My relationship to Capcom’s Devil May Cry series is admittedly a bit weird. When the original hit back on the PlayStation 2 in 2001, its gameplay ideas and scenarios blew me away, feeling unlike anything I’d ever seen before in the action adventure genre. Devil May Cry was completely badass, and I imagined all of the sequels (or knock-offs) that could come from what Hideki Kamiya and crew had given us. And then—I just didn’t play those sequels. Maybe I was busy, maybe I was playing other games, maybe the interest I thought had been there actually wasn’t. I sampled snippets of each here and there, but it wasn’t until DmC—a game that would split the fanbase in two with arguments over whether or not it had murdered the franchise—that I finally once again fully played and love an adventure starring Dante.
It was that history that lead me to be a bit mixed on Devil May Cry 5 in its early hours. In that time away from the series, I’d come instead to love one of its rivals in the “stylish action” category: Bayonetta. With my adoration for the Umbra Witch and her fast, frenetic battles, I couldn’t shake the feeling at first that combat here was—well, boring. Why aren’t these fights more flashy and exciting? Why aren’t the combo strings crazier? Why did it take 11 years to finally get a proper sequel to Devil May Cry 4 that then doesn’t work harder to trump all the competitors that have come along in that span of time?
Now, looking back at my time with Devil May Cry 5, I think this is going to be one of the biggest hurdles it’ll need to clear with some players out there. The truth is, the game’s combat is far from boring—it just isn’t going to hand you those feelings of excitement and accomplishment if you don’t put in the work for them. DMC5’s encounters are about finesse, about skill, about really understanding what tools you have at your disposal and how to use them. If you can dig deep into the game’s combat system and put in the time to get better at it, then encounters become this wonderful dances of blades and bullets as you try to dispatch foes with style. It’s won’t be easy for everyone to gel with all of the concepts at play here, though, and for those who don’t, it’s definitely possible that, instead, the entire experience may feel like a sequence of repetitive, shallow enemy encounters.
Part of what helps give Devil May Cry 5’s gameplay its incredible depth is its roster of three main heroes. It’s actually somewhat surprising how different each character feels to play, and the team at Capcom clearly put a lot of work into figuring out how to give each hero his own unique way to dispatch demonic foes. Granted, I don’t have working knowledge of how Devil May Cry 4 handled our infamous demon slayer, but even Dante—who I assumed would be the most basic gameplay-wise of the trio—has a host of tricks up his sleeve. Not only does he have access to various types of melee weapons and firearms, but he also has four different selectable styles that change up how he approaches combat, along with the ability to morph into his more powerful demon form through the Devil Trigger gauge. Nero’s biggest trick, meanwhile, is the much-touched selection of Devil Bringers, robotic arms that offer a variety of offensive, defensive, or support abilities depending on which is currently attached. It’s impressive to me how much thought went into this one aspect of one character in the game, and I especially wasn’t expecting that the Devil Bringers would be a finite resource. At any time, you can purposefully destroy the current arm you’re using in order to produce a high-powered explosive attack, but they can also break if you take damage from an enemy while using the Devil Bringer’s ability. On paper, both Dante and Nero might seem very similar —sword in one hand, firearm in the other—but they’re incredibly different in action.
Then, we have V. The latest addition to the Devil May Cry mythos shakes things up to a far greater extent, as the character himself can’t actually hurt enemies 99 percent of the time. V dispatches foes by summoning two demonic familiars to do his dirty work for him: the bird-like Griffon and the black panther Shadow. Players control both of the demons at the same with, with Griffon’s ranged attacks using the button normally set to firearms for Dante and Nero, and Shadow’s close-up melee hits coming out with the sword button. Use either to do enough damage to a particular foe, and they’ll entered a weakened state, where V (and only V) can finally deliver the killing strike. V can be an incredibly hard character to get the hang of at first, since there’s such a disconnect between his more hands-off approach to combat and the way fast-action games like this are usually played. Once his style finally became more second nature, however, I found him to be a legitimately interesting alternative to his compatriots. In an adventure that already has two strong, extremely enjoyable playable characters, V carves out his own niche, totally justifying his existence as part of the crew.
And what a crew it is. I don’t know if they’ve been like this the entire time, or if Capcom just really nailed things here, but man did I fall in love with pretty much the entire cast. Sure, Dante is Dante, but he’s got such a fantastic charm and swagger here, always being cool without coming off as he’s trying to be cool. However, I came to actually like Nero even more, something I never could have expected given his character type (the “young brash hero,” basically). Meanwhile, V’s “dark brooding emo guy who read poetry and really needs to put on a shirt” design seemed like a recipe for disaster, but even he was great! How in the world did that happen? From there, I will say that the series’ two leading ladies—Trish and Lady—do get the shaft a bit, but they’re sidelining is made up for in Nico. Oh Nico. I’m sure there will be some out there that will find you completely obnoxious and unlikable, but not me. You won my heart, and made my world a brighter place. Devil May Cry 5’s story might not be the deepest or most compelling around, but I was totally invested in its twists and drama the entire way through, in part due to how fantastically done the interactions between the various characters are.
If there’s one point where I think Devil May Cry 5 falters in its quality, it’s in the design of some of its stages. I’m honestly a bit tired of dark, enclosed, claustrophobic locations games like these love to utilize, be them subway tunnels, sewers, or the ever-popular Gigeresque demon structures. My favorite moments were when the game opened up a bit and dropped me back into the world outside, and I wish we could see more creativity overall in the types of locations used. That said, even when I wasn’t enjoying the places themselves, I still appreciated how they looked. Devil May Cry 5 is a gorgeous game, especially in its character models, and once again I’m convinced that the RE Engine is one of the best technical efforts Capcom has made in years.
Finally, there are two quick points to touch on. There’s been some talk about the microtransactions in Devil May Cry 5, but I’ll tell you that I never once even thought about them until it came time to do this review. If you want to spend money to make unlocking skills or extra notches of your life bar quicker you can, and given there are three characters to do said skill unlocking for, that might be a tempting route to take. For me, though, I never hit a point where I felt hampered in the progress I was making, so I don’t think the microtransactions should be of any concern for those who don’t want to make use of them. As well, DMC5 features a new multiplayer option that told me I might run into other players at times in various stages, but I’ll be damned if I know how it all works. I never once encountered anything that seemed like co-op, even while the game was telling me onscreen that there were other human players in the same areas that I was. So, I’ve got no opinion on the multiplayer other than one of confusion.
For those fans who have been waiting years and years for a new “real” Devil May Cry game, I’d like to believe that you’ll find Devil May Cry 5 a great way to make up for all of that lost time. If, like me, you got separated from the series somewhere along the way, or if you’re someone who will be new to the franchise, then this is a fantastic and stylish new action adventure that is both legitimately impressive on a number of levels and a great reintroduction to Devil May Cry. Coming right on the heels of the equally excellent Resident Evil 2 remake, let’s hope this signals a bright new future for some of Capcom’s most beloved franchises—and not a brief moment of salvation for Dante and the gang before being tossed into a pit deep in the bowels of Hell to be forgotten about once more.
The world has long waited for a proper new chapter of the groundbreaking Devil May Cry series, and in Devil May Cry 5, Capcom has given us an experience that was very much worth that wait. While the game requires players to really invest in its concepts before its depth truly shines through, that investment will definitely pay off for those who put in the time and energy to master DMC5’s three diverse heroes.
M - Mature
|Devil May Cry 5 is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC. Primary version played was for PlayStation 4. Product was provided by Capcom for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.
Mollie got her start in games media via the crazy world of gaming fanzines, and now works at EGM with the goal of covering all of the weird Japanese and niche releases that nobody else on staff cares about. She’s active in the gaming community on a personal level, and an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming, consumer rights, and good UI. Check her out on Twitter and Mastodon.