May Cry series- “Can you kill all the monsters while looking cool as hell?”

The result is a series of some of the best character action games in the business. But the games industry has changed much since Devil May Cry 4’s release in 2008. Could the game’s tongue-in-cheek style and fast-paced action still be relevant in today’s videogame landscape? Short answer- a big ol’ Smokin’ Sexy Yes.

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The facial work in the game looks amazing- combined with the amazing direction for the cutscenes, it leads to an actually enjoyable experience watching the cutscenes.

Presentation

Given the series ties to Resident Evil it’s no surprise Devil May Cry 5 is running on the new RE engine developed for the new wave of Resident Evil games. The result is a game that looks much grittier than its previous entries. Due to the engine originally being for a first-person horror game though, it gives DMC a variety of useful quirks, one of them being the faces in the game. They’re just stylised enough that they don’t look entirely anime, but steer off the uncanny valley.

Despite the gorgeous visuals of the game though, the game doesn’t suffer for it. The game runs at a solid 60 fps even on a regular PS4, and even has customizable field of view.

One thing older fans may notice is the sheer volume of long cutscenes in this game. While not Kojima-level, the game does a better job of mixing the plot and gameplay, and as a result it feels like every mission starts with a long cutscene explaining how we got from the end of the last mission to this one.

The one concrete net-flaw of this game would be its loading screens. Selecting a mission will give you at minimum two loading screens, bookending the introductory cutscene for the mission. Any attempts to customize your character (which in Nero’s case you will be doing for every mission) add another two, taking you back and from the customization menu. These screens aren’t short, either, and the amount of delay between wanting to start a mission and actually getting to play the game are a blemish on the game’s good streak.

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Feats like Jump Canceling are much easier to do now, allowing more people to do complex moves as part of their big combos

Gameplay

If I could describe the combat in DMC 5, it would be as follows: Low barrier of entry, high skill ceiling. The game plays better than it looks, with a fluid and deep combat system that many action games could stand to learn from.

For newcomers, the Devil May Cry games have a “Style ranking”- a gauge that fills up as you do technically impressive and powerful moves. They give diminishing returns in score if you overuse them, though, so you’ll need to get creative with your combos.

Upping the ante from 4, you now get three playable characters, who each play differently: The veteran demon hunter Dante who changes his playstyle with his 4 “styles”, the young Nero, whose core moveset is more holistic but swaps out different tools to enhance that, and newcomer V- a unique keepaway character who controls demons to fight for him.

Unlike DMC 4 and many games with multiple heroes, you never really play one character for too long at once. The story jumps back and forth along a timeline, as you get to learn what the three characters were up to during key events in the game’s story. On one hand, this may seem disorienting as you forget your combos for V as you play a Nero stage.

On the other, however, it prevents a problem in DMC 4: what if you just didn’t like the other character? If I have to play as V after a Dante section, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of Dante, I can keep playing him a few missions later.

Aside from that, there’s the levels themselves- it feels so refreshing to say the words “level design” because the game actually has these- actual levels, with actual design put into them. Enemies present complex problems you need to solve, while also solving the game’s main problem (keeping up your style meter).

There’s an enemy that gains armor after taking too many hits- meaning you can’t flinch it out of its next attack, which means even the most offensive player is going to need to guard or dodge the next hit or hear the disappointed cry of the Style announcer calling you out for your mediocrity. There’s another that spins in a wheel and needs to be shot at to flinch it out before it hurls itself towards you to rob you of your health and style points. All of these are presented in sealed off kill-rooms, meaning you’re going to have to solve these problems before you’re free to progress.

In contrast to DMC 4, the combat feels a lot more streamlined in the sense that the levels aren’t built to waste your time. Gone are the elaborate platforming puzzles and dice games, which is more a sign of the series growth, knowing that its core gameplay loop- that of fighting enemies, has been trusted to carry you for the entirety of the game. There are still the occasional puzzles, but, save for one Nero stage, never are they so bad that you wish you could cut through it to get to the next fight.

The game has plenty of reasons to go back to older missions, not least of all the pursuit of higher style

Content

An astounding amount of content has been put into Devil May Cry 5, yet in such a way that it doesn’t take you from the main focus of the game. Rather than add countless minigames, puzzles et cetera the game gives you plenty of customization for the three playable characters.

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Chief of customization is Nero, who uses a series of mechanical arms with all kinds of support abilities from stopping time to piercing the heavens with his drill. They range from “powerful attack” to “powerful tool”, letting you really play Nero the way you want to. You can swap out these loadouts before the mission starts or at select points in a mission, similar to the Goddess of Time statues from previous games.

Dante has his staple of collecting Devil Arms, too, gaining more weapons as he defeats more bosses. Unlike previous games, however, he now has the ability to simply not use certain weapons to downsize on how many he has to swap between to combo. He even has a secret gun- one unobtainable unless you actually seek it out, which leaves you with a good feeling knowing that not everything is simply being handed to you.

This brings me to the next big point- the levels, again. Despite DMC 5 being a linear game, they’ve packed the levels with plenty of secrets and collectibles, but not too many that it feels like busy work. All the usual staples are there- Blue Orb shards for health, Gold orbs for revives and Secret Missions- though those come with a neat twist that makes them easier to spot.

Speaking of Secret Missions, the game does carry over one thing the reboot did right- the ability to replay Secret Missions from a menu. This seems to go well with the game’s central mission- not to distract you from the action with pointless busywork.

The game also has a weird co-op mechanic- the Cameo System. How this works is that certain missions are linked to each other, as a result of the game’s tendency to hop along a timeline. For example, you could have one Nero mission and one V mission several missions apart, but in the context of the story, they’re happening simultaneously and not too far from each other. As a result, if you are playing the Nero part of that story, you can glance over and see V in the distance playing his own mission, and it would be controlled in real time by another player, which the game will inform you.

This all seems like a nice gimmick until you reach a certain point in the game that turns it up to eleven- during one mission in the game, you can choose which of the three heroes to play as. After selecting it, you now get to share three killrooms with other players, playing as the other characters. There are tools in the settings to pair you up with friends though they seem to work at their own discretion, but even the excitement of working together is just a whole other level of excitement, especially after always being blocked by walls and distance.

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Verdict

Devil May Cry 5 is a game that values the player’s experience, having been lovingly crafted to ensure that no matter what you’re doing, you’re having fun. It has an astounding amount of replay value with harder difficulties and simply the pursuit of higher style leading you to keep playing the game.

If you don’t care much for story, I could totally recommend the game simply on the merit of “it’s just that bloody good”. For the more story conscious, though, I’d recommend at the very least picking up DMC 4 first as it is very much a continuation of Dante and Nero’s story rather than its own standalone thing. The game does come with a primer on the backstory of the previous games to bring you up to speed, however, and if you’re fine with looking to Wikipedia or spelunking through the game’s datalogs to get more answers, then, by all means, you’re going to have a great time with this game.

This is a game that knows it’s cool, but wants you to know it’s even cooler than that.

And you know what? Jackpot.


Game reviewed on PS4. Copy purchased by reviewer

9

Devil May Cry 5

Devil May Cry 5 is a game that values the player's experience, having been lovingly crafted to ensure that no matter what you're doing, you're having fun. It has an astounding amount of replay value with harder difficulties and simply the pursuit of higher style leading you to keep playing the game.

This is a game that knows it's cool, but wants you to know it's even cooler than that.

And you know what? Jackpot.

  • Presentation 9
  • Gameplay 10
  • Content 8