An Impressive Hack’n’Slash
I’ve never been a big Devil May Cry fan. While I’ve always enjoyed the hack’n’slash gameplay and the design of these games have always appealed to me, I’ve never really become that invested in the franchise’s story or characters. It’s worth pointing this out because Devil May Cry is an incredibly fun and engaging game, boasting a smooth fluidity to its combat and nailing almost every element of its design to perfection. It’s a great game to pick up and play, even if you’ve never been sold on the previous games.
Set several years after the events of Devil May Cry 4, DMC 5 sees you control three different characters, Nero, V and Dante, as you face off against a seemingly unstoppable behemoth, Urizen. Across 20 levels, the story zigs and zags through the different character journeys, jumping back in time to flesh out some past events before charging into a final end boss and a satisfying conclusion to these characters.
Along the way, this action-packed story is full of over the top set-pieces and nicely animated sequences, all of which brought to life through the stunning visuals. The lighting is outrageously good, depicting wrinkles and lines in facial expressions in incredible detail while outside cut-scenes, the levels are varied and interesting to navigate. From gnarly roots hugging ruined buildings to cracked streets and hellish dungeons, Devil May Cry keeps you engaged right the way through its 12 hour run time.
Each level is set out in much the same way, with you controlling one character blasting and slashing your way through the landscape past swarms of hellish monsters to an end-boss and a subsequent cut-scene to progress the story. Adding some variety to proceedings are a number of very simple puzzles and platforming sections that certainly do well to break up the action. As you navigate through the levels, you collect red orbs which can be used to buy new equipment and abilities to help you in your fights. These range from extra combos, more damage and altogether brand new moves to add to your growing arsenal.
The three character approach is both the best and worst aspect of the game. On the one hand, mixing things up every level adds some variety to proceedings and each character has a very different style of handling that requires a different approach to really get the most out of. However, it also takes away the sense of consistent progression as you jump from an upgraded Nero across to an under-powered V and back to an over-powered Dante, sometimes in the space of three missions.
Out of the three characters available to use, V is, for me at least, the weakest and least enjoyable to play as. Pressing square and triangle calls forth a panther and eagle, respectively, and pressing these buttons allows them to fight enemies for you. Once weakened, you then jump in as V and press O to kill demons. While this sounds good in practice, in reality his missions are largely formulaic, resulting in you running around in circles slamming square and triangle repeatedly.
By comparison, Dante has a whole range of different abilities, from dual guns and a powerful pistol through to motorcycle swords and nun-chucks. Nero feels like a less-equipped version of Dante, with a mix of sword combos and gunplay helping to keep you in the thick of the action during fights.
Devil May Cry 5 is a game that encourages multiple play-throughs. At the end of your first run, you unlock the “Bloody Palace” (an extra mode which allows you to test your skills against waves of enemies) and a Photo Mode that encourages you to fight the same enemies again in a surprisingly engaging “collect ’em all” add-on.
Of course, you can still have fun playing through this once and never picking it up again but ultimately the level of fan service and work done to really tailor this for those enthused with the franchise means there’s a lot of replayability here. Ultimately that’s the real selling point and the reason Devil May Cry 5 works as well as it does. It’s simply good, old fashioned fun and this game has that in abundance.
Smashing your way through hordes of well-designed enemies and stringing your combos together is mightily enjoyable, backed by the familiar scoring system this brings ranging from D up to SSS, rewarding you with more red orbs the better your style. This is further rewarded too by some nicely designed bosses. While Uirzen’s pulsating, root-wrapped form makes him unique, all the other bosses along the way have had an equal amount of originality injected into them. From monstrous three-headed demons to flying sirens and everything in between, Devil May Cry 5’s designers deserve a lot of recognition here for delivering such an impressive array of beasts to slay.
For all of its good points, DMC 5 does have some issues with its core gameplay. The jump in difficulty between the rest of the game and the final 2 missions is something that’s certainly jarring, even on Human (the easiest) difficulty whilst some combos are awkwardly contrived and see you slamming your sword in a fight animation that lasts a little too long, sometimes resulting in a cheap shot.
These things aside, as an authentic Devil May Cry experience, DMC 5 absolutely nails it. The fighting is smooth, the graphics stunning and there’s a slick fluidity to the action that makes it a highly refined hack’n’slash and one of the better ones released in this genre for quite some time. Even if you’re not a fan of Devil May Cry, there’s enough here to enjoy and it’s absolutely a title I’d recommend checking out.