Review: Devil May Cry 5 hits plenty of right notes

Devil May Cry has been one of Capcom’s most acclaimed franchises since the first game released in 2001, and it doesn’t look like this train is stopping anytime soon. Its latest release, Devil May Cry 5, has released to great success, with the concurrent player count trailing just behind Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Indeed, Dante and gang’s return already has fans begging for more, but is all the praise stemming from series loyalty or can DMC5 actually sustain a combo? Let’s find out.

Devil May Cry 5, starring…

Before you jump into the action, it’s good to have an idea of who you’ll be playing as. Devil May Cry 5 has three Devil Hunters, each with different fighting styles.

From left to right: V, Nero, and Dante.

V is your typical “broody and mysterious” kind of guy. He’s a regular dude who contacts Devil May Cry through J.D. Morrison, enlisting the agency’s help against the impending threat presented by Urizen. In combat, he relies on three familiars to get things done: the panther-like Shadow, the demon bird Griffon and the colossus Nightmare. V exudes a certain aura of tiredness and melancholy that is fortunately contrasted by Griffon’s snarky, impulsive attitude. Also, Griffon gets called “chicken” by Nico. A lot.

Nero is the first Devil Hunter you meet and the main protagonist of DMC5. He relies mainly on his Red Queen sword, his Blue Rose revolver and an impressive arsenal of Devil Breaker arms. There are grappling lines, electric shocks, jet-propelled fists, rebounding lasers and more on the menu. Comparatively, Nero seems like the most straightforward character to play, although his style is no less flashy. That said, what he lacks in gameplay complexity is made up for in plot armor. Let’s just leave it at that.

Dante. Need I say more? He’s the OG Devil Hunter, all-around stylish badass and the star character of nearly every single game in the franchise. Frankly, it wouldn’t be what it is without him. Alongside his trademark Styles methodology, Dante brings a lot of new toys to the Devil May Cry 5 party, such as the Balrog and Cavaliere Devil Arms. That said, he still stands by his trusty sword Rebellion, as well as the Ebony and Ivory pistols, for the most part. Toss in a sarcastic attitude and some witty comebacks to that arsenal and there you have it — one fan-favourite Devil Hunter, ready to go.

(Stay tuned for a more detailed analysis!)

What kind of hell-on-earth is it this time?

In typical DMC-style, the world is already on the brink of destruction when you boot up the game. Demonic forces have launched a massive assault on Red Grave City, killing people, destroying stuff… the usual apocalyptic fare. You’re put in Nero’s shoes, making your way up a demonic tree called the Qliphoth to join Dante in his fight against the invading demon king, Urizen. Unfortunately, all Nero finds when he gets there are his allies utterly decimated. He angrily charges Urizen, and you can probably guess what happens next.

Nero tries to ascend the tree again after getting thrown off the platform, but V convinces him to retreat as it is a lost cause.

Nice houseplant you got there, Urizen.

Fast forward a month later and we see Nero and Nico driving through the city’s  streets. The Qliphoth tree has thoroughly infested Red Grave, turning all the civilians into lifeless black husks. Acting on V’s instructions, the Devil May Cry agency takes on the task of dealing with the overgrown demonic houseplant and thwarting the mastermind behind it.

Having a bad day? Take it out on a demonic horde

Well, that’s the basic premise of the game done and dusted. Now, let’s move on to the real star of the show, and the franchise’s style-centric roots: combat. It shouldn’t come as a surprise but the fighting in Devil May Cry 5 is nothing but excellent, and one of the main contributors to that is actually the game’s audio design.

There’s nothing more fitting for a hot-blooded, demon-killing rampage than heavy rock music blaring in the background. Don’t ask me how, but the soundtrack just makes the crunch of a large sword against demon hide that much more satisfying.

Lemme just, you know… stay out of that?

Furthermore, the weapons themselves are part of that formula too. The sound of Nero’s Blue Rose revolver is one of the most satisfying to ever grace my ears; I could literally feel the “oomph” in the bullets, and that’s just one part of Nero’s kit! As far as I’m concerned, the audio in Devil May Cry 5 definitely gets a good grade.

Speaking of Nero, he’s a good platform to start talking aesthetics. As mentioned above, the Devil Breakers are the main addition to his repertoire, and the impressive number of variations makes for some very, very fun experiences. After all, it’s not every day that a game lets you ride a rocket-propelled fist aptly named “Punch Line”.

Surf’s up, punk!

I haven’t even started talking about the motorcycle! If I had to summarise how DMC5‘s combat makes me feel, that one word would be “gratifying” — especially when you pull off a SSS combo.

However, I find the idea of “buying” new techniques a hassle, since the game gets a teensy bit grindy when you’re farming for the more expensive ones. Maybe it’s just me, or the fact that I play too much Tekken where I don’t need to purchase skills. Apart from that personal annoyance , DMC5 is definitely worth its weight in gold as a feel-good game.

A buffet’s worth of fighting styles

There’s one thing that the Devil May Cry series at large has been good at, and that’s implementing variety. Take a look at Devil May Cry 4, for instance, where players had a total of five different characters to master (if you include the special edition). DMC5 only has three, but Capcom makes up for it by introducing novelty in place of quantity.

The point is, playing the game doesn’t feel as linear as some people might perceive it to be. Between the three playable Devil Hunters, it’s actually very dynamic and refreshing as each of them pose a different challenge in terms of playstyle and approach. You can’t charge as easily into a throng of beefy demons with V as you might with Dante or Nero; you’d just be asking to get pulverized.

There’s also the Void and the Bloody Palace modes to take into account, which lets you hone your skills in a special training area or in floors after floors of enemy wave combat.

Another day, another world-ending demon apocalypse.

The Cameo System makes an appearance

According to the team, they added a new Cameo feature meant to fill the game’s co-op gap.

As long as you have an Internet connection, you can observe fellow Devil Hunters fighting in the distance while playing through the campaign. Occasionally, these pieces of ghost data from other players will also team up with you to clear a certain area. The best part is, players can endorse their collaborators with a “Stylish” rating, giving them a free Gold Orb. There’s no reason to be selfish, so go ahead and help a brother out!

The Cameo System lets you “spectate” others in the distance.

Although it’s an interesting concept, I found it rather underused. Devil May Cry 5 may not support co-op multiplayer per se, but I’d like to do more than just watch pre-recorded cloud data. Some may fight alongside you, but that’s still a far cry from having actual people (or more specifically, your pals) battling the demon horde by your side.

This feels like a huge missed opportunity for Capcom. I understand director Hideaki Itsuno wanted this to be a primarily single-player experience, but a friend-invite function, even if was just for the Bloody Palace, would have made the game infinitely better.

Just a few loose screws, that’s all

Capcom has hit most of the right notes here, though not necessarily all of them. There’s one more area where I felt they could have done more, and that’s character selection. While all three Devil Hunters are interesting and do get decent amounts of screen time, the game loses plenty of replay value by not letting us try completed levels as the other characters. There will definitely be lots of people who’d try to get perfect scores on every level with every character, and that’s just the sort of personal challenge that gets a community talking and sharing.

Wonder if I got time for a book?

To Capcom’s credit, it’s not like they simply left this wound to fester. The Bloody Palace is a close substitute, but it’s not really the same as having the freedom to choose different options within the campaign itself. Not letting me play as any character I want for story reasons feels like a pretty weak excuse; you could say that this preserves the game’s integrity, but if I’ve already seen the ending then why should I worry about knowing who was where at what point? I already got the memo.

So… did it hit the jackpot?

Great gameplay experience? Check.

Fluid combat? Check.

Style points and general badassery? Double check.

With all that nailed down, Devil May Cry 5 has fulfilled its obligations as a successor, and it has done an exemplary job at it too. Capcom has not only retained the series’ style-centric approach but also infused it with modern touches to keep it dynamic. My few gripes did bother me, especially the character selection, and now that Capcom has officially wrapped up development it means we aren’t getting any new playable characters or DLC. That’s probably the biggest bummer of all — I was hoping to try Lady or Trish, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

I still can’t get enough of this.

Even so, those gripes were largely inconsequential once I got the combos rolling. The immensely enjoyable Devil May Cry 5 has pulled off its own SSS rank, making this a must-have for any fan or gamer worth their salt.

Devil May Cry 5 is out now for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Developed and published by Capcom.
A PS4 copy was provided for the review.

Kenneth Ang

Kenneth is your dedicated jack of all trades gamer and borderline anime nut. When not writing, he likes to wind down with Overwatch, Apex Legends and a bit of Fate: Grand Order on the side.