Devil May Cry 5 Review

March 7, 2019

Course-corrections for big franchises are nothing new, no matter how good a reboot or re-imagining might be. When the Prince of Persia franchise rebooted itself with 2008’s Prince of Persia, despite a warm critical reception the new direction was abruptly abandoned to return to the fan-favourite Sands of Time series within a couple of years. In much the same way Devil May Cry 5 has been a long time coming for Devil May Cry die-hards. While 2013 did bring Ninja Theory’s reboot, DmC: Devil May Cry, many fans were disappointed with its protagonist, Dante’s, new design and personality, as well as the abandonment of the canon they’d grown attached to throughout the series. After a surprise reveal at last year’s E3, Devil May Cry 5 – a sequel to the original line of games – is finally a reality and more than anything else it tries its hardest to be everything that fans wanted.

Returning to the many lingering plot threads from the original Devil May Cry lore, Devil May Cry 5 goes out of its way to please fans and acknowledge its place in canon, even including stuff from the light novel and limited anime series from yonks ago. DMC4‘s protagonist, the young devil hunter Nero, is recruited along with veteran hunter Dante by the mysterious Adam Driver-lookalike ‘V’. An astronomically gigantic tree, the Qliphoth, has erupted in the middle of Red Grave City at the behest of a demon ‘Urizen’, who the trio must take down in order to save what’s left of the city and the rest of the human world.

The story is fairly traditional Devil May Cry fare, despite its attempt to tell the story non-linearly by jumping around occasionally in time. There’s a (fairly obvious) twist along the way which makes the adventure much more personal for everyone involved, but relatively little of the story feels that new or original. Its main concern is delivering a lot of badass moments from characters the fans have come to love, even if it doesn’t make the most sense, and some big moments have been recreated from past games here (even from the reboot DmC). It helps that cutscenes are fun to watch as they’re often layered with cheese, as Nero has received a proper personality and become a lot more snarky and proactive protagonist, while Dante’s age is starting to catch up with him as he’s grown to be even more cavalier and jaded. V remains mysterious and impenetrable for most of the game, but his scenes are helped thanks to a wisecracking raven familiar who accompanies him at all times.

Of course, the star attraction in a Devil May Cry game is the ‘stylish action’ formula. Rather than simply dispense enemies with a melee combo or ranged hit, DMC has always relied on mixing things up by using both guns and swords and combining all the skills in your arsenal to make combat look as good as possible, and receive a Style ranking (from D to SSS) for it. It’s what makes Devil May Cry 5 hugely fun to play this time around as well – although there are some twists.

Each character comes with their own unique take on this trademark ‘stylish action’. Dante remains mostly the same as his appearance in DMC4, a technical fighter with the ability to switch between four different ‘styles’ on the fly which change up his abilities (such as hailing bullets from the sky in ‘Gunslinger’ to special melee moves in ‘Swordmaster’). He also gets some of the best weapons, such as dual-wielding rocket launchers and – my favourite – a motorcycle he either rides directly into enemies’ fat faces, or he can rip apart into twin buzzsaws for some serious road rash. Nero has lost his old ‘Devil Bringer’ arm, but in its place gains a series of ‘Devil Breakers’, various robotic arms with a variety of functions. Some can project electric blasts, some can send Nero flying with concussive force, while others are literally rocket fists that can fly off and keep an enemy busy while you go to town on another. It’s a great idea, and gives Nero a lot of depth with all of the abilities he’s able to cycle between, with arms strewn throughout levels or purchasable between missions. What’s not so great is the method for switching between them. Nero keeps a ‘magazine’ of various arms loaded, but you’re unable to freely choose between them. Instead, they’re treated like a real gun magazine, where you can only equip the next arm ‘in line’ after your current one is destroyed. It seems like it’s meant to add strategy to the order you set for your arms, but most of the time I would have vastly preferred being able to match my arm to the situation I faced, rather than having to deliberately destroy arms to get the one I wanted.

V offers the most unique take on combat, mostly because he doesn’t actually fight himself. He’s a frail fella, and relies on his shadowy familiars to get the job done – a raven for long-ranged shots, a panther for melee attacks and a giant hulking monstrosity that can be briefly called via his Devil Trigger ability. Controlling V is initially disconcerting, as it feels inaccurate compared to the other heroes. Your controls for attacking remain the same, but V has to keep his distance to prevent from exposing himself to damage whenever possible. However, while his familiars can damage enemies they can’t land a killing blow, which means you need to keep V quickly darting in and out of danger to finish off staggered opponents. What initially felt strange eventually felt like second nature, and before long I actually found V the easiest character to rack up SSS rankings out of the three, and probably the second-most fun next to Dante.

Juggling three protagonists across the game’s 20 missions means you don’t get to spend an awful lot of time with any one of them, and by the end of my first playthrough I was left wanting more. This is quickly remedied by subsequent playthroughs, of course, on higher difficulties which is an attractive proposition given the default difficulties available from the outset are exceptionally easy. Playing on the regular ‘Devil Hunter’ difficulty my first time through, Devil May Cry 5 felt like probably the easiest game in the series, with only a handful of late game bosses giving me any real grief. If you do die, life-restoring Yellow Orbs are plentiful (I had 12 by the end of the game), and beyond those DMC5 even allows you to exchange red orbs at death for different levels of revival. This along with an ‘Assist’ mode that makes combos a cinch to pull off, make the game very accessible for newcomers, although this seems to be at odds with the storyline given it’s so heavily geared towards series’ veterans.

To accommodate the current generation of gaming, Devil May Cry 5 has also made some steps into the online world. On certain missions a ‘Starring… [Player Name]’ dialogue will pop up, indicating that you’re either playing with a co-op partner seamlessly, or playing with a recording of their performance, and at the end of the mission you can rate their performance as ‘Stylish’ or not. It’s a relatively inoffensive, but puzzling, addition given that most of the time it occurs there’ll be some barrier between you and the other player so you can’t even see what they’re doing to rate them Stylish one way or the other. In addition, sigh, red orbs can now be purchased with real world money if you so choose. Red orbs are the standard DMC currency to purchase new abilities for your characters, but thankfully forking out your wallet isn’t really necessary given DMC5 might be the most generous with its red orbs I’ve seen in the series. There are so many fountains of red orbs hidden all over levels, opportunities to destroy red orb engorged enemies, and even a weapon for Dante that lets you ‘gamble’ red orbs to potentially farm thousands more if your performance is good enough.

Ultimately, there’s enough of the traditional Devil May Cry fun that fans should mostly be pleased. While the initial playthrough is easy, it’s also extremely fun thanks to the kooky variety of weapons and playstyles. I barely even mentioned Dante’s cowboy hat that literally allows him to dance like Michael Jackson, but that’s absolutely in there as a ranged weapon. The plot doesn’t make a lot of sense, and may not provide the resolution some were looking for, but it should scratch a lot of itches – and after all, it’s Devil May Cry, crazy comes with name.


- Three excellent styles of combat all feel great and different
- Hugely fun new weapons like the Cavaliere motorcycle
- A return to the original DMC lore for longtime fans, along with long-awaited plotlines


- Default difficulties are far too easy
- Niggles with certain features, like the Devil Breaker
- Weird online integration

Overall Score: