Title: Devil May Cry 5
Genre: Action, Adventure, Hack and Slash
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
Developer: Capcom Co., Ltd.
Publisher: Capcom Co., Ltd.
Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC (reviewed)
Release: March 7th, 2019
Capcom has been on a bit of a hot streak when it comes to revitalizing its fan-favorite franchises. In the past three years we’ve seen Resident Evil 7, Monster Hunter: World, Mega Man 11, and Resident Evil 2 fulfill the wishes of lifelong fans while also leaving the doors open for potential newcomers to see what all the fuss is about. With Capcom so consistently delivering the goods over the past couple years, it feels as though they’re bound to make another misstep in the vein of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. It does me proud to report that Devil May Cry 5 is not that misstep - it’s actually quite the opposite: another firm step in the right direction for a franchise that lost its footing, and another stellar release out of a Capcom that continues to demonstrate its love and care for its menagerie of memorable IP’s.
The Tip and the Top
Devil May Cry 5 is an action hack-and-slash that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, namely make mowing down endless waves of demons fun. You play as three characters (Dante, Nero, and V) who each have their own movesets and arsenals of swords, guns, and other killing contraptions - and none of the protagonists feel like tacked-on additions. While the combat boils down to smacking buttons and sometimes moving the left stick while you do it, you’re handsomely rewarded for mastering its minutia. Not only does mixing up your moves net you more points and a higher ranking, but it also looks and feels awesome to chain together a complex combo that melts through the demonic opposition. Devil May Cry 5 is a game that’s essentially made up of simple combat encounters in small environments and segmented missions, but the huge arsenal of toys to play with, the immense enemy variety, and the combat’s mind-boggling complexity make every fight feel like an opportunity to express your capacity for creative carnage.
What further enhances Devil May Cry 5’s excellent combat system is its great progression. The first few sequences introduce you to the basics and let you toy around with the admittedly obtuse controls and gameplay mechanics. As you familiarize yourself with your moveset and come to grips with which attacks work well together, you’ll have the opportunity to spend the game’s red orb currency on even more moves to add to your combos. There are plenty of red orbs littered about the levels’ landscapes, but they’re still limited enough to feel valuable. Simply unlocking one move from the shop can introduce a bevy of new possibilities as any single move can be worked into any combo. Before long, you’ll be yanking enemies across the battlefield to set up position-sensitive strikes, knocking demons into the air to initiate a devastating flurry of air attacks, and switching between weapons mid-combo for some showy flair. You only feel more and more powerful as you get further along, and it feels great while you’re doing it.
The story on offer is also surprisingly good. Things take a little while to get into a groove, and there isn’t a whole lot going on in the grand scheme, but the cutscene direction, character dialogue, and voice acting are all superb. The game’s entire focus is placed on defeating a singular demon, but the journey along the way allows for copious amounts of hilarity, emotion, and badassery. All three protagonists are incredibly likable, and the top-notch writing makes it infinitely amusing to just sit back and watch them talk in the gorgeous cutscenes.
Speaking of gorgeous, Devil May Cry 5 is very easy on the eyes. It marks the first time the RE Engine has been used outside of the Resident Evil franchise, and it really gets a chance to flex its muscles here. Particle effects gleam with dazzling beauty, movements are bafflingly well animated, and the engine’s implementation of subsurface scattering makes the human characters look astonishingly true to life. The limited color palette does detract from its potential for raw beauty, but Devil May Cry 5 is still an immense technical accomplishment.
After you’ve finished feasting on the eye candy and the credits have rolled, there’s still plenty to keep you busy in Devil May Cry 5. The story won’t take you longer than a dozen hours to finish on the high end, but there are still upgrades to chase, S ranks to achieve, and plenty of extras to uncover across the game’s three difficulties. Any one of the three playable characters could be placed in their own game with how entirely differently they play from one another, and you’ll have plenty of excuses and opportunities to master your skills with each one.
The Flip and the Flop
The combat here has a lot going on (to say the least) which can make Devil May Cry 5 feel overwhelming and inaccessible, especially in the early goings. It’s quick to inundate you with menus and tutorials for weapons and tools that have very situational uses. Many will make their first trip to the game’s shop and feel paralyzed by all the options, submenus, and consumables. Devil May Cry 5 is about experimentation over explanation, and that’s not something everyone will jive with. It’s not clear what you can and can’t do with the combat until you go out and give things a shot for yourself. As such, it’s not always clear how you’re supposed to be playing. Each enemy encounter ranks you based on your performance, but what exactly allows you to achieve higher ranks is left frustratingly vague. On lower difficulties, some may find themselves repeating the same combos over and over which can turn what’s supposed to be a malleable combat system into a borefest. Getting into the combat can be a challenge, and not everyone will feel up to the task.
Final Verdict: A-
Devil May Cry 5 is the apotheosis of a franchise that’s smugly irreverent and bombastically fun. It’s beautiful, hilarious, awesome, and amusingly analogous to the attitude-ridden original. We’re glad that Dante and the crew are back, and we can’t help but hope that this isn’t their last outing.