Games can be described in many ways. There are games that are exhilarating with exciting combat and mechanics. Then there are games that are captivating stories that take you through imaginary worlds. Then there’s Devil May Cry 5, a game that’s nearly impossible to condense into a few words. During my high octane 15 hours with the game I’ve hacked and slashed through hordes of hideous demons, ridden a rocket punch around helpless foes before raining down an endless barrage of bullets, commanded my own set of demonic allies to blast and maul bug-eyed creatures while I watched from the bylines, and obliterated armoured devil knights by swinging around two parts of a motorcycle. I dare anyone to find a short and sweet description that does such an experience justice.
Indeed, the Legendary Devil Hunter Dante and his crew are back, bigger and better than ever. Devil May Cry 5’s story feels like the familiar badasses vs. demon armies tale that we’ve come to expect and love about the series, yet manages to make it feel fresh by adding a mysterious character into the crew. Dante and Nero are joined by V, a poetry reciting frail man of unknown origin whose motivations are somewhat unclear until the very end. Along with their band of awesome demon butt-kicking ladies, including newcomer engineering genius Nico, they’re tasked with putting a stop to yet another demonic uprising led by the enigmatic and all-powerful Urizen. Self-proclaiming himself the Demon King, Urizen has unleashed a massive underworld plant called the Qliphoth and it’s up to the DMC crew to nip it in the bud before it devours everything. The game kicks off just as Dante is defeated by Urizen during the crew’s first assault, forcing Nero and V to retreat so that they can lick their wounds and live to fight another day. Nero and V then team up, each taking their own route to fight their way through endless demonic hordes in search of Dante, Trish, and Lady so that they can attempt another takedown of Urizen.
It’s a well-paced story that doesn’t try too hard to be clever or anything deeper than what it actually needs to be. V in particular, despite his abrupt introduction, is fleshed out in an intriguing way, ultimately making me care about who he really is and what his motivations are. Nico is foul, loud, and smart-mouthed all at the same time which makes her oddly endearing and worthy addition to the DMC crew. It wouldn’t be Devil May Cry without the right amount of campiness and Devil May Cry 5 has it in spades. One moment characters are worried about the fate of everything and brooding about their pasts, the next they spout out one-liners that would have made the 80s blush. One key point about the game’s dialog that I appreciated was how scarce the profanity was. It would have been easy to excuse excessive amounts of F bombs in a game that’s about beating the hell out of demons but Devil May Cry 5 chooses to insult the wicked in its own way. Cutscenes come and go at a natural pace and look absolutely stunning in the RE Engine which was originally used to bring the equally brilliant Resident Evil 7 to life.
In fact, the entire game looks and moves with a gratifying amount of detail, even on a base PlayStation 4. Character facial expressions are mesmerizingly lifelike, delivering every line with an appropriate look. Every cheeky smile, every clench of the teeth, even every weary look on V’s face not only made me hear the words being delivered but also see and feel them. Let’s not forget of course the demons who are all as elaborate and freakish as ever. From the lowly bug-looking Empushas to the big daddy himself, Urizen, the evils that go bump in the night of Devil May Cry 5 have a high level of detail to them which makes them all the nastier. One of the later bosses, Marthas, a three-headed female demon whose body is attached to an eyeless chicken-like creature, is especially etched into my mind just from how realistic she looked as she charged at me.
The meat and potatoes of every Devil May Cry game, however, aren’t its story and graphics. It’s the insanely over-the-top gameplay that this game is particularly legendary for. Devil May Cry 5 manages to surpass every other title in the series in that area through the variety of playstyles it offers depending on which of the three playable characters you’re using. Nero is a well-rounded yet highly-customizable sword and gun wielder. While he still has the ability to pull enemies in just like in DMC 4, he is now able to change up his playstyle through his Devil Breakers. Each Breaker has its own abilities, ranging from a simple burst of electricity to shooting out a rideable rocket punch to even controlling time. New Devil Breakers are introduced fairly quickly and there is plenty to experiment with. V, on the other hand, is great for those who prefer to stay outside of the fray for he commands a set of three demons to do the fighting for him. Griffon is a devil bird that shoots and swoops in from above while Shadow is a panther-like creature that scratches and mauls foes on the ground. When V’s Devil Trigger meter has at least three stocks, he can call down another bigger demon called Nightmare that’s AI controlled but can be upgraded to be ridden by V making it controllable in the process. V’s controls are intuitively designed with each of his two demons controlled by the press of a single button respectively. It took me some time to get used to keeping V himself out of harm’s way but raking up the style points was quite easy and fun. Dante becomes playable halfway through the game and he’s just as crazy as ever. His main distinction is that he has different weapons he can switch from, including his classic sword, Rebellion, the hand-to-hand gauntlet and boot combo called Balrog, and a motorcycle Dante splits in half and twirls around effortlessly. Just for the fun of it, he’s even given a stylish fedora as one of his guns. Needless to say, if you like switching up your weapons on the fly cause why not, Dante is your man. What is of particular note is how Capcom has managed to make all three characters feel completely unique in the way they control and play all the while managing to make them easy to pick up and use right away.
As I said earlier, Devil May Cry 5 is a tough act to describe in a few words. Its gameplay and action are all epic but that still sells it short. It’s a game that’s far greater than the sum of its parts because it manages to deliver exhilarating gameplay together with the right amount of campy story, guitar-shredding soundtrack, and over-the-top dialog that can only be found in an 80s action flick combined with a heavy metal music video. It’s almost laughable that this game actually has microtransactions because it doesn’t need them nor expects them to be used. It’s an example of how single player gaming can still be both brilliant and innovative without any sort of tacked on multiplayer to keep it going because after completing the story once I still want to go back and play around with all three of the characters again in a higher difficulty.
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