Devil May Cry is a special franchise, and like Capcom itself it has had more than a few ups and downs. With Ninja Theory’s still pretty great but rather contentious DmC from 2013, many fans had thought it might end there. Luckily, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a charred demon, Devil May Cry 5 kicked ass in 2018 with a superb outing for all our favourite characters. The Special Edition is merely an extension of that. With new ideas, some very nice additions and ray tracing, will this be enough to justify jumping back in?
As this is likely the first thing you will spot about Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition, let’s start with the graphical upgrade. Ray tracing technology is a rather special thing. It’s used to deal with lighting much more effectively and dynamically, causing shades and reflections to not just appear, but appear well. Seeing yourself in the mirror of desecrated shops and the plethora of pools of demon blood adds a lot to the general presentation. There are a few key graphical modes offered to the player upon booting up. This includes 4K and ray tracing at 30fps, 1080p with ray tracing at 60fps or 1080p without ray tracing at a whopping 120fps. With ray tracing and 4K enabled, DMC 5 absolutely knocks it out of the park. After playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Yakuza: Like a Dragon and a handful of other Series X games, this is easily one of the most impressive out there. There’s a certain visceral nature to every single attack Dante (or any other character) makes, and having that accentuated with such lovely graphics does wonders for it.
This becomes even more gruesome with the grotesque creatures and alien pillars you find throughout your time with it. As well as all of this, the SSD makes those loading times – something that was somewhat of a hindrance to the high speed of the original – fly by. DMC 5 has become my game to show off with the Series X.
I’m going to do something here that none of the trailers for DMC 5 Special Edition have done – I’m going to address this review without spoilers. Taking place five years after the events of DMC 4, you control Dante, Nero and a mysterious new character called V. Your goal is to stop the Demon King Urizen from destroying the world. It sets up a decent mystery of who V is and how the protagonists might achieve their goal, but doesn’t do much else with it and is, ultimately, a reasonably barebones story. This time around, you are giving a fourth player to play as – the sword-wielding badass, and Dante’s brother, Vergil. The previous three characters share screen time and are playable depending on the mission type and structure, but Vergil hogs the screen if you wish him to. Not that I mind, given how fun he is to play: you can easily play the entire game with him, making him a great choice early on.
Speaking of play, DMC 5’s ridiculously over the top formula comes back in full force in the Special Edition. The graphical and performance upgrades make the buttery-smooth gameplay feel even greater. However, not all characters feel even, making V a little less enjoyable than Dante to play. He focuses on ranged attacks and brutal finishers, making him the easiest to get an SSS rank on very quickly. You can spread attacks and chain finishers to rack up points very quickly. He just feels quite easy. Nero is also quite good and rather similar to Dante, but not quite as smooth or combo-heavy. This moves us to Vergil – an all-round great combatant who makes the most of long katanas and good Devil Triggers; his moves flow together naturally and combining them with the verticality of DMC 5 really pays off. If you’re replaying this for the first time in a while, I would definitely make your first run a Vergil run.
I say ‘run’, as the new modes should give you plenty of time to experiment around and playthrough, the first of which is the Turbo mode. This pushes the speed of the game to 1.2x the normal speed, making it great for speedrunners. Inclusion of this was somewhat expected as it has been a fan favourite since the special edition of DMC 3. Moving from here, we have the Legendary Dark Knight difficulty – something most will likely never finish. This adds tons of new enemies into the encounters you’re familiar with, making battles a war of attrition as your thumbs grind away along with your patience. This is something DMC sadists will love.
This all being said, the Special Edition of DMC 5 that is optimised for Xbox Series X|S doesn’t offer that much new content. The graphical and performance upgrades are great and the new modes are a welcome addition, but DMC 5 Special Edition won’t offer anything you haven’t been expecting. If you haven’t had a chance to play the original, this is the perfect time, but if you have previously played and liked it, and can’t see yourself going back, this won’t change your mind. Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition on Xbox is, quite frankly, the best way to play the game – but it won’t convince you to part ways with your funds if you were lukewarm on the original.