Smokin’ Sexy Style
In 2008, Capcom released Devil May Cry 4, blessing the series with Nero, a wonderful new blue sword boy to replace the evil blue sword boy who died in the previous game. He joined Dante, the corny red sword boy we all know and love. Now we have Devil May Cry 5, the long wanted sequel that fans have waited over a decade for with nothing in-between. Nothing at all has happened in the past ten years. Nope, not at all. Anyway, in addition to Dante and Nero, Devil May Cry 5 introduces V, a dark, brooding boy who uses a cane and a trio of tattoo demon pals to fight for him. This new trio of smokin’, sexy, and stylish boys have to face the most apocalyptic threat to the Devil May Cry universe yet and discover some seriously crucial lore developments along the way. With Hideaki Itsuno back in the director chair, does Devil May Cry 5 re-deliver what has been lost for so long? Hell yeah it does.
When we last left the Devil May Cry crew, Nero had established himself as an ally to Dante and the new keeper of Yamato, the Devil Arm (magic Hell weapon) once wielded by Dante’s brother, Vergil. Dante and Nero have since worked together to run different branches of the titular Devil May Cry devil hunting service. A long peace has seen Dante struggle to keep the lights on, while Nero rides around in a creaky old van with his extremely southern mechanic pal Nico. Then V shows up, presenting Dante with a job offer he really can’t refuse. Not long after, the city is overrun with a new demon threat, and a whole lot of stuff happens in a relatively short amount of time.
Devil May Cry 5 more or less assumes you’ve been along for the ride for a while, although it does offer a decent recap video via the main menu. Either way, this game starts in the thick of things and opts to tell the story a little out of order, which makes it a little hard to follow at first. But once the past and present catch up to each other, the plot really ramps up and starts to build toward tying up loose ends. It really pays off in a thoroughly fan-servicey way that almost feels like a laundry list of what has made Devil May Cry special over the years. Except for that one game, you know. And that other one that has been moved through the timeline to make room for this one. It’s fine; don’t worry about those installments.
In terms of the story, I really love the way the three character paths intertwine and ultimately all come together in the end, even if it’s obvious at times how Dante, Nero, and V are ultimately related. The ending is the least important part, and the journey is a real hoot. The big, fan-pleasing moments are picture-perfect, and all the goofy Dante antics and comically overbearing V brooding, mixed with Nero’s earnest wisecracking, feel spot-on and fueled by a creative love for this universe.
My biggest complaint is that Lady and Trish are totally sidelined, and literally only seem present to sort of be involved with the story and get kidnapped by demons. Both of those characters are historically cool participants in the series’ stories, and seeing them pretty much contribute nothing and in such groan-worthy ways was almost as disappointing as that time Ninja Theory thought it was funny to make Brokeback Mountain jokes about Capcom’s Japanese art direction.
In terms of gameplay, Devil May Cry 4 players will feel right at home here for the most part. However, there are some pretty serious twists. The style rating is present in all of its glory, forcing players who want to chase good ratings and high scores to really learn the systems at play. Each character has a truly distinct kit. While the inputs are largely all the same, the physical properties of each move vary wildly and lead to a nearly endless ceiling for player creativity. This is what Devil May Cry is about, and I am so happy to see it all come back in such a polished and thoughtful way.
That thoughtfulness is best represented in V and Nero’s new tricks. For plot reasons, Nero has lost his magic arm, and Nico has replaced it with the Devil Breaker. This is an almost Mega Man-like arm that can take different forms and use different abilities, based on what you equip and find lying around (including new stuff from bosses). The twist is that the Devil Breaker can, well, break for various reasons, forcing Nero to swap to the next one in the loadout. This means players will need to pay attention to their kit and possibly adjust their combat approach on the fly, based on which Devil Breaker is active.
The one problem I have with the Devil Breaker is that you can’t swap them without discarding the one you have equipped, and picking one up when a slot is empty puts that new one in the active slot. Unlike Dante, who can swap through his arsenal on demand, Nero is stuck with whatever’s in the chamber. Since they can break, I felt encouraged to be careful and conservative with them, meaning I didn’t get to play around as dynamically as I wanted. However, there are some twists and turns with Nero’s kit as the story goes on, and if you’re the type to jump back in and do additional runs, you’re in for a treat.
While Nero’s playstyle is a twist on something familiar, V is totally new. While his gameplay is still fundamentally Devil May Cry, there is an intriguing perspective shift at the core of his play, making him an adjustment for even skilled and tenured players to make. V doesn’t fight enemies directly, instead using his three demons to fight for him from (usually) a distance. Griffon fights at range and in the air, Shadow is ground-based, and Nightmare is the Big Boy who uses Devil Trigger juice. The actions you take still look and feel like Devil May Cry moves, with meaty combos, air juggles, and rapid-fire shooting. However, you’re also using V to move around and make separate actions, meaning there’s a visual and physical disconnect you’ll have to overcome.
If you can wrap your head around it, V is capable of some seriously nasty stuff, and I often found myself hitting the SSS rank much more quickly after a few upgrades, compared to Dante and Nero. V wasn’t my favorite to play as, due to all the extra mental energy I needed to put into using him, but having his strange, new way of play pop in and out was a great way to break up the more familiar action, which really helped the overall pace.
With 20 “missions” to get through overall, having three different playstyles to work with helps Devil May Cry 5 hit a sweet spot. Having the player’s choice relegated to what order you play, rather than something more open, was smart in that respect. Speaking of pacing, there are very few weird puzzle moments compared to the previous game, making it more of a linear action romp. While it isn’t as open and exploratory as some of the earlier installments in the series, I didn’t really miss fumbling around outside of combat sections.
Aside from my story gripes with Lady and Trish and my couple of issues with the Devil Breaker, Devil May Cry 5 practically exceeded my expectations. As a fan of the series all the way back to day one, and especially a fan of Devil May Cry 4 and my man dude Nero, Devil May Cry 5 is not only an excellent character action game. It’s also a mostly satisfying end to the story. I’m sure there’s more Devil May Cry to be had from here, but the story that started all the way back 2001 finally feels like a complete work, and that’s a rare treat.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
Capcom’s RE Engine continues to do incredible work. The more human-looking characters are weird at first, if you’re used to previous games’ style, but it works, especially in the emotional moments 4.5 Control
Having to play with the bumpers and triggers in tandem sometimes can be a lot, especially with the Xbox One’s crappy bumpers. Otherwise, combat is a dream 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Nero’s Devil Trigger theme is the new video game anthem of 2019 5.0 Play Value
Pure character action gaming at its finest. Plenty of self-imposed challenge and score-chasing to be had here, garnished with some unlockables and other bonuses 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best