Am I good at Devil May Cry? Not really, but Devil May Cry 5 made me feel pretty damn great as it handed out ratings for my sometimes rather wayward attempts at combat. There’s something reassuring about a game that’s happy to put a hand on your shoulder, look into your eyes and say, “Look, it wasn’t perfect, but good effort and I’m sure you’ll get better at this.”
Back under the stewardship of Capcom’s internal development teams, after the weirdly mixed reception that Ninja Theory’s tautologically titled DmC: Devil May Cry received half a decade ago. It returns us to the timeline established in the first four games, but that doesn’t mean they’ve busted out the old character models from a decade ago. In particular, Nero has had quite a hefty redesign which led to a small amount of confusion when it was released and looked a little reminiscent of Ninja Theory’s version of Dante.
Set a few years later, Nero’s set up his own demon hunting agency and the Gamescom demo dropped us into a demon infested London-alike city, having us battle through the streets, through buildings and up onto the rooftop of a church. It’s a great looking level that blends large vistas and openness with tighter confines that restrict your movement in combat. A little taste of the game’s puzzles had us retrieving a Nidhogg Hatchling to put into a demonic tree root to clear the path ahead.
The focus, as always, is on fast-paced, stylish action that flows as you fight off hoards of demons, switching between all manner of different attack moves. You can get away with a decent amount of button mashing, but it’s not long before you need to start learning how to link things together. Take a break from swinging Nero’s sword for a second and you can unload a flurry of bullets, or make use of that shiny new arm he’s got for something a bit more spectacular.
His demonic Devil Bringer has been ripped off by a mysterious figure and replaced by metallic robotic forearms which I’d say would technically now make Nero a cyborg. These are Devil Breakers, and they give a real shakeup to Nero’s combat abilities, firstly by coming in different varieties that lend him different powers – the two in the demo, Overture and Gerbera, were about its ‘demolishing shockwave’ punches and adding aerial agility by launching Nero into the air, respectively.
Hold the button for longer and they can be charged up to unleash a powerful attacks, timing the release just right to trigger the Break Age. The one I mastered was Gerbera’s Stamen Ray which unleashed a beam of energy for several second, but pull it off in midair and it spews out bouncing lasers, while Overture turns into a timed bomb.
The downside is that you destroy the Devil Breaker in the process – hence Break Age – and even when using a standard power Devil Breaker attack, if you take damage at the same time it destroys it. You can have just four in your arsenal at any time, with more to be found and picked up in the levels, but that makes them a precious resource to be hoarded and used at full strength sparingly, even if as a sacrifice to preserve your life.
Nero’s smart mouthed and full of banter as he faces off against the Goliath that has amusingly grand ambitions for a big furry dude with a fire breathing mouth for a stomach. He’s so big, that landing a swinging punch on a Nero that’s bouncing around off Gehera arm impulses could be nigh on impossible, but he’s also big enough that he just smashes up parts of the world and shifts the arena of battle from the top of the church, down inside, and eventually into the square outside.
It’s a fight that really emphasised to me Nero’s new nature as a glass cannon. If you’re not strategic in using an arm, if you’re unlucky with your Devil Breaker timing, or have to sacrifice one to escape the clutches of an enemy, you’re not quite a step closer to death, but will eventually become quite noticeably less powerful. As it was, I was less cautious, lost a few arms in quick succession and had to whittle down the last of the Goliath’s health with only one arm and lacking a bunch of moves I’d picked up along the way.
Devil May Cry 5 feels like a game that’s going to sate the appetites of many a longterm fan, but for newcomers like myself I think it’s got its work cut out to weave an accessible story amidst so much built up lore and characters. Maybe that’s not the job of this game though. It’s here to reset one of Capcom’s most prestigious franchises, and whatever your thoughts on DmC: Devil May Cry, it’s clear that this is a return to the series’ roots, bringing along everything that means with it.