From the moment "Devil Trigger" kicks off as Nero goes flying outside of a pinwheeling van, you know that Devil May Cry is back. It's been eleven years since the last "proper" Devil May Cry, and Capcom's Japanese team wants you to know it like a bullet to the brain. I liked Ninja Theory's DmC: Devil May Cry for what it was, a fun action game with some truly unique level designs. Despite that, the combat wasn't as tight as its predecessor, it missed the style Devil May Cry was known for, and for all the reimaginings, it wasn't the original cast. Loading up Devil May Cry 5, I couldn't hold back the smile seeing the B-movie tone and these characters back where they belong.
While the western reboot used the trappings of the franchise in a new manner, Devil May Cry 5 is firmly rooted in the series' history. This is the end of the winding, twisting adventure that began in 2001. In that, there's a caveat: You might be able to enjoy Devil May Cry 5's gameplay without any familiarity, but the story will leave you feeling hopelessly lost.
A New Heaven is Begun: The Story
Devil May Cry 5 looks absolutely fantastic, which is no surprise given that it's running on the same engine that powered the gorgeous Resident Evil 7 and the Resident Evil 2 remake. While I was initially disappointed with the opening environments, which trend towards mutated cities-the shifting cityscapes of DmC were another high point of that game-later levels more than make up for it. The performance is a solid 60 fps on Xbox One, though it feels like it dips below that when things get truly hectic. Despite that, it's a damn looker.
DMC 5 hero Nero has a new look, and his personality is a little lighter and more enjoyable than the punk we knew in Devil May Cry 4. The former knight is now working with his uncle Dante at Devil May Cry, until a mysterious figure steals his arm (which is also a sword). The entire squad, including Nero, Dante, Trish, and Lady, later responds to a demon invasion, which sees most of the crew taken out of action. Now it's up to Nero and his mechanic Nico to save the others and save the world.
While Dante is playable in Devil May Cry 5, Nero takes center stage to start. You'll switch between three characters depending on the mission at hand: some missions only offer a single choice, while others let you pick between two or three options. Dante isn't actually available until mission 10, out of a total of 20 available missions in the main campaign. If Dante is your main squeeze, just be ready for that.
It's not much better if you're a long-time fan who loves any of the women of Devil May Cry. Trish and Lady appear in the game, but they don't get to do much outside of being beaten, kidnapped, and returning mostly naked. That's better than Nero's girlfriend Kyrie, who is mentioned several times, but never actually appears on-screen.
Instead, Devil May Cry 5 adds Nico, the mechanic behind Nero's artificial replacement arms, the Devil Breakers. Nico has ties to two different DMC characters and carries an odd southern twang; it doesn't sound right at all, but the delivery is so off that it kind of fits with Devil May Cry's tone. Nico is the shopkeeper, appearing in the customization screens. She's obviously the most powerful character in DMC history, being that she can seemingly drive her van into anywhere, including demon hellscapes. That said, the camera is fond of Nico's midriff, which stands out given the treatment of Trish and Lady. It didn't turn me off of DMC 5, but an eyebrow was raised.
He Only Holds a Candle in Sunshine: The Gameplay
Devil May Cry 5 is still a Devil May Cry game, the series that coined the term "stylish hard action." No matter which character you're playing, it's all about chaining together unique and interesting moves. You're graded on every encounter, so the system is always looking to see if you're spamming the same move or trying to strut your stuff with flamboyant violence. Losing a "SSS" grade because you took a hit is deflating, but it also pushes you to try harder in the future.
The new character this time around is V, who stands as the last playable character in Devil May Cry 5. V is a mystery and the impetus for Dante's Devil May Cry team being involved in the demon invasion. Nero and V share the opening missions of the campaign, giving players a chance to dive into their play styles, which diverge wildly from one another.
Nero is an evolution of his play style in Devil May Cry 4. He retains his Red Queen sword and his Blue Rose double shot pistol. The Red Queen is still based on the Exceed system, which sees players rev the motorcycle grip to supercharge attacks. Nero's Devil Bringer arm from the last game also returns, but in a vastly expanded form.
Now Nero has several Devil Breakers he can equip, which take the form of different arms that augment your play style. Each one has a basic attack, like the Overture's electric shock or the Helter Skelter's guard-breaking drill, and a supercharged maneuver; for instance, literally being able to surf around the battlefield on the rocket-enabled Punch Line. Nero can use the Whip Snatch move regardless of which Devil Breaker is equipped, pulling small enemies in his direction, or bringing himself face-to-face with larger foes.
Devil Breakers are a finite utility though, shattering if you take a hit while using their basic abilities or after their supercharged attack is used. You can also choose to detonate one to create some space between you and an enemy. Once the equipped Breaker is used up, that instance of the weapon is lost to the ether. You can find replacement Breakers in each level at random, or purchase them from Nico's store.
Since you can lose them and only change your loadout of Breakers at the store, there's a large amount of strategy in choosing the right ones. The Ragtime can literally slow enemies down with its basic attack, but it costs more than the basic Overture or Gerbera Breakers. In addition, you can't switch between them in combat, so it's a limited version of deck building. I tend to front-load with a basic Breaker, leaving my later slots for more specialized choices. I do wish you had the ability to switch between Breakers like Dante's style switching, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.
Speaking of Dante, he's further simplified from his Devil May Cry 4 appearance, while still being very similar. Dante can switch styles and weapons on the fly, allowing him to quickly adjust to any situation. All four attack styles are present: the aggressive Sword Master, the ranged Gunslinger, the mobile Trickster, and the timing-heavy Royalguard. He's probably a bit much for neophyte players, seeing as he comes halfway through the game with a decent sized kit, but veterans should ease right into him.
V is completely different from Nero and Dante. Devil May Cry 5's Criss Angel-like protagonist is not a physical fighter, preferring to let familiars do battle for him. Shadow is a big cat that can teleport and morph into various forms, while Griffin is a bird that can shoot lightning at foes. V doesn't attack anything directly, as hitting either attack button summons Shadow and Griffin either at V's location or near his chosen enemy. The familiars can't actually kill an enemy either; they merely drop them into a vulnerable state, where V has to deal the killing blow.
V's play style is all about managing space. You want to keep V away from enemies while also moving your familiars around the battlefield. The familiar each have life bars as well, so you need to keep them alive; if one's health falls to zero, it has to regenerate, meaning you can't use their attack. It's far different from Nero's in-your-face combat. It feels almost like an RPG, a faster version of the combat you'd find in something like Final Fantasy 15. I actually started enjoying V more than Nero, and was sad he was available for the fewest amount of solo missions by my count. (I wish you could play any character in any stage after completing it. Alas.) That Capcom was able to clearly differentiate all three heroes is pretty amazing-they each have their own skills to unlock as well.
An Improvement of Sensual Enjoyment: The Full Package
The rest of the package in Devil May Cry 5 is equally thoughtful. While you're making decisions in the shop, you can pop over to The Void, a fighting game style training room where you can take a look at new moves and combos or practice with existing skills. You can tweak settings in The Void, changing enemy AI or giving yourself unlimited Devil Breakers. It's a great addition to the franchise, to the point that I wonder why this is the first time it's existed.
While there are "only" 20 missions available in the campaign-around 15 hours of play-there are also things to discover. Beating the game on Devil Hunter, the normal difficulty mode, nets access to Son of Sparda, and there are still more difficulty modes above that. There are a number of Secret Missions you can find, which offer challenges like killing enemies with a single bullet in their weak point, or getting to a location without touching the ground. Each level also hides other secrets, like hidden Red, Blue, or Gold Orbs, as well as letters from Dante's confidant, J.D. Morrison.
Hunting Red Orbs is key, because you'll need them to unlock all of the skills and purchase any available equipment for your characters. Probably the biggest misstep of Devil May Cry 5 is that you can also purchase Red Orbs with real money. (Orb prices were not live at time of publication.) The most expensive ability is a Stylish taunt for 3 million Orbs, which sounds bad, but honestly isn't the kind of thing a player needs. Most of the other abilities feel reasonable. I didn't feel the need to buy, but I could see players who are struggling feeling that temptation. Especially since, as I noted before, Devil Breakers are a finite resource. If you're dying a lot or low on Devil Breakers, I could see it being more enticing.
Devil May Cry 5 rounds itself out with a jukebox where you can hear classic songs from previous games and even set them as a character's battle theme. The soundtrack, a mix of thrash metal and violin pieces, is great in general too; this is notable to me because I don't normally pay attention to soundtracks. I didn't pay much attention ahead of time, but now "Devil Trigger" is in rotation on my Spotify gym playlist.
There's also one of the best extras I've ever seen: an entire set of alternate cutscenes. These are the live-action, pre-visualizations done prior to rendering the actual characters, and they're all fantastic. You can actually have these play instead of the real cutscenes and they're both intriguing and hilarious.
All Capcom really needed to do with Devil May Cry 5 was update the classic DMC gameplay with a modern coat of paint. That's the foundation here, but Capcom also added more depth to Nero with the Devil Breakers, and offered a whole new style of play with V. The Void finally gives players a chance to try before they buy. And if you want to know Dante's fate, this is your only ticket, delivered by the folks that understand him best.
Devil May Cry 5 is an excellent return to form for the franchise, not only closing out one story, but setting its world up for a bright future. Yes, it relies on visual polish, a cheeky tone, and metal rock bombast to propel it forward, but underneath all that is a perfect action combat game. Director Hideaki Itsuno and his team know what they're doing. Platinum Games' Bayonetta may match it in over-the-top action, but Devil May Cry 5's fundamentals are tighter. Devil May Cry is back. Hopefully it won't be another decade before we get another.
Capcom fills fans' dark souls with light! Devil May Cry 5 is an excellent return to form for the franchise, setting it up for a bright future. Nero's here, Dante's back in pitch-perfect form, and V provides a brand-new style of play. All Capcom really needed to do with Devil May Cry 5 was repackage the classic DMC gameplay with a modern coat of paint, but DMC 5 is an excellent, thoughtful update.