Over the course of nearly two decades, this franchise went through multiple highs and lows. From the excellent original, Devil May Cry, it dropped to an all-time low with its sequel Devil May Cry 2, only to rise once again with the incredible Devil May Cry 3. For the most part, the soul of the series retained its identity with Devil May Cry 4, but got ruined by the failed re-imagining in DmC. Spanning so many games and stories, both successful and failed endeavours were all but unavoidable. But longtime fans of the series will be happy to find out that Devil May Cry 5 — finally — brings back everything we love about it, and then some. With that in mind, let’s rock, baby!
For anyone new to the series, Devil May Cry 5 provides a brief movie, titled “History of DMC”, accessible in-game. It showcases events between previous games in the form of static cutscenes and text. Somewhat surprisingly, it completely ignores the existence of Devil May Cry 2. Perhaps, because events portrayed in it don’t quite fit alongside other entries.
Devil May Cry 5 brings together an unforgettable cast of characters, more so than ever before. Familiar demon exterminators — Dante and Nero — return to the spotlight, with Lady and Trish filling in supporting roles. But new faces — namely Nico and V — don’t fall behind in terms of appeal. With her quick wit and hip attire, Nico easily imbues dialogue with the most amount of tasteful humour. And V, sharing the initial with Dante’s older sibling, Vergil, and often reciting a mysterious book, adds intrigue to the overall plotline. As to why they share this initial becomes revealed later in the story, and it all makes a surprising amount of sense.
This time around, Dante and his now expanded group of comrades face an entirely new threat: the Demon King Urizen. He intends to attain absolute power by draining blood from every human and using it to fortify his own growing abilities. Urizen does so via a demonic tree located in the centre of a sprawling metropolitan area known as Red Grave City. This tree gradually engulfs the city, absorbing the life-force of its citizens and turning them into inanimate husks. In their initial attempt, Dante and Nero fail to stop Urizen and the struggle of overcoming this powerful adversary begins.
From there, the plot progresses in a shuffled chronological order, jumping between multiple periods of time, yet somehow avoiding confusion. Devil May Cry 5 incrementally introduces new characters and their motivations, though some receive way more screen-time than others. It features some of the best writing and humour in the series, largely thanks to the comical interactions between Nero and his sidekick Nico. And, of course, the usually sarcastic one-liners by Dante spice up conversations.
Overall, the narrative features some truly memorable moments and answers many crucial questions. But as much as existing fans will enjoy it, some important story segments won’t invoke any emotion in players who didn’t experience previous games. Devil May Cry 3, in particular.
But from a purely technical standpoint, Devil May Cry 5 is an absolute marvel to behold. Character models feature detailed pores, freckles and scars, hair flutters in the wind and Dante’s grey bristles should be featured in a shaving commercial. They grimace, frown and display their emotions in a multitude of different ways. It truly showcases the visual capabilities of the RE Engine. On top of that, the game runs at 4K on Xbox One X, PlayStation 4 Pro and PC, and supports HDR and 60 FPS across all platforms.
Split into missions, levels play very much like before. And environments, both real and supernatural, often seem just as impressive as the characters traversing them. I frequently found myself stopping just to admire the windows of a high-street shop or city ruins illuminated by sunlight. Somehow, I even enjoyed examining various graffiti painted on brick walls, with funny phrases like “Lady was here” and “I want memes”.
Devil May Cry 5 covers a lot of ground with deserted urban environments, industrial areas and subway tunnels. Though some locales, like the interior of the demonic tree, might look a little bland in comparison, familiar locations like Dante’s office and the area just outside of it look great and invoke a certain sense of deja vu. And almost every mission culminates in a spectacular boss battle. Some missions consist entirely of that.
Many iconic enemies, like the Sin Scissors, and even some bosses reappear for the enjoyment of longtime fans. Devil May Cry 5 introduces them via a brief cutscene, showcasing their name and pivotal abilities. Every enemy feels important in that regard and not just thrown in for the hell of it.
Defeating them bestows red orbs for characters to spend on upgrades at Nico’s workshop, or between missions. Every level contains a phone booth which allows characters to call-up Nico for assistance, and she arrives within seconds, usually by crashing through a wall with her van and almost killing the caller in the process. But she’s a nice girl.
Though mostly linear in construction, levels provide some opportunities to deviate from a predetermined path and explore. This curiosity often leads to hidden stashes of red orbs, valuable gold orbs or even secret missions.
When discovered, secret missions transport players into a remote location and require them to complete a certain challenge. These might be as simple as defeating every enemy within the given time limit. Or traversing a level via suspended hooks without touching the ground. Upon completion, secret missions award blue orbs which eventually enhance a character’s life total.
Offering control of either Nero, V, or Dante at various intervals, some missions provide the opportunity to choose between all three for a different perspective. For instance, playing as Nero, you might encounter V disposing of enemies right beside you, and vice versa. As a result, completing the mission with another character adds some replayability to it.
Once again, Devil May Cry 5 shines when it comes to combat. Starting with Nero who employs his usual sword, Red Queen, and revolver Blue Rose to battle spawns of hell. But the addition of a Devil Breaker, which replaces his right arm, adds some much-needed character to his style.
Lovingly made by Nico and formed as bionic arms, these bestow Nero with various abilities. By default, they allow Nero to pull enemies towards him, or close the distance with larger foes. Each Devil Breaker also grants unique abilities. For example, Overture fires bursts of electricity, while Gerbera releases a powerful shockwave. With Punch Line, Nero can launch a missile and even ride it temporarily. Many more become available as the story progresses and can be purchased at Nico’s or found during exploration.
If Nero takes damage while using a Devil Breaker, that arm destructs and becomes replaced by one of the spares. Likewise, Nero can destroy it manually to create a powerful explosion; excellent for crowd control.
And as for V, I do like him; I like his combat style and the ideas integrated into it. V commands two demons at his side; a loud-mouth bird who never seems to shut up, and an intimidating panther. Simply put, they replace the usual firearms and swords by taking their exact spots. V himself seldom participates in combat, instead, he controls the bird for ranged attacks and certain AoE attacks, and the panther for close-combat domination.
Once an enemy is low enough on health, V steps in to perform a satisfying finisher with his cane. Opposite to any other character, V acts more like a mage, observing each battle from a distance, evading incoming attacks and rarely involving himself directly. Quite the contrary to Nero and Dante, both of whom like to get intimate with their demon prey.
In addition to birds and panthers, V occasionally summons a Nightmare which consumes his Devil Trigger gauge. His hair turns grey when doing so because in Devil May Cry, grey hair equals more power. Nightmare, a huge golem-like creature tends to enter the area with a powerful blast, often revealing hidden pathways as a result. With such a trio of demons at his side, V becomes a force to be reckoned with, even with his own lacking physicality.
Last and by no means least: Dante. This legendary demon hunter employs two sets of weapons: one for firearms and one for swords. With his favoured dual-pistols — Ebony and Ivory — Dante can effectively juggle enemies in the air, or switch to Coyote, a sawn-off shotgun, for blasting those unfortunate enough up-close. In addition to Rebellion, Dante collects new swords and firearms throughout the story. A demonic motorcycle stands out from the rest, and Dante can even use it to cover short distances.
But wait, there’s more! Styles — Trickster, Gunslinger, Swordmaster and Royal Guard — make a welcome return. With Trickster, Dante gains the ability to swiftly evade incoming attacks, whether on the ground or in the air. Gunslinger provides firearms with additional firepower and velocity, and Swordmaster unlocks incredibly powerful attacks for melee weapons. Lastly, with the Royal Guard, Dante can block attacks, albeit at the expense of his Devil Trigger. Switchable anytime during or outside of combat, Styles diversify Dante’s abilities and make his style (pun intended) truly unique.
And as always, with his own separate Devil Trigger, Dante transforms into a demon at will. While in this state, his visual appearance changes, attacks gain speed and power, and his health gradually regenerates. With so many combat options, Dante’s abilities really translate as something superior compared to other characters. And he often disposes of enemies — even bosses — much quicker than Nero or V.
No matter how you wish to approach combat, characters perform various combos based on the input. Prefer to swing the Red Queen a few times and finish the opponent off with a blast from Blue Rose? Go right ahead. How about launching electric projectiles with the bird while pummeling away with the panther playing as V? You can do that, too. With Dante, launch an opponent into the air with Rebellion and give it a few buckshot kisses from the Coyote. It all depends on you; any and all weapons switch seamlessly, so long as the current animation concludes. Timing also plays an integral part in adding complexity to combat; take a pause after the first or second swing and you will start an entirely different combo.
Attacking any foe builds a combo chain and Devil May Cry 5 rates combos from D all the way to SSS. You achieve higher ratings by employing varying weapons and tools, and not performing the same attack repeatedly. Getting an A rank eventually becomes the norm for most battles as you acquire new weapon combos, but achieving the coveted shiny SSS rank will require every bit of skill and patience. I wish my interactions with the ladies were rated like this, too. Ask for a number: Badass; Get invited for some coffee: Savage; Wake up with a smile the next morning: Smokin’ Sexy Style.
But style points don’t just feed your ego. At the end of every mission, they determine your rank and the amount of extra red orbs you receive. These can then be spent on new skills or items. Skills range from simple ones like increased sprint speed or the ability to dodge, new intricate combos for your weapons, all the way to new, combat-altering abilities.
This incredibly fast-paced action goes hand-in-hand with an amazing soundtrack. So much that even combo notifications dance in the rhythm of the music. Customary to the series, your ears will often be treated to metal, angrier metal, and more metal from the depths of hell itself. Dante’s battle theme, “Subhuman”, follows suit of previous games and perfectly summarizes his character. During the few exploration segments, you’ll hear unusually ambient and relaxing tunes as well.
As an example of that, the remix of Nero’s “Devil Trigger” might be the right tune to seduce your partner with. And I loved visiting Nico’s workshop, often just to hear the cheerful theme playing in the background. Of course, it all comes down to preference, but with so many varied tracks, you’re bound to find something that caters to your inner audiophile.
And here comes a slight gripe of mine. If you purchase the Deluxe Edition of Devil May Cry 5 then you also receive a nice amount of various goodies: cool costumes for characters, additional upgrades and even live-action cutscenes. But, much like with the remake of Resident Evil 2, it contains battle music from previous games. And as much as I love the new soundtrack, hearing “Devils Never Cry” and “Ultra Violet” play during combat should be available to everyone. Not just to those who invest more.
With only two difficulty options available from the start, combat might come as a letdown to those who crave a challenge. And the addition of gold orbs makes it even easier. Once used, a gold orb revives the character and fully restores his health. Afterwards, he gets up and resumes the fight; there is no punishment for failing. This wouldn’t be a problem by itself, but Devil May Cry 5 hands these orbs out way too generously.
Devil May Cry 5 also features a surprisingly interesting online component, which doesn’t take away from the experience, but actually enhances it. During missions, you will encounter other players controlling a different character, often alongside you. This showcases the differences between each character’s progression, after which you both go separate ways. Upon completing the mission, you may rate the other player’s performance as good or bad, and receive additional gold orbs for being rated yourself. However, with little opportunity to objectively gauge a player’s performance, there’s really no reason to give a bad rating and not help out a fellow demon hunter.
Across its 20 missions, Devil May Cry 5 might take you 15 – 20 hours to complete, depending on whether or not you attempt secret missions. After finishing the game once, additional difficulties become unlocked. You also have the added incentive to discover every secret mission on a subsequent playthrough, and the Bloody Palace mode from previous games releases in April via a free update.
It might come as a disappointment to some, but Devil May Cry 5 lacks the relentless challenge of its predecessors. At least on the Demon Hunter difficulty, and before the last few missions. But as an otherwise flawless game, Devil May Cry 5 combines every beloved aspect from previous titles and adds new, worthwhile mechanics. It brings back fan-favourite characters, like Dante, Lady, and Trish, while introducing new faces — Nico and V — who actually perfectly fit within the established universe.
Devil May Cry 5 gracefully inherits the very best narrative aspects from Devil May Cry 3 and even surpasses it in some regards. It features some of the best music and characters in the whole series, along with a multitude of new weapons and abilities, and it sets a new bar of quality and content for upcoming entries, which, I hope, will act as a template for what we can expect from the series in the future. If you missed the greatness of older titles, play it – you won’t regret it.