You’ve heard of it, haven’t you? The Legend of Sparda? When I was young, my father would tell me stories about it. Long ago, in ancient times, a demon rebelled against his own kind for the sake of the human race. With his sword, he shut the portal to the demonic realm, and sealed the evil entities off of our human world. But since he was a demon himself, his power was also trapped on the other side. I’ve never believed it. I always thought it was just a child’s fairy tale. But I discovered that this so-called legend wasn’t a myth at all.
The above quote is from the character Lady in the opening cinematic of Devil May Cry 3, a game that would go on to be widely regarded as one of the best action games around. A game cheered and praised for its combat and gameplay fluidity, characters brimming with attitude, interesting story and of course, the over the top action. The other games in the series could never match the height that DMC 3 achieved though DMC 4 tried its best and was a rather good game all things considered, nothing has quite matched DMC 3. As a huge fan of the franchise, the lore, characters, and various media included, I went into Devil May Cry 5 with very cautious optimism because it had been so long for a sequel and it had a lot to live up to. Thankfully I can say after having finished the game on Devil Hunter and Son of Sparda mode that Devil May Cry 5 succeeds entirely in being both an intriguing sequel to a loved series as well as a wonderfully engaging and downright joyous gaming experience. It has been a very long time since a game has had so much attitude and character exude from all its pores and reminded the gamer that while there’s a good story and endless depth in the combat to be explored, gaming is about having fun first and foremost. Without further ado let us break this game down and discuss why it is, in March of 2019, my personal Game of the Year already.
We shall start of course with the Story/Campaign of Devil May Cry 5; the Story opens partway through a mission around the middle of the actual campaign and tasks you with taking on a boss you are woefully underprepared for. This is done to set up and show the power of the antagonist as well as demonstrate just how much your characters will improve throughout the game. The story follows the now full-time Devil Hunter Nero, the legendary Devil Hunter Dante and a new mysterious stranger by the name of V. You will use all three of these characters throughout the twenty mission campaign, each with their own different gameplay style and move set. This is welcome as it allows you to get to know characters better as well as interact with the world and other side characters from differing perspectives making the characters all come to life in a believable way.
Your trio of Devil Hunters are all trying to stop the demon Urizen from harnessing human blood into a source of pure power, along the way characters deviate from the cause in slight ways to fit an agenda all their own and there’s a good amount of interesting dialogue between characters. Thankfully the team behind making the story here knew when to pump the brakes on the seriousness of it all and when to have a little fun with the attitude of its cast. The comedic moments in Devil May Cry 5 are all very well placed and never feel forced or awkward, more importantly, it’s all very fitting for the characters in the game as well and it brings a great deal of lightheartedness that makes them all relatable. From the fiery mad tinker Nico to the quiet poetry reading V and the ever legendary smack talking, joke-cracking Dante, every character feels alive and interesting in their own ways. DMC 5 also does well on the pacing of the story, introducing you to the game in the midpoint of the story works well because the game allows you to see every character’s struggle and rise to power and growth by the end. The missions never overstay their welcome and you’re never stuck with any one character for too long in the story, the game even has periods where you can freely choose which character you’d like to tackle a mission with. The latter third of the games picks up its pace with what feels like slightly shorter missions but they never felt less satisfying to play, there was just a sense of faster progression as you cleaved a bloody path through the demons in your way. The story concludes in a very entertaining and well-done way that will please any longtime DMC fan while leaving players wanting more, with alot of questions answered and the main question left being, “what’s next?” and “When can I play more?”
Buttery freakin’ smooth! That’s the first thing that comes to mind whenever I’ve been asked about the gameplay on display in Devil May Cry 5, in a series that has had fast, aggressive and rewarding in most of it, it has never felt better than it does in Devil May Cry 5. The gameplay is simply masterfully done and handled in DMC 5, improving on even DMC3 in almost every single metric. The three characters play differently while simultaneously managing to keep the same feeling of nonstop in your face brutal action on screen in a nearly endless orchestra of controlled chaos. Nero’s gameplay is more traditional action hack and slash but what sets him apart from the other two characters are the special properties of his Red Queen (Sword), Blue Rose (Gun) and his various Devil Breaker arms. The Red Queen can be revved up (Yes, like a car or bike) in order to deliver more damaging combos as well as outright changing certain moves entirely. Blue Rose can be held down to load it with explosive bullets and eventually you can hold it down even longer to further power up those explosive bullets and then there’s Nero’s Devil Breakers which are numerous and all act as their own separate weapons. A couple of examples being the Buster Arm which acts as a replacement for Nero’s Devil Bringer in DMC 4 giving him access to all his usual unique grapple moves which is a completely different weapon as opposed to the Gerbera Arm that shoots shockwaves to knock enemies away, stagger them slightly or can be used to increase Nero’s aerial maneuverability.
In stark contrast to Nero’s gameplay is V, the new mysterious man to the group and he plays significantly differently from Dante and Nero. V isn’t a physically strong or powerful character in the story, in fact, he is quite the opposite, his person is slowly degrading as the story goes on and this is reflected in his gameplay. The game cleverly reflects this in his gameplay by having V control three different demons in combat to do the heavy work so he can swoop in when the enemy is nearly dead and finish the job. V has control over a demon bird named Griffon who acts as the ranged weapon, shooting electrical blasts towards enemies and making pillars of lightning to strike entire groups of foes at once. Shadow is a demon panther that is V’s main source of melee damage. Shadow is also able to shapeshift making him very versatile in combat. Changing between bladed weapons, whip-like panther tails and literal giant gnashing teeth Shadow has an answer for practically any situation that V may find himself in, making Shadow very valuable. The third demon Nightmare is summoned when using Vs devil trigger, Nightmare is a purely physical bruiser that clubs enemies with big strong fists and some eye laser attacks. Later on in the game, as more and more demons come at you at once, Vs gameplay can become very chaotic with some annoying frame dips at times but that minor issue aside it still feels incredibly engaging and fun throughout.
Dante’s gameplay is very similar to Nero’s in a lot of ways because it’s very melee focused and very fast paced and in your face. That being said though Dante is by far the most versatile and well equipped of the characters, having a different weapon or gun to answer any situation that may arise. Dante being the legendary devil hunter and having a load of experience has different fighting styles at his disposal as well; each of these changes his gameplay style on the fly with different effects and abilities. Examples would be his Sword Master style giving him advanced combos, unique moves and special effects with all of his melee weapons. Gunslinger does the same thing except for all of his guns, Trickster is a style that makes Dante accel in maneuverability allowing him to do quick dash ins and dash outs, short-range teleports and air dashes. Lastly, there’s Royal Guard which grants Dante the ability to block opponents attacks, building a meter that you can unless in powerful counterattacks. All of this along with Dante’s various melee options ranging from his faithful Rebellion sword to his nunchucks and a literal motorcycle turned dual wielded chainsaw swords makes Dante a swiss army knife of demon slaying potential.
All things said and done gameplay in Devil May Cry V is masterfully and nearly flawlessly executed in every single metric, matching and even exceeding in a lot of ways the standard that Devil May Cry 3 had set before it. Gameplay in this game is rewarding and fast-paced while maintaining an unparallel sense of badassness and fun, making it a very joyous experience to play whether you are a new fan of the franchise or a grizzled devil hunter veteran.
Graphics and Art Style
Graphically speaking the game is stunning in a lot of ways with interesting backgrounds and awesome set pieces that the player will see throughout the campaign. The facial animations are expertly done as well making every character seem incredibly lifelike and every cut scene is an absolute joy to watch. It isn’t perfect however; there are slight issues at times, particularly when the screen is filled with all kinds of chaos at once. The frame rate can dip at times (This review was done on an Xbox one X for reference) but it only ever did so by a couple of frames and for a second or two at the very most. Sometimes the characters will some blurriness around their outlines randomly that can be distracting at times as well but this only happened twice throughout my play through. Other than those minor issues that game is stunning with interesting enemy designs, fantastically done bosses, interesting explorable areas and even a fun main menu screen.
Music and Audio
Music in the Devil May Cry series has always been a very integral part of the overall experience that players have. The soundtrack in Devil May Cry 3, for example, was packed with fantastic scores and background music that was memorable while making the player feel immersed in the game. Devil May Cry V handles music fantastically well just like DMC 3 before it with background themes such as Dante’s Sub-Human being extremely fitting for his character and fast gameplay pace. Nero’s theme, Devil Trigger, is also a very good song as well however Vs theme fell short for me as it wasn’t as strong or compelling as Dante or Nero’s themes. Audio wise the game is solid with sound design being extremely well done, the sound of ever shot from Dante’s twin pistols is satisfying, every clang of metal from the weapons pierces through everything else with a realistic reverb, character quips and smack talk in the heat of battle is well voiced and sounds authentic, it just all works in the end.
Devil May Cry V is a love letter to everything in the franchise thus far that has made fans love it as much as they have. Everything from the story to the gameplay and music just feels right and by extension, the player feels right at home coming back to such a beloved series. While no game is perfect Devil May Cry V certainly comes close to being about as good as you can get for an action game, in a day and age of gaming where we as players are given rushed out games that feel like they’re halfway finished, this game is a wonderful diamond in that rough showing what can be achieved when a developer and publisher care enough to take their time. I started this review by mentioning and praising Devil May Cry 3 because to this day it has always remained one of the best example of how to do a fun action that has a good story but knows when and how to have fun and not take itself seriously. Devil May Cry V follows that same execution making it the best action game that I have played in a very long time all while feeling polished, finished and not shoving microtransactions in my face. There are minor issues that will be noticed during the game but they in no way hinder the overall experience or detract from the fun that Devil May Cry V brings to the gaming table. Having finished the game multple times, on multiple difficulties, experiencing everything it has to offer time and time again, I feel comfortable in giving Devil May Cry V a glowing review and recommending it to any gamers that are a fan of the series, are looking for something fun to sink thier teeth into or to fans of fast paced hack and slash action games.
Devil May Cry V has free DLC coming out on April 1st including the awaited Bloody Palace mode that has been present in the past Devil May Cry games, offering a boss rush type mode that pits the player and their character of choice against waves of enemies to see how long they can survive. There are also rumors of a certain fan favorite character being playable in Bloody Palace as well which is incredibly exciting to any long time DMC fans. So far there aren’t any plans for story centric DLCs but that could always change with how well the game has been widely received thus far.