When devil hunter Dante was last seen, it was in DmC, Ninja Theory’s reimagining of Capcom’s action franchise Devil May Cry. However, some of the series fans saw the game as blasphemy and took it to their heart to declare a holy crusade against it. Well, I never understood what exactly was supposedly so wrong with the game that had some people devoting their lives to hating it. Even today, topics declaring how atrocious DmC is keep popping up in gaming message boards. Now, Capcom itself makes a return to the series. Devil May Cry 5 ignores DmC in the series canon and follows up from where Devil May Cry 4 was left off. I think it’s rather arrogant as Devil May Cry 5 owes more to DmC than Capcom cares to admit. Ninja Theory successfully reformatted fixed camera angles of previous games into a smooth 3rd-person action and Capcom follows closely on trail.
Nero, Dante and new acquaintance to the series, mysterious V, find themselves in an unfair predicament. A new, mighty demon Urizen has risen to threaten the humanity and the threesome can’t match his ultimate power. It doesn’t help that Nero has lost his right arm a couple of months earlier so the ensuing battle is short – and lost. Back in the earthen realm, a nefarious demon tree Qliphoth shoots up from the ground and splits a town of Red Grave in half. Nero, alongside his new associate, a groovy gunsmith Nico, ride to the event horizon, sure that tracing the roots of evil also leads to Urizen’s demise.
Each of the heroic trio of Devil May Cry 5 has his own gameplay quirks. Nero waves a sword and a gun with his remaining arm but can also use his replaceable prosthetic arms, crafted by Nico, to aid him in battle. They pack a mean punch but can also be sacrificed for each arm’s devil breaker attack (like riding on a top of Punchline prosthesis) or for blowing them up to escape from boss characters’ clutches. V is unlike any character in a hack-and-slash game ever. As a frail man with an aesthetic of a goth rocker and poet, he doesn’t fight himself. Instead, he summons and commands familiars to do the dirty work, only leaving killing blows for him to do with his cane. Griffon and a black panther Shadow are V’s bread and butter damage dealers as commanded by ranged and melee attack buttons. His devil trigger calls forth a gigantic elemental Nightmare to wreck uncontrollable havoc around. As for Dante, well, he’s Dante, a jack of all trades with four fighting styles and an ever-growing arsenal of guns and swords, while his devil trigger turns him into a fierce demon.
The fact that Capcom brushed DmC aside doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or that I couldn’t compare Devil May Cry 5 to it. I liked how Ninja Theory inserted its own sense of anarchy to the series, bringing wit and brass to the presentation and gameplay with a younger, British punk Dante. Quite not like Devil May Cries before it, the game was arranged into a vigorous alternative rock that rattled through the grotesque side of devildom and featured complex but smooth sword and gunplay. Played to the beat of trashy and forgettable metal, Devil May Cry 5 opts for not only to admire its demons but also match their, eh, beauty, with an arsenal that goes through the roof in their show-off to rack up those precious style points. This results in an encompassing problem with the game; it’s all too brief and limited when measured against its over-sized action palette that can and must be upgraded even further either via Nico’s van or later, through goddess statuettes.
A simpler, more streamlined action scheme would have made the gameplay more creative in itself, because, contradictory as it sounds, if all the extra flash was removed, underneath lies a pretty generic hack-and-slash game. Instead of outright loving Devil May Cry 5 – indeed I should as on paper, it features just the kind of action I’m a fan of – it’s just OK. The irony here is that the game is a case of style over substance, the matter that gains more proof by an emphasis on presentation and an abundance of admittedly stylish and over-the-top cutscenes. As they are constant and feature crazy action-acrobatics that can’t be pulled off in the game, they just help to underline the generic nature of the gameplay.
The game dangles Dante bait for so long, and in midway through the story, he finally makes an entrance, looking like a middle-aged rocker having one of those days. Never mind the washed-out looks, you’d think that with his multiple styles and plethora of melee and long-range weapons, each more outrageous than the one before, he would be an embodiment of cool to play as – complementing his rugged appearance. Alas, the game tries too hard with him, turning his gameplay into an anti-climactic power display of abundant hack-and-slash and gunplay without fear or worries, with his devil trigger (and later, sin-version of it) turning him into a too unstoppable force worthy of challenging even the mightiest adversaries. It’s all too exaggerated for the relatively short screen time Dante gets, a flex of muscles to make diehard fans rejoice.
Devil May Cry 5 is at its best when it gives room for its new stars to shine. Nico is always a sight for sore eyes whenever she crashes to the scene with her fully-stocked van, all cheeky and quirky, and thrilled by her latest invention she can’t wait showing up to the boys. Playing as V is quite awesome. He may look and move like a straw at the mercy of a beating wind, but he acts like a mad conductor, orchestrating a glamorous opera of beautiful destruction around him. I wish there were more stages to play as him and on a couple of occasions I got to choose the hero to play as, it was an easy V for me. However, towards the home stretch, he is wasted (literally) and Nico and other girls are brushed to the sidelines. Yea, femme fatales of the series, Lady and Trish, get rescued along the way but they spend their little screen time in Nico’s van with no real roles to play in the story apart from looking like groupies to the demonic heroes on tour.
Occasional high points aside, levels are too short and 20 of them simply isn’t enough for three protagonists, especially when half of the game paves the way for the ending. DMC5 gets stuck in hellish and linear corridors of Qliphoth for no other purpose than travel through them to the next cutscene that advances the story as gameplaywise, the stages aren’t constructive or conducive. Most of the time, I was also left unimpressed with end of level boss designs and more importantly, the gameplay it takes to best them. Dodge-and-spam carries through almost each boss fight as none of them feature exciting mechanics to challenge the player beyond being vigilant and agile. I also wish the game would have spanned over larger theater of events, giving scope to the story that is all too curled up in the series’ trademark themes. Yet, the tale the game tells is straightforward as they come, with revelations that not so much surprise than make fans no doubt content.
Visually, Devil May Cry 5 is nothing short of awesome. It’s ridiculous how good it can look, and it’s even more ridiculous that all its graphical splendor with no effects spared runs in a consistent 60fps. Mind you, most Western developers struggle even with 30fps with considerably less visual fidelity. At its best, the game shoots fireworks from all fronts, making the screen fill up with colors and forms. As for character models, they feature the same exquisite face modeling that was in works in Resident Evil 2. Real people (attractive models) have been face-scanned as they are, with no retouching or alterations to their features, apart from the styling, of course. These faces are not built from ill-fitting pieces with some character creation tool and the results are oh, so lifelike but not in a harmful uncanny valley way. I usually don’t mention anything about difference between Japanese and English voicework as I think it’s up to a personal preference which one you like to hear. However, now I must make an exception. Japanese voice actors are refreshingly playful while their English-speaking counterparts take matters a bit too seriously.
When I read what I have written so far, I realize I sound off so negative. Don’t get me wrong, Devil May Cry 5 is an exceptional piece of digital entertainment but I wanted it to be so much more. Somehow, I expected that Capcom would re-invent the old-fashioned in the same way they made the excellent Resident Evil 2. Devil May Cry 5 has its best moments when it lets its new and unheard voice roar free and wild but I think that too much time is spent on treading familiar ground of the series. Of course, the game looks more amazing than anything before it, but the tried-and-tested gameplay is only elevated by its pompous overdoses. However, the ending was a saving grace as it wasn’t entirely something I had expected. It left me in high spirits, all invigorated and happy that I saw the story through, although the journey to the conciliatory climax lacked excitement when it needed it most.
Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.