I look like an eagle homing in on my prey, flying through the air with stylish grace… except this particular eagle has a massive sword and a fake arm which turns my prey into smush. I look toward the other enemies, give a couple of revs to the ol’ Red Queen and you can tell in that moment that they want none of it. Well, it’s too late. I launch myself towards them and make them wish they never crossed paths with this badass. Moments like this are never in short supply in Devil May Cry 5.
It’s been eleven years since the last numbered instalment, so DMC5 has a lot to live up to, whether you liked Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil May Cry or not. I like all of them. Well… expect DMC2.
It’s new kid on the block, V, that sets things in motion, as he hires Dante to help take on a growing threat in Red Grave City. It’s there that they cross paths with Nero, who’s been doing some of his own devil hunting, and team up to cut down the growing demon tree, Qliphoth. The tree is all part of the plan of the new big bad, Urizen, a boss so badass, he literally doesn’t move out of his chair in battle, looking bored as he waves his hands in the most nonchalant manner possible.
You play as these three main characters in turn, each with unique play styles that keep you on your toes. Nero has returned from DMC4, with the familiar Red Queen sword and Blue Rose pistol, but he comes without his demon arm, having had it ripped off by a mysterious hooded figure. Thankfully, his engineer Nico has made him a replacement arm called the Devil Breaker, a replaceable cybernetic prosthetic that puts a shift in when it comes to slaying monsters.
These Devil Breakers still allow him to perform the Wire Snatch to pull in enemies or zip to larger foes for big combo potential, but it also adds some new moves into the mix depending on the arm, like the Overture, which at the press of a button delivers a giant electrical palm slap to the face. There’s also the Gerbera which sends out mini shockwaves and propels Nero forward like a rocket jump if used while on the move – I have a lot of fun adding this into my combos mid-combat. The Buster Arm enables Nero to pick up his opponent and slam them into the floor, much like he used to when he had his Devil Bringer in DMC4.
Arms can also be charged up to unleash a powerful attack, but will destroy them in doing so. The Gerbera, for instance, has a powerful attack called the Stamen Ray, which can only be described as a mega beam cannon of death; fantastic for obliterating multiple enemies. You can customise your arm loadout before a mission, but the only way to cycle through to a new arm is to sacrifice it.
Dante is back as well, rocking his signature Rebellion sword and looking a little more grizzled. Like Nero, Dante feels largely untouched in V, bringing back a choice of fighting styles, adding flair to different moves depending on how you like to play. Trickster is a fantastic movement tool that’s brilliant for getting out the way of big damage, but if you like being fancy with a sword you have Sword Master, which adds a raft of new moves to each melee weapon. Then there’s Gunslinger which adds flair and power to your ranged arsenal and finally Royal Guard – it’s the style for pros.
As seen in the trailers, Dante also gets a few new weapons including, because Capcom is bonkers, a bike and a magic hat called Dr Faust! They shouldn’t work, but I absolutely loved them. Smashing the faces off demons with two bike halves is just brilliant. It stuns the enemy as Dante really buries those bladed wheels deep, taking his time and enjoying every second of it. Dr Faust introduces a risk/reward system where you spend red orbs to use it, but you have the potential to get a larger sum of red orbs back.
V is DMC’s biggest enigma, making a large departure from the series’ typical style of play. I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to like him, but after my first initial fight, I was in. V doesn’t often get his hands dirty, but instead has three very cool demons he can summon to do his bidding, attacking enemies up close while he stands at the back, gruffly giving commands. You can send Griffon to fly around the stage firing bolts of electricity, while Shadow transforms into various sharp objects when needed for close up attacks. With a full DT gauge, V can also summon Nightmare, a hulking figure who likes to punch things and blow them up with laser beams.
These familiars don’t mean V gets a free ride in combat, as he still has to finish enemies off with his trusty cane, but they’re always there and are nicely incorporated into some of V’s moments. Whereas Dante or Nero would roll out the way of an enemies attack, Griffon will grab V and pull him out of harm’s way, and instead of running really fast, V will just ride Shadow around like a skateboard. It’s these little touches that make V so interesting and a great change from the norm.
Each character has a raft of abilities at their disposal, giving people ample opportunity to find something that suits their play style – and Smokin’ Sexy Style is the name of the game. Stringing together combos, swapping weapons mid-combat and utilising different abilities raises the classic style rating that pops up on the right hand side when you do something cool. I’ve never been fantastic at maximising this in previous games, but something clicked in DMC5.
I remember in one particular instance with Nero, I charged in with Streak, a rushing attack with the Red Queen sword, launched my opponent into the air before shooting forward and smashing them back down to Earth. I then used Gerbera to propel myself forward, taking the enemy with me, before focusing on another enemy and dive-bombing them. I hit S rank on the style meter, the music pumping in my ears and I was left in awe at my own skill. The combat always pushes you to perform better and that’s what I love about it.
There’s a nice selection of enemies too, from the Death Scissors returning from the original DMC, to the brand new Hell Antenora, a dual wielding cleaver warrior who gets pretty angsty when taking hits. Learning enemy mechanics is key to victory and there are patterns you can learn to maximise efficiency, all of which can be tested in The Void training mode.
It was nice to see some returning faces like Lady and Trish, but the standout newcomer award goes to Nico (Nicolette Goldstein), the game’s gunsmith and all-round charming character. She’s tough, speaks her mind and provides some funny moments throughout. In various levels you can summon Nico from telephone boxes, who will then appear out of nowhere and crash land right next to the player. It’s brilliant and gets even better later in the game.
Devil May Cry 5 really has no business looking as good as it does, even on the original Xbox One where we reviewed it. It’s the best this series has ever looked and it’s augmented by the wonderful RE Engine, which effortlessly pushed DMC5 into 60fps territory. Cutscenes look great and the in-game action is equally stunning. Every level is alive with eye-popping colours and detail, and I was even trying to count the beard hairs on Dante at times.
It’s accompanied by a superb soundtrack built around three excellent themes. I know some people dislike Dante’s Subhuman theme, but there’s something about the way the music winds down after an encounter with a demon countdown. V’s theme, the tribal and edgy Crimson Cloud, also fits perfectly for him, while Nero’s Devil Trigger is basically the theme of the game as far as I’m concerned. It’s brilliant and there is also a slower, jazzier version found when browsing Nico’s files which is even better.
A new online feature has been added in the form of the Cameo System, which lets players (sort of) play together. In various missions, you will see other characters fighting in the background, and if you have the cameo system enabled, that will actually be another player in real time, or ghost data if no players are about. The nice thing here is they don’t directly interfere with your game, so DMC5 still maintains its core single player experience, but you are encouraged to give that player a thumbs up after the mission is done.
Mission structure can be a little basic, but it barely even matters. The campaign is just the right length and the difficulty never feels cheap or unfair. There is an abundance of secret missions to find and orbs to collect, as well as higher difficulty levels after completing the game. To top it off, we are getting the Bloody Palace as a free update in April, adding even more quality to this already amazing example of the genre.