Think Devil May Cry and Dante’s name is surely the first to pop into your head.
At Gamescom, though, my playthrough was centered around Nero. Capcom have smartly divided the focus of the sequel between various characters, but the look, feel, and playstyle of Devil May Cry 5 is more the games you remember on PS2, less the Ninja Theory remake from a few years ago. Though I still think that one got an unfair rep.
Devil May Cry 5 picks up over ten years after the events of the fourth numbered installment with a newly focused Nero now sporting a bionic arm with all-powerful Devil Breaker abilities. If you remember Jax in Mortal Kombat 3 and the power he packs behind his punches, you get the gist.
You can tap the attack button for quick, furious strikes, or charge it up for a much stronger attack. Nero also has an effective hand cannon at his disposal, can drag himself toward enemies as well as pull them towards him with a Wire Snatch. And when all else fails, of course, there’s his trusty sword.
The demo surprisingly brought me to the UK and the fictional Red Grave City – which basically looks like London with its big red buses and traffic lights. But despite the new settings, this is very obviously a Devil May Cry game with the infamous red and blue orbs, lots of enemies to hack, slash, volley into the air, and all the stylised combos that come along with it. And when they’re all defeated you can bypass doors shrouded in blood-curdling vines so you can progress to the next section of a level
What’s also clear is the environment encourages more exploration than before. Older Devil May Cry games generally kept you on a fixed camera, dragging you from one scene to the next, but Nero is able to explore every little tight corner, backtrack on himself, and even tackle some optional enemies should the mood dictate.
Part of the problem with later Devil May Cry games is that they became too technical for newcomers to gain a foothold. There were multiple button presses, dodges that had to be timed precisely, and overwhelming odds / tough battles. Devil May Cry 5 takes a step back in the way that it feels very accessible for someone new to pick up and play, but also offers enough variety to mix up combat with series vets.
This is supported by both a classic style of fighting that will feel authentic to Devil May Cry players, as well as an auto-assist mode which is a bit more considerate and generous when it comes to accuracy.
There’s still lots of amazing special moves at your disposal however you choose to play, though. For instance, the Devil Breakers each provide a unique special attack, like a massive beam of white light which you can then move around the screen to strike multiple enemies at once. It’s damned effective at crowd control and feels oh so satisfying as enemies try to squirm away from you.
And it wouldn’t be Devil May Cry if there wasn’t a massive big bad to battle. After a dramatic cutscene, I got to lock horns with an oversized Goliath who opens up his stomach – which is actually a mouth with teeth and lava – puts boulders inside and then spits out flaming projectiles. Effective.
As you might expect, the battle felt awesome with me peppering him with gun shots, jumping over his head and digging my sword into his back, while he threw his fists around and crushed everything in sight. But just when I started to pick up some momentum, he smashed the ground all around us and we ended up continuing the battle inside a derelict – and rather unstable – church.
With Goliath’s huge fire blasts, Nero’s stunning combinations, a crumbling building toppling all around us, and a glorious sunset to behold, this felt like a great throwback to Devil May Cry’s all-time great boss battles and a real throwback to the epic sense of scale found in games of previous generations. I loved it and found myself desperately wanting more when my results rolled in.
Devil May Cry 5 is brash, beautiful, and brilliant. In one moment, the environments look stunning with glistening sunbeams and delicately flowing water. In the next, you’ll see tendrils blasting their way through the ground below, seeping their way around buildings, casually tearing them to the ground like they were nothing. The attention to detail and overall production values are insane.
For me, Devil May Cry 5 is easily in my Top 3 most anticipated games of 2019. The combat is genuinely satisfying, the story looks deep and interesting with vintage humour, the world is expansive and involving, it has everything a Devil May Cry fan could want and thensome.
The controversy of microtransactions seem to have dominated the headlines with Devil May Cry 5 recently, but from what I’ve played, there’s plenty of reasons to be excited about the future rather than apprehensive.