After a detour and attempt at a franchise reboot in the criminally underrated DmC: Devil May Cry from developer Ninja Theory, the original timeline of events started all the way back in 2001 with the release of Devil May Cry on the PlayStation 2 finally returns after over a decade long absence with Devil May Cry 5. Capcom has been on an incredible hot streak as of late, resurrecting both the Resident Evil and Mega Man franchises while opening up Monster Hunter, a series that was popular in the west, but was a phenomenon in the east, to a worldwide audience. Devil May Cry 5 too is another stellar release from the now red hot Capcom, but while its terrific over-the-top action reminds you why players have stuck with the series during its ups and downs, it feels more like a well crafted throwback than a true evolution of the series.
Devil May Cry 5 opens with the trio of Dante, the protagonist that kicked off the trend of smart aleck, white haired demon hunters, Nero, last seen in 2008’s Devil May Cry 4 and new comer V assaulting the demonic king Urizen. After a humbling defeat, Dante forces Nero and V to retreat, leaving it up to them to regroup and find a way to defeat a force so powerful, it was able to crush the legendary devil hunter like it was nothing. Devil May Cry 5 is being sold as the conclusion to the “Sons of Sparda” story, and for those who have been with the series since 2001 or picked it up through compilations released both on the last and current generation of consoles, you’ll be more than satisfied with the conclusion to this fifth chapter and the twists and turns that will unfold over the course of the twenty mission campaign.
One of the weaknesses of the Devil May Cry franchise though has been how poorly its story has been managed across its chapters, with Ninja Theory arguably doing more to flesh out both the world and characters in the Devil May Cry saga in their one turn at bat than what Capcom managed to do with five separate games. You’ll have a few “a ha!” moments when you see cameos from characters from the short lived anime, and a few references to past entries, but like the games that came before it, don’t come to this title looking for an emotionally charged plot. Instead just smile and fist pump to the cheese ball moments where characters can dual wield a weapon that doubles as a fully functioning motor bike, complete with earnest performances from the likes of Reuben Langdon and Johnny Yong Bosch, who return as Dante and Nero respectively, while you rock out to “Devil Trigger”, Devil May Cry 5’s new catchy battle theme.
Devil May Cry 5 more than overcomes its story weaknesses with its action, and this latest entry manages to be in the upper echelon of character action games with the way it manages its three protagonists, each with their own unique fighting style. Devil May Cry 4 tried to manage two characters, but did so clumsily, having you spend hours learning Nero, only to have the player to relearn how to use Dante for a few missions to then turn around and force you to get comfortable with Nero up to the game’s conclusion. You’ll certainly play as some characters more than others in Devil May Cry 5, but you’re also switching between characters with greater frequency such that you won’t forgot how one functions.
Dante remains largely unchanged from Devil May Cry 3 with the ability to cycle between four different stances emphasizing defense, proficiency with your guns and melee weapons and quick movement to avoid attacks. New to this chapter are some of the most creative new weapons that really help build up your combo meter like the already mentioned motorcycle weapon and a fedora with a risk reward mechanic that allows you to expend red orbs used to purchase upgrades to earn even more should you be able to master how to use it correctly.
Nero’s Bionic Commando-esque grappling hook arm that allows you to close the distance between enemies or pull them to you whether on the ground or in the air is back from Devil May Cry 4, but with a twist. Nero’s natural arm is forcibly removed from him, and in its place are a series of bionic replacements crafted by a new character, Nico, who you’ll come to love and fits in great with the eccentric cast of demon hunters and tough females with giant swords and rocket launchers. Dubbed the Devil Breaker, Nero has a series of arms that will augment his abilities to allow him to do things like freeze enemies in time briefly, rocket out of the way, heal himself or even wield Mega Man’s iconic arm cannon. Each Devil Breaker isn’t meant to last though and will break if your attacked when using them or if you expend them in a last ditch effort maneuver. Of the three characters, Nero is both the most complex to use and master as you really need to learn what load out of Devil Breakers to bring to each mission and know when to expend them.
V is an interesting addition to the series in that he actually doesn’t do any of the fighting himself, instead he utilizes three familiars: the panther Shadow who doubles as a melee tool, the Iago like bird Griffon who acts as your ranged weapons and the hulking Nightmare who you can summon via your Devil Trigger ability. None of your familiars can finish off an enemy, merely putting them in a state where V must go to them to finish them off. In description V sounds like the equivalent of easy mode, and while his sections perhaps offer the least challenge of the three playable characters, there’s still a lot of strategy and nuance in how you position V. He can still take damage and when either of his familiars take enough blows, they’re out of commission for a time, leaving V vulnerable. Moving V in close proximity to his fallen comrades will accelerate their healing so there’s a risk going into an active battle to regain the ability to defend yourself faster.
Chaining together the battles and bosses that make up Devil May Cry 5 are a series of missions, but they don’t offer much in the way of memorable locations and through the back half of the campaign, the game looks visually bland. The opening areas are made up of generic buildings and sewers with some demonic trees protruding through the ground and the back half of the game takes place in the demonic underworld that just looks the same from level-to-level, especially so when there’s not much to do except venture down a corridor or fall down a hole and fight some enemies. Devil May Cry 5 also seems to stop after every move you make to point the camera to tell you exactly where you need to go, making a new mechanic where you hold in the left stick to point where you need to go rather pointless. There are blue and purple orbs to be unearthed should you venture off the beaten path to extend your health and Devil Trigger meters as well as secret missions, but finding them is a challenge in and of itself as everything just looks the same with barely a hint of any alternate path or hidden area.
The engine powering Devil May Cry 5 is Capcom’s proprietary RE Engine and it doesn’t feel like a good fit for this series. The bombastic nature that the series is known for doesn’t really gel with the realistic look that the RE Engine has produced for the last two Resident Evil games, and when combined with the uninteresting setting and boring level design, it doesn’t give Devil May Cry 5 a visually identity to call its own. This is especially true coming off of Ninja Theory’s DmC which had a vivid, colorful world that contrasted itself between the real world and the demonic purgatory and told a lot of its story within the environment instead of stopping the action after nearly every fight.
Collecting red orbs, the currency that allows you to buy things like health upgrades and new combos, is something that will fuel your desire to create stylish S rank combos, but a controversial addition to Devil May Cry 5 is the ability to buy these orbs via microtransactions. For the purposes of this review, the game was played on the normal difficulty and while there were some upgrades that were out of reach, the game never at one point felt unfair to the point where you felt that it wanted you to spend extra money.
If anything, the pricier upgrades only encourage you to play through the game on multiple difficulties for an added challenge as your upgrades hold over onto subsequent playthroughs. Items that can be consumed to heal yourself are also gone, but there are also plenty of Gold Orb items that aren’t hidden that well that allow you to resurrect yourself and you get one everyday as a log in bonus. There’s some online functionality built into Devil May Cry 5 where at times you can see other players off in the distance in certain levels where character’s paths branch, but it’s far from a full-fledged co-op and can be turned off entirely as well.
Devil May Cry 5 has deficiencies in both its story and visuals, but those weaker parts are more than overshadowed by the moment-to-moment action divided among its three playable characters that each have their own unique fighting style. Devil May Cry 5 doesn’t impress in the way the last two Resident Evil games did nor is it the radical reinvention of the series that God of War (2018) was, but instead is a well crafted return to the formula that players have been wanting to see a return to after the polarizing reboot from 2013. Now that the franchise is back on stable ground both from a story and mechanics perspective, it’s exciting to see where Capcom will take this series next.
Devil May Cry 5 is available now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on a PS4 copy of the game purchased by the reviewer. Purchases are available here.
Devil May Cry 5
- Excellent combat mechanics
- Three unique characters each with their own play style
- Offers a satisfying conclusion to the "Sons of Sparda" saga
- Plenty of replay value to be found in the modes and unlockables
- Visuals and levels are nowhere near as interesting as the combat
- Story lacks any emotional high points
- Unnecessary microtransactions