I had (almost) no history with the Devil May Cry franchise apart from the highly divisive reboot, that was until February of this year. After being peer pressured into the franchise, I was finally able to see the light. Having completed DMC3SE and DMC4SE right at the cusp of Devil May Cry 5’s release (albeit on the Demon Hunter difficulty), I succumbed to massive amounts of hype within a short span of time. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait 10 years to get the sequel, unlike most fans. Yes, Dante’s move-set in 4 was staggeringly huge and yes, Vergil kicked my ass in 3 more times than any boss in Souls games has, but the thought of being able to pull off “curaaazhhhyyyy” epic combos like the DMC veteran Youtuber Donguri, just made me excited.
Having completed DMC3 on 6th March right before the review embargos for Capcom’s latest hack & slash had lifted, I went ahead and (technically) pre-ordered the game. I wanted to be ready as soon as the game unlocked at 5:30 am on 8th March. I didn’t sleep the day before due to the excitement and was impatiently spending time in DMC4’s bloody palace till the moment of 5’s release. So, was the game worth it?
HELL YEAH, IT WAS!!!!
After the demo that released in February, the only thing going through my mind was how fun Nero’s devil arms were going to be and fun they are; the Devil Breakers, each with their own gimmick, have obviously been implemented to compensate for the gargantuan difference of variety that was present between his and Dante’s move-set in DMC4 (well it is still there, but more on that later). There are a total of 8 Devil Breakers in the standard edition of the game, each of them bringing a unique ability to the table. My favorite breaker was either the Tomboy which increased the damage on Blue Rose/Red Queen or the Punchline which was simply cool because of the hoverboard ability. Most of Nero’s sword skills carry over from DMC4 with nifty additions like Payline and Hardway.
V is an odd character in terms of gameplay. He looks extremely cool with his furry (and rocky) pets – like a sly magician with ever-surprising tricks up his sleeves – but to me, he felt jarring to use. In an action game where it’s all about getting into the thick of the fight and coming out the other end with a grin on your face, V’s gameplay can be quite an exercise. But that’s like, just my opinion. V has no offensive power on his own and has to depend on his pets to do all the fighting. That does not mean the player can stay in a sniper position and dish out huge damage – the pets also have a summon range, especially the melee one. This forces the player to take V into the fray. To top that off, even the pets have their own health bars, making the equation unbalanced – 3 health bars to defend with 2 attacking members (excluding the Devil Trigger). From what I have played on the SoS difficulty, V is much harder to use than Nero and Dante due to his limited move set.
Now Dante is where the real fun is at; while I was really excited about Nero’s Devil Breakers, I forgot all about him once I reached Dante’s part of the game. DMC’s mainstay protagonist’s variety of weapons and styles just takes combat to a whole new level.
After finally realizing why the Royal Guard is so overpowered and understanding that air trick can be used to cover large distances instead of using a stinger move to track enemies, switching styles became a necessity. There is something really cathartic about pulling off all kinds of combos on bosses, relentlessly attacking and parrying every attack while being able to avoid damage and getting that SSSweet rank – and that’s what the true essence of DMC is.
His arsenal of weapons just solidifies his position as “The Legendary Devil Hunter” – from Balrog to Cavaliere to the bazookas, his arsenal just is an endless well of depth. 4 melee weapons and 4 ranged make getting SSS ranking very easy. The extra effects on weapons that come with the various styles combined with his already huge moveset make him seem like he almost is in a different game altogether.
Unlike modern hack & slash games*cough*, there is no ability cooldown, no automated combos, no soft locking on to targets etc. It is old school, balls-to-the-wall action. The game also doesn’t tell the player every skill on the face. In spite of having a skill list menu, there are a lot of subtle moves that aren’t listed on there. The game leaves it to the player to discover new moves on their own – and all of this is something it shares in common with Capcom’s prior release, Resident Evil 2 Remake, which is also an old school game re-concocted in a current gen shell.
I’m really thankful that they completely moved out of fixed angle cameras or didn’t implement the “up the butt” camera angle that many modern AAA games tend to do. This time around, the camera is much more flexible with the player having control over camera distance and movement, allowing for better perspective and more precise character control due to the removed jarry-ness of suddenly jumping camera angles.
And the story continues…
The general consensus is that, the DMC story/plotline hasn’t been the focus of the franchise since the very beginning. I partially do agree with the sentiment, in that it doesn’t have a complex story with many twists and turns, but I also feel that there is more to story-telling and inducing emotions than just telling a complex story. Let’s also not forget that we live in an era where everything needs to be transparent for a majority of the consumers to be able to grasp certain things.
Players might remember how going up against Vergil in DMC3 was not just terrifying, but also adrenaline pumping at the same time. Defeating the first boss (Hell Vanguard) with so much effort and seeing Vergil, a man of very few words, decimate the same exact boss in one slice of the sword instilled a sense of fear as well as thrill while going up against him for the first time which also set the bar for each encounter with him, up to the final showdown.
The story of DMC5 follows a similar pattern, although not nearly as intense, while also dropping in lots of easter eggs and throwbacks to previous titles. Even the reboot gets some nods here and there. Not spoiling much, but it is a story about Nero proving his worth and Dante finally going past just accepting his heritage. If DMC3 was Dante’s Awakening, then DMC5 is Dante’s Maturation (for the lack of a better word). Yes, the story beats have been executed in the most Devil May Cry-esque way possible, but I feel that’s the whole point. It’s the simple reasons in life that sometimes spark the most drastic of emotions.
If anything, DMC5’s narrative feels like an extension to DMC3’s. DMC3’s story was about family, betrayal, responsibility, separation, and vengeance while DMC5’s story is about humanity, paradoxes, redemption, reunion, and closure. If you have played previous games in the franchise, especially 1, 3 and 4, the story payoffs are incredible. If you have not, it pretty much runs on the same ground as most Japanese action anime.
Nero has received a much-required character facelift and isn’t his uncharismatic self from DMC4. He has some really great dialogue, representing a mix between DMC4 Nero and Dante-inspired Nero, overshadowed only by his charismatic sidekick Nico. Nico is easily the most endearing character in the game right alongside Dante. She is not only a brilliant character but is also one of the best voice acted characters I have heard in recent times (note that his does not undermine the quality of voice acting for other characters).
Returning fan favorites like Trish and Lady do not do a whole lot, but that’s understandable considering that this is the “End of Sons of Sparda” arc. V is an interesting, poetic character and people familiar with Devil May Cry 1 will appreciate him the most. Dante is his usual suave goofy self, cracking one-liners and making light of every bad situation.
Talking about facelifts, holy demon-slaying heaven, where in the world did those crazy good graphics come from? My jaw was on the floor, my eyes wide open while I was playing the game on the PS4. 60 fps? This kind of fidelity? It seemed impossible. On the PC, with an i5-6500 and GTX 1070, it ran around the 70-85 fps mark at 1080p Ultra settings. With all of the things going on screen, I was really surprised that the game ran at such high framerates. I can, without doubt, say that this is a technical marvel for the gen, thanks to the RE Engine. The guys at Capcom are some genuine technical wizards. Those silky and sublime visuals are matched by killer soundtracks which have already been binged to saturation from before the game’s release.
PULL MY DEVIL TRIGGER!!!!
Each character having unique battle music of different genre when combined with the style rank based amplification system just gets the blood pumping. Like honestly, when you hear the music ramp up, you just go into this mode of feeling like a conductor of an orchestra, clenching the controller with firmness yet delicacy, each tap of a button happens with purpose, each swing of the weapon on screen feels like the musicians are in telepathic sync with each other, understanding what you, as the player are trying to do. This makes every encounter feel like a performance on a great stage.
Last but not least, the level design- it is not great, especially if you are expecting something like DMC3 or even 1. It is mostly a linear romp that won’t have you scratching your head over where to go. If you feel lost, which you likely won’t, you just have to press L3 on the controller to get the directions.
The bosses, however, are good. All bosses have their own gimmick and have been inspired by the previous games in the franchise. It’s a missed opportunity that we can’t play all levels as any character we want because I would have loved to face some of the bosses as others like the previous games.
The best part about DMC5 is that it respects the player’s time. It isn’t an open or semi-open world game filled with meaningless fluff content like half baked side quests or fetch quests and yet is a time sink for those who actually want to get better at the game. It demands the player to be a smart worker and not hard/grunt worker. The style system allows the player to be wary of not spamming the same combos again and again in the same fight, so if you get anything less than a B in any level, you are definitely not playing the game right.
The only major reason I have here to be negative about DMC5 is the business model. Even aside from the fact that they are selling red orbs, I can’t really overlook them locking 4 Devil Arms behind the Deluxe Edition paywall. Receiving a gold orb for playing every day is also something that could have been skipped altogether. Not to mention, the alternate skins just look degrading to the characters.
Here is proof.
In the end, I’ll say this….
Devil May Cry 5 is my favorite DMC title. It still stands in the shadows of DMC3 in terms of story and level design, but the combat is just too good and a perfect evolution of the combat style DMC is now known for. From the various weapons to the attack telegraphs to enemy designs to animation quality, IT IS DMC, JUST BETTER. This is not to say that the other aspects are not up to the mark, it’s just that DMC3 set an extremely high bar for those. Yes, I know it sounds like I am moving goalposts to accommodate my personal biases, but such flaws can be overlooked when it is a once in a generation experience and a return of such a classic game design philosophy that stands tall when compared to most modern design motives.