Devil May Cry 5 Hands On: A Captivatingly Wacky Beat ‘Em Up
Words by Mark Foster
Let’s make one thing clear right off the bat. I’ve never properly played a full Devil May Cry game. Yes, alert the church elders, for I have sinned.
When DMC 5 was announced however, my interest was suitably piqued and I thought “what better place to jump in to the series?” The main question I had to ask myself was; “would I get as much enjoyment from the game as somebody who’s been a devoted fan of the series since day 1?”
Well, after playing the first 11 missions or so of the game, I can safely say that yes, I did – and you can too.
Let’s first address the elephant in the room though. Devil May Cry is not an easy series to dip into, if you’re intent on following the lore and canonical timeline. There’s heaps of accompanying reading if you want the full DMC experience, but for the sake of ease and brevity, demons are doing a naughty thing in Red Grave City (London in all but name) and it’s up to a plucky band of demon hunters to stop them.
Now obviously, I’ve skipped over a heck of a lot of plot there, but having played the first 5 hours of the game, I can safely say that you pick it up fairly quick, even as a newcomer.
So, now let’s get into the real nitty gritty; the gameplay. Playing as demon hunters Dante and Nero, or mysterious new character V, the artful combat style is an absolute joy to behold. Don’t be fooled though, there is certainly a huge ark of mastery, but the game makes you feel like you’re always in control of what’s going on. If you get hit, it’s because you didn’t assess the situation properly. Nothing ever feels cheap or unfair, you just need to be better.
Chaining combos together is made doubly invigorating as the game’s “Devil Trigger” track ramps up in intensity the more hits you manage to land and it really gets the old heart pounding.
Playing as three distinctly unique characters also helps stop you from becoming too comfortable. Nero uses his sword and pistol to chip away at demons’ life bars, using flurry attacks to chain together huge combos dealing massive amounts of damage in the process.
He also possesses his “Devil Breaker” arms, which can be customised in your load-out before missions.Each Devil Breaker brings its own attributes to the battlefield, and using them effectively is a skill in and of itself.
I, for one, do not possess this skill. Outside of thwipping enemies towards me to begin wailing on them, which was most satisfying. Simple pleasures.
V is the mysterious new character you take control of, and he plays quite differently to Nero. Not much is known about this guy yet, but he uses three demons under his command to attack enemies while (ideally) keeping well away from getting hit. The demons essentially boil down to the melee dominant Shadow, ranged attacking Griffon, and call-him-in-when-you’re-in-the-shit Nightmare.
It’s an interesting experience watching a battle from a safe-ish distance while simultaneously trying not to get hit yourself, but it adds a new flavour to combat that’s a welcome change of pace. I also found it much easier to get high-scoring combos as V, but overall found him less satisfying than Nero to play.
The third playable character is regular series protagonist Dante, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t get much time with him. His play style seems more in line with Nero’s, but is a much heavier hitter than his young counterpart.
He also has four different attack stances that allow him to change what kinds of attacks he can use. Trickster enhances his movement, Gunslinger let’s him plink away with ranged weapons, Swordmaster switches focus for close-up melee battles and Royal Guard allows him to be more defensive and focus on counter-attacking.
Each character also has their own unique and powerful “Devil Trigger” move which can be unleashed by building up its meter in combat. A nice little get-out-of-jail-free card for when you’re inevitably up shit creek, but used in the hands of a master, can be instrumental in changing a battle.
It’s worth noting at this point too, that the game is absolutely bloody gorgeous. Running on Capcom’s shiny RE Engine (the same one used for the recent Resident Evil 2) it looks great right out of the gate.
Even during the more frantic encounters, with enemies piling up on screen, there was never an issue with frame tearing or slow down on the Xbox One version I played. I would even go as far as to say it looks better than Resi 2, and doesn’t fall into the uncanny valley quite so regularly.
There’s also a healthy incentive for achievement hunters to replay levels. The style ranking system runs from D to SSS the better you play – Dismal, Crazy, Badass, Apocalyptic, Savage, Sick Skills and Smokin’ Sexy Style respectively.
Mostly I was happy with a B or A but those who are really pro at the game will lose hours trying to better their score. Getting hit will seriously disrupt your flow and cause you to plummet rank, so watch out sports fans.
This also links nicely to the game’s upgrade system. You can purchase new moves and abilities in the game’s menu screen before and after each mission (sometimes during) by collecting and spending red orbs. The higher your style score, the more red orbs you get, the more you can upgrade your arsenal.
This also lets combat evolve continuously throughout the course of the game. New combos will encourage you to fight in different ways and it helps keep things interesting. Unless you’re like me and struggle to string together a sentence, let alone a 5 hit combo.
I think it’s safe to say I walked away from my time with Devil May Cry 5 captivated by what I’d played. While the story might be a bit too wacky for me, the meat and potatoes of the gameplay is so good, that it almost doesn’t matter why you’re doing the thing, because doing it is so much fun.
Saying that, I might dedicate some time to exploring the series’ backstory just in case. I hear Devil May Cry 2 is the best in the series. Right guys? Right?