I love Devil May Cry 5 – I really do. But there are many things about it that leave me thinking that it could have been better. It could have been perfect.
For instance, its lock-on system that you very much have to make use of during the ten-plus hours you’ll spend with the game, is troublesome. As usual, you have to hold a button to lock onto enemies, but to switch between them you have to press in the left stick. But you can’t press in the left stick while moving, no – you have to stand still. Often, it’s just easier to release the lock-on button and then press it again in the hopes of locking onto the enemy you actually want to attack.
Level design, too, also leaves a lot to be desired. Whereas Devil May Cry games of the past have given you a little freedom to explore, Devil May Cry 5 is very much a linear, suffocating affair. And there isn’t a great deal of variety in the scenery, either. Many of the game’s levels take place in an eerie demonic tower, which looks suitably grim, but soon gets pretty tiresome. Basically, Devil May Cry 5 feels like a sequence of combat arenas connected by corridors. If it wasn’t for the odd hidden path that leads to a secret mission or some goodies to collect, every mission would really be a case of travelling from point A to B, broken up only by bouts of combat.
And there are other issues, such as a camera that doesn’t always work in your favour, but perhaps my biggest gripe with Devil May Cry 5 is the introduction of new playable character “V”. Inexplicably frail, V can’t wield a sword or even shoot a gun. Instead, he calls upon three demons to do his bidding, lurking just outside of the area of combat while issuing commands. With Devil May Cry 4‘s Nero also making a return, as well as series stalwart Dante, V adds a third playstyle into the mix. But it just isn’t as exciting or direct as the other two characters’ “in your face” approach. And, unless you are going to do multiple playthroughs of the game, V’s gameplay segments are thin on the ground.
I guess that’s another problem with Devil May Cry 5, too. It has 20 levels, and the story pretty much dictates which character you play as for each and every one of them. A handful of levels give you a choice between two or three characters, but for the most part you’re stuck with who you’re given. Prefer playing as Nero with his new Devil Breaker abilities? You’re out of luck for half of the game, and you can’t even go back to previously completed levels and try them out with other characters. It’s a shame, because the different playstyles would have thrown up new challenges for each of the game’s brilliantly designed bosses.
Combat is where Devil May Cry 5 well and truly shines. It’s a hell of a lot of fun taking control of Nero, whose replacement arms offer him a wealth of new abilities to master. There were times that I lamented the loss of his demonic powers, but then I’d just let rip with a rocket-powered arm to punch some enemies for me, or blast enemies away with the Mega Man canon, and all would be forgotten. And despite losing his arm, Nero can still grapple enemies, either bringing them closer to him or quickly moving at them depending on their size. It means your ability to dish out pain and perform stylish combos is unrivalled. Well, maybe.
You see, Dante is once again the star of the show. He looks old and dishevelled, but Dante is still more than capable of holding his own in a fight. And in Devil May Cry 5, he has more tricks up his sleeve than ever. Rebellion takes a backseat as even more powerful swords are acquired, and Ebony and Ivory face some serious competition, too. There are so many tools available to Dante that just one playthrough isn’t enough to make use of them. You’ll probably be wanting to do two or three of them to truly appreciate his arsenal. Styles make a return as well, granting Dante numerous special abilities that allow you to run rings around enemies and show off your prowess.
Thanks to Dante, Devil May Cry 5 rises above many of its problems. When you’re playing as V you’re likely to initially be confused, and then simply content once you’ve become accustomed to his playstyle. With Nero, things are much better. You’re likely to smile as you rev up your sword, ram it into an enemy’s face, and then maybe use a Devil Breaker to add further humiliation. But then, when you finally get to take control of Dante, you’ll be grinning from ear to ear as you gracefully dance with a demonic motorcyle in each hand, taking out enemies like a pro.
Devil May Cry 5‘s gameplay has cavernous depth. Unless you’re a Devil May Cry pro, you’re likely to muddle through your first playthrough, tasting each of the offensive options laid out on the table before you but not mastering any of them. You’re likely to die on your first attempt at each boss, too, forced to either consume a Gold Orb to continue or sacrifice some of your precious Red Orbs. It’s when you go back to tackle additional difficulties like Son of Sparda that you’re forced to truly learn the intricacies of the tools at your disposal. And only those who truly have finesse and style will overcome Dante Must Die.
It speaks volumes that despite Devil May Cry 5‘s obvious issues, it still impresses so much. It’s a game that looks better than anything else available at the moment, and yet somehow runs at a solid 60 frames per second. And its combat is undoubtedly the deepest of any action game, making its linear structure actually not that much of an issue. Devil May Cry 5 isn’t perfect, but it’s a damn good Devil May Cry game. Honestly, I think Ninja Theory’s DmC was better, but in 2019 I’ll accept Devil May Cry 5 with open arms. And I really hope we don’t have to wait too long for the inevitable Devil May Cry 6.
Devil May Cry 5 is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC. We reviewed the Xbox One version.