Release Date: March 8, 2019
Platform: XBO (reviewed), PS4, PC
There are certain things that gamers have come to expect from the Devil May Cry series: stylish, over-the-top combat, searing heavy metal riffs, massive demonic bosses, and some of the most ridiculously dysfunctional family drama in gaming. Devil May Cry 5 is all of those things and more wrapped in one of the best graphics engines around, but awkward pacing and a gimmicky new playable character mar an otherwise enjoyable experience.
At first, Devil May Cry 5 seems to have little to do with the previous entries in the series. Capcom has completely ignored the divisive 2013 reboot and set the game several years after Devil May Cry 4. The mysterious V, who bears more than a little resemblance to Adam Driver, tasks famous demon hunters Dante and Nero with defeating the powerful and heretofore unknown Demon King Urizen.
That disconnect from earlier games doesn’t last long, though. Without giving too much away, Devil May Cry 5 eventually digs deep into the backstory of the earlier games in a way that will really satisfy longtime fans. Thankfully, a movie detailing the series’ storyline is available from the beginning for newcomers as well.
The game features three playable characters: Nero, Dante, and the newly introduced V. Nero and Dante control similarly to how they did in the preceding games with a few tweaks.
Nero’s Devil Bringer arm from Devil May Cry 4 has been severed and replaced with the new Devil Breaker, which is really a weapon involving multiple interchangeable robotic arms, each with their own power. These arms can shock enemies, whip them, or cut them with spinning blades. Equipping multiple Devil Breakers and switching them out in the middle of combat is a lot of fun, and really sets Nero apart from the other playable characters. Those who were disappointed about the emphasis on Nero in Devil May Cry 4 will have a lot less to complain about here.
Dante is back in all of his sword-swinging, double-wielding glory, but a with couple new weapons, including a motorcycle that splits into two heavy swords and a new version of Cerberus featuring environmental staff and chain attacks in addition to the nunchaku style last seen in Devil May Cry 3.
Unfortunately, just like in Devil May Cry 4, Dante doesn’t show up as a playable character until the game’s midway point, and these weapons appear even later in the game. Only two of the game’s 20 missions let you choose which character you’d like to play as, so there aren’t many opportunities to try these weapons during your first playthrough.
V is one of the most unique playable characters to ever appear in an action game. While physically weak, he attacks with eagle, panther, and golem demons, then finishes off enemies by attacking with his cane. He’s interesting to play as at first, but the problem with V is that his fighting style is too fundamentally different to really fit the game.
While controlling Nero and Dante requires a bit of finesse and strategy, combat with V mostly comes down to mashing buttons to attack with the eagle and panther demons, easily racking up S combos and above. There’s a good reason for all of this, though. V and his combat style are integral to the plot, but I won’t really miss him if he doesn’t make it into future games.
Capcom has also introduced a new type of online multiplayer called the “Cameo System,” where other players who are online can make guest appearances in your game when they’re on the same level. They don’t really do anything, but you can rate each other’s performance for rewards after each mission.
The Cameo System doesn’t actually add much to the game, but one segment in particular where Nero and V fight alongside each other made me wish that Capcom had incorporated true co-op in the game.
While the plot of Devil May Cry 5 is generally strong, and the cutscenes are outstanding, pacing problems appear in the last quarter of the game. The last few missions feel drawn out, yet somehow when the credits rolled, it felt like there was room for one or two more missions.
In its third outing, the RE Engine continues to amaze with some of the best character models of the current generation and some genuinely disturbing Cronenberg body horrors. It also shines while exploring Red Grave City in the earlier levels, but the last half of the game mostly takes place in a giant demonic tree filled with the typical gray-brown rocky hellscape seen in dozens of games before. There are a lot of re-used assets, and it just seems like a waste.
Still, the combat remains enjoyable until the end (at least with Nero and Dante), and there are plenty of secrets and unlockables beyond the 8-10 hour campaign, including the usual higher difficulty levels. Capcom has also promised to release the free Bloody Palace DLC in April.
Devil May Cry 5 checks most of the boxes for a bigger and better sequel. The combat feels great, the story ups the stakes in new and surprising ways, and it (mostly) looks phenomenal. But creeping bloat holds it back from being the definitive DMC experience.
Chris Freiberg is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.