In a stat that will make you whiter than Dante’s stringy hair, it’s been a massive six years since Ninja Theory’s DMC reboot rocked the angrier corners of the internet with its edgy take on Capcom’s action classic. And despite DMC now being considered a series high point for many, Capcom has granted the wishes of the hardcore fans and taken Dante back in-house for this long-awaited sequel to 2008’s Devil May Cry 4.
In the imaginatively-titled Devil May Cry 5, then, you switch between series hero Dante, young upstart Nero, and bizarre emo animal-summoner V, as the three of you try to figure out how to defeat new all-conquering demon King Urizen, who sits on a throne inside a giant demon tree. Of course he does.
The question is, does Devil May Cry still have a place at the top table of action gaming after all these years?
Well, to quote Dante himself: Hell yeah.
Devil May Cry 4 introduced multiple playable characters to the series, and this fifth instalment adds another to the mix. Joining Dante and Nero this time around is V, a weird, shirtless emo-type who’s too weak to actually battle the demons himself, so he summons a loud-mouthed raven and an angry panther to do his bidding for him.
The three characters give an extraordinary level of variety to the combat. Most of the game’s first half is played as Nero, who boasts a similar moveset to Dante, but can replace his prosthetic arm with all manner of ability-themed replacements, all with aloof names like Tomboy and Overture. Each arm’s power can be activated with a stab of the B button, be it a time-warping slowdown, a fiery whip or an explosive blast, but the catch; if you’re struck while using one, it’s gone. You can carry up to six into battle, and there’s real strategy in figuring out what works best for each situation, and how they can be comboed into all your other attacks.
Dante himself is an absolute treat to control. His four fighting styles from DMC 3 and 4 return, all of which can be levelled-up, and then there are multiple weapons to switch through too. So, if you’re feeling saucy, and you should be if you’re playing Devil May Cry, it’s entirely possible to start a combo off with your sword, flick an enemy up with a Swordmaster spin, switch to Trickster, blast them with your pistols, then change to a shotgun, dodge an enemy attack, flip to Gunmaster, charge shot them into the distance, then change to your fists and finish them with uppercuts before they ever hit the ground. Savage.
Then it comes to V. Oh, V. You’re letting the side down a bit, here. The concept is fantastic - a poetry-reading proto-goth who’s too weak to fight himself, so he gets his familiars to do it for him. The controls are actually very similar to Dante and Nero, but the fights lacks the panache and tempo we’re used to, and it can all feel a bit disconnected. Mercifully, V has the fewest levels in the campaign, so most of your time is spent creating beautiful destruction with the two white-haired hellraisers.
BAD AND BOUJEE
The brilliant combat is made complete by a vast and gruesome selection of enemies. It’s great to see the stylish enemy intros from DMC make their way across, as each new creature is given just enough fanfare to make them feel important.
The bestiary has a few old faces too - the scissor sisters from the original game are still knocking about - but there’s barely ten minutes without some new enemy appearing and wreaking havoc. It helps that Devil May Cry 5 is visually stunning in 4K HDR on Xbox One X, so the bad guys are drawn in lavish detail.
Bosses in particular are highlights, from the screen-filling behemoths that the series is known for, down to human-sized demon knights that will test your reactions and penchant for flair. Gorgeous, gruesome stuff.
STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE?
While there’s no doubting Devil May Cry 5’s combat credentials, it actually falls some way behind its spin-off predecessor in terms of story, cinematics and sheer inventiveness. Most of the levels here are throwbacks to an older, simpler time; linear paths, segmented into combat rooms, with samey scenery and static environments.
There are none of DMC’s wildly original morphing stages, fourth-wall breaking boss battles or ground-breaking aesthetics. And while the story itself is perfectly enjoyable as it flits between time periods and characters, it pales in comparison to its predecessor. Of course, you came for the ruckus, not the side dressing, so it matters little, but it’s a shame to see these elements take such a step back. Imagine what Ninja Theory could have done on current-gen tech.
Strangely, Devil May Cry 5 actually features cooperative action, but you can’t choose to team up with friends. Instead, certain levels will connect you with a random partner from somewhere around the world, and you’ll battle it out together before going your separate ways. It’s a novel feature but feels a bit redundant - the times where your coop partner is controlled by the CPU are largely indistinguishable from the real deal.
It would have been ace to have a true coop experience, even if it was separate from the main campaign, but nevertheless, it’s nice to see Capcom experimenting with online functionality.
DEVIL MAY CRY 5 VERDICT
If you come to Devil May Cry 5 looking for a fight, then you’ll find possibly the finest example the genre has ever produced. A ludicrous variety of moves and styles, physical, kinetic combat, and more sauce than a Heinz factory. Moment-to-moment, Devil May Cry 5 is a searing, thrilling action game, with stunning visuals and serious depth.
Beyond that, the wooden acting, functional but uninspiring story, and basic level design feel like a step back from the stunning dmc. While hardcore fans will be pleased to see the original Dante and co back in the saddle, it would have been great to see Capcom take on board the advancements that Ninja Theory introduced to the series.
Overall, though, this is high caliber violence from a publisher who’s on a serious roll right now.