SAVAGE!!! roars out from my TV as I pull off a flurry of hard-hitting combos to the many demons that are occupying my display. As I hurl a scythe-wielding skull-faced monster to the roof of a root infested hotel room, a smile creeps onto my face whilst I land the killing blow with a robotic arm that skewers the demon to its demise. I am of course talking about Capcom’s latest release, Devil May Cry 5, or V if you prefer. The game was released last month and I, like many other gamers, are having a blast with it.
“Simply, a joy to play” is how I would describe Devil May Cry 5 to anyone who has yet to play the game and lay waste to an army of demons. Gameplay has always been the focal point of the Devil May Cry series and in this latest instalment, it shines brighter than Nero going full-on gung-ho in Devil mode. Yes, there are still multiple difficulty levels bordering on insanity and yes, pulling off those SSS combos will take precision and some understanding of the core mechanics of the game. That being said, I can say with confidence that this entry in the franchise is easily the most welcoming for newbies or players who fear they may not be able to pull off those beautiful, enemy slaying combos that can feel nigh on impossible in other games of this genre, including previous Devil May Cry entries (I’m looking at you Devil May Cry 3).
Three playable characters each with their own distinct styles are on offer here. Nero, returning from his debut outing in Devil May Cry 4 is back and definitely feels fleshed out in this entry. Gone is the guy who felt like he was placed in the series as a Dante look-a-like and who ultimately felt lightyears behind Dante in Devil May Cry 4. This time around, Nero is more badass and I found myself rooting for him all the way throughout Devil May Cry 5. Unfortunately for Nero, he is missing his right arm when we pick up the controller and begin our play-through.
Luckily for us, Nico, a chain-smoking, wise-cracking NPC (who is also killer behind the wheel) is on hand -pun intended – to kindly attach robotic appendages. These silly, yet amazing all the same, attachments are called ‘Devil Breakers’. The player is able to attach a certain amount before each mission and they can also be found during the many levels that Nero makes his way through. Holding R1 and a tap of circle will extend the false arm and bring an unsuspecting demon hurtling towards you. Holding Circle will unleash the unique ability of your currently equipped Breaker. These range from a flurry of punches, laser beam shots and increasing your sword power to name a few. Nero’s sword, Red Queen and his gun, Blue Rose both return giving you a tasty medley of weapons in your arsenal. I won’t spoil this for anyone who has yet to complete the game but at *some* point, Nero’s abilities are expanded so much so that it begs repeat playthroughs.
Up next we have V, who makes his debut appearance in Devil May Cry 5. At first glance, V looks more like a teen on a vegan diet who listens only to hardcore metal music rather than a demon slayer. I will admit that before playing Devil May Cry 5, after watching some gameplay videos and reading interviews with the developers, playing as V didn’t exactly sound all that exciting or enthralling. I was wrong. V comes with two main Familiars (familiars being another word for ‘Summons’) and a third which can be brought into the fray once V’s Devil Trigger bar fills. Shadow and Griffon are the two which are always on hand to fight alongside V. Shadow is a panther-like beast that moves on all fours during battle. Griffon, as the name would imply, is a bird that swoops in on enemies and can help V avoid damage during battle by flying him away from immediate danger. The third familiar is Nightmare, a whopping ogre-esque fiend that can wipe out all that is in his path. The catch with V in a clever and bold design choice by Capcom, is that he cannot deal any real damage himself but must deliver the killing blow to all enemies.
Therein lies the dilemma with V. You must keep the cane-walker out of harms way whilst the familiars devastate any enemies that come into battle, but then once a demon turns pale, V must strike them down with his cane. On paper, it is a formula that I can appreciate doesn’t necessarily sound all that enticing but once you get in the groove, you’ll wonder how you ever criticised the goth looking protagonist. V isn’t my favourite character of choice in this game, however, in some respects he is the most intriguing and the one that I am most interested in discussing with other players further down the line.
And then there was Dante. The pièce de résistance. The crown jewel. The character who birthed the series way back in 2001 when Hideki Kamiya was at the helm. Let me be clear, playing as Nero and V is hella’ fun but playing as Dante is where the gameplay, combat and style really excels. Even his name is cool…’Dante’. Anyone who has played or followed the series will have an idea of what to expect when it comes to playing as the iconic demon killer. The dual pistols, Ebony & Ivory. Royal Guard. Rebellion sword. They are all back in the fifth instalment from Capcom as you remember them but similarly feel fresh and invigorating at the same time. Capcom isn’t pulling any tricks here, the Dante you control is rooted in the character’s portrayal from the first and third entries in the series.
The difference here is that Dante has been refined and polished gorgeously in Capcoms spectacular RE Engine which makes for some epic moments in the latter stages of the game. Minor spoilers ahead – Once you reach the game’s climax, Dante will have four main weapons, four sub-weapons, four different styles of play as well as two different forms of Devil Trigger. That in itself shows just how much variety and options you have at your disposal when playing as the series veteran.
Despite the choice on offer with Dante, you can switch and flip your styles so effortlessly and fluidly that you never feel overwhelmed or unable to pull off those SSStylish combos. With more choice naturally comes more decision making and it is here where I believe Dante will be a joy for the purists. You could go through an entire level and only use one or two weapons or styles of play. Knowing which tactics to deploy, especially on those brutal difficulties, can and will be the difference between staying alive and getting your butt kicked by Hell’s minions. I mean Dante even wields a demonic motorcycle that can be split in two for Pete’s sake. How can anyone else in this virtual world hope to top that?
‘Bloody Palace’ mode, which has been a staple of the series since Devil May Cry 2, was released on April 1st. In this, the player has their mettle tested to the max as you fight against wave after wave, onslaught after onslaught of demons, progressing to the next stage once all the foul stenching beasts of that level have been taken care of. 101 stages to be exact. Yep, each character has over a hundred stages to make it through if you want to beat Bloody Palace. It is in this mode that your Youtubers, Twitch streamers and fanatics will be flexing their Devil May Cry muscles and making us all look like mediocre casual gamers in the process. In the past, ‘Bloody Palace’ has been known to be excruciating at times and this latest iteration is no different. Once you die, you will have to restart from the beginning, although one lifeline that Capcom throws your way is that any stage you have cleared previously is available to select for a’ warm-up’. It is here you will be able to practice strategies and play around with what works best in the stage selected which will hopefully help improve your next run and edge closer to the finale.
Up until this point, I have spoken purely of the gameplay element of Devil May Cry 5. I haven’t mentioned the humorous and witty banter between the cast. Not once did I bring up the snazzy menu backgrounds. I have failed to talk about the riffing audio this game blasts out, nor have I raised the topic of the game’s plot. For me, these are all just lavish portions of icing on what is a satisfyingly tasty piece of cake. I am excited as to where the series goes from here as Capcom have certainly outdone themselves and placed Devil May Cry once again as the King of the hack ‘n’ slash genre. This is one of my favourite action games in a long, long time and feels significantly refreshing in a gaming landscape littered with loot boxes and micro-transactions.
Devil May Cry 5, as I mentioned earlier on, is simply a joy to play. And what more can you ask for than that?
Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC