It’s been a long, 12-year wait since Devil May Cry 4. After DmC: Devil May Cry enraged the fanbase due to Capcom asking Ninja Theory to design an all-new Dante, I thought chances were good that, if we ever got a new mainline entry, we’d get the Devil May Cry 3 follow-up we’d held out for. While Devil May Cry 5 is certainly a very good game, it takes one of the main elements of DMC 4 that fans were unhappy about and doubles down on it.
If you’re a fan of the series, you know exactly who I’m talking about – Nero. When DMC 4 released, it disappointed a lot of fans by seemingly replacing Dante with a new protagonist who had only one set of weapons. Dante himself wasn’t playable until around the game’s midpoint, and his levels saw him going back through Nero’s and fighting the same handful of bosses again. One of the best things about DMC – accruing and switching between new weapons – mostly sits on the back-burner.
Dante Fans May Cry
Once again, Dante doesn’t show up until Devil May Cry 5‘s midpoint. Thankfully, though, he doesn’t backtrack through any of the previous levels. All of the bosses he fights are unique to him, too. However, all but two of his weapons are reiterations of ones from past games. Anyone hoping for the game to be structured like the third game and not the fourth is going to be disappointed. Devil May Cry 5 is definitely more in the vein of the latter, but it’s a definite improvement.
At the start of the game, you’re immediately thrust into Nero’s shoes. He’s lost his Devil Bringer arm and now uses a host of mechanical arms called Devil Breakers. Each Devil Breaker has its own unique ability, and there are a lot of them. One lets him fire a rocket punch, one gives him an air dash, and another powers up his sword and gun. In case you’re wondering, yes, Nero still has just the one sword and gun. However, he’s a lot of fun to play as. His Exceed System of powering up his sword also returns, as does his ability to grab foes.
Not Very Extraordinary
Early on, we’re introduced to a new character known as V. I can only describe him as what I’d imagine Adam Driver would look like if he cosplayed as a Final Fantasy XV character. V is the second playable character, and he has no combat abilities. He fights by commanding three shadow demons while you must keep him out of harm’s way. These demons are Griffin, a bird who mostly handles projectiles; Shadow, a leopard (or panther, maybe) that specializes in melee attacks; and Nightmare, a hulking behemoth V summons with his devil trigger gauge. V is fairly fun to play in his own right, but he’s definitely less engaging than Nero and Dante.
Dante is, naturally, the stand-out. I don’t want to give anything away, but there were some things in his missions that gave me exactly what I wanted out of Devil May Cry 5 to begin with. His four styles from DMC 3 all return and work just as you remember. Switching between his different weapons and styles on the fly is still extremely satisfying. His new melee weapon is so ridiculous and over-the-top that I had a great time using it.
In case you’re wondering, though: no, you can’t replay missions with whatever character you feel like. I was hoping to play through Nero missions with Dante, but that simply isn’t allowed. I’m hopeful someone will mod it in over the next few months, though. Thankfully, Dante feels much more important and more equal here than in 4. Nero is still the main character, sure, but there’s plenty of Dante to go around.
Easy Does It
Much like its predecessor, Devil May Cry 5 is also on the easy side. You start the game with easy and normal modes available, and they rarely challenged me. Once you beat the normal mode, you unlock a hard mode that changes up the enemies just like previous games. Nonetheless, the game just doesn’t feel as fast and chaotic as I was hoping for. One thing that I really love about the series is needing to constantly be in motion. DMC 5 just doesn’t quite deliver that level of intensity.
Unlike its predecessor, the game has a large amount of bosses. Much like the rest of the game, they’re mostly pretty easy aside from a few outliers. You have to do a couple of them more than once and a couple of them are very obviously meant to be very similar to fights from previous games, which I didn’t mind too much. For the most part they’re definitely really strong and varied boss fights, with a mix of huge behemoths and smaller foes. I wish they were more challenging but I’m satisfied with what the game offers on this front.
One thing that surprised me is that Devil May Cry 5 brings back gold orbs and stringent checkpoints. When your character dies during a level (which probably won’t be a common occurrence), you’re given the choice to revive with some of the red orbs you’ve collected, or gold orbs which are hidden in the levels. I think I used maybe two gold orbs during my entire playthrough. Plus, the game still checkpoints before boss battles, so this isn’t nearly as demanding as it initially seems. It’s a fun throwback to previous entries, but it does feel kind of tacked-on.
Devil May Cry 5 is the biggest game in the series by a fair margin. My initial playthrough took me 16 hours, and the levels are long and have many things to find. Blue and purple orb fragments are hidden in the levels, as are a dozen secret missions. These secret missions are also fairly difficult to find. I only located half of them during my time with the game, and I missed a fair amount of orb fragments as well, even though I did my best to search the levels as thoroughly as I could.
Speaking of which, Devil May Cry 5 gives good incentives to replay levels aside from simply trying to get better rankings. A couple of missions do let you choose between different characters. One of these even has different areas to explore based on the character you picked. Some levels also have branching pathways, so you’ll need to play them more than once to find everything they have. And due to the way the game checkpoints, you can miss a jump that leads to an orb fragment, so you’ll have to start over from the beginning in order to have another shot at collecting it.
A Middling Presentation
Devil May Cry 5‘s presentation is a bit of a mixed bag, overall, though. While the graphics are technically very good, with a lot of atmosphere and great use of lighting and effects, the levels themselves are disappointingly bland. You can mostly put them in two camps: ruined cityscapes and large underground insect nest places. The game is also very drab, with a muted color palette and not a lot of interesting sights to see. This also extends to many of the game’s enemies, which are bland insect monsters that aren’t very creative.
The story is also problematic, as it plays fast-and-loose with series canon and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The basic gist is that the demon king, known only as Urizen, has planted an underworld tree called a Qliphoth that is feeding on people in order to bear fruit. The narrative starts in media res and takes a long time to get going. And even then, the stakes don’t feel high and the world-building is practically non-existent. There’s also another new character, who speaks in an obnoxiously cartoony Southern accent and is kind of a pain every time she’s onscreen. The story has twists, but they’re obvious and there are few surprises. Structurally, it’s reminiscent of Resident Evil 6, though the story itself isn’t even close to being as extremely stupid as that was.
Even with these complaints, Devil May Cry 5 is a very good game. The combat, while not as fast or intense as previous games, is still very much DMC combat, which is always fun. The controls are fluid and responsive as usual and the camera rarely gets in the way. There’s a lot of content on offer, and a Bloody Palace mode is coming in April. I enjoyed my time with the game and am going to continue playing it, but I can’t help but be disappointed by how close it sticks to 4‘s formula.
Nero’s fun to play as and perfectly okay, but I hope we get a game focused more heavily on giving one character a ton of depth and a steady flow of new weapons. Ultimately, while DMC 5 panders to exactly what fans want in some areas, it simultaneously goes out of its way to not give them what they want in others. Perhaps one day the series will focus on what it does best. For now, though, I’m glad DMC is back, and I’m glad it’s better than DMC 4.