Devil May Cry 5 Review: Excellent combat, dated design

9

Decent, but certainly not groundbreaking.

In January Capcom aimed for the skies with the highly anticipated Resident Evil 2 remake. The release paid off; a commercial and critical success, RE2 mixed old school survival horror with modern mechanics and sensibilities. Two months later and Capcom has tried to do similar with Devil May Cry 5, though this sequel is more about an existing formula than innovation.

Fans have waited more than ten years — as Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil May Cry doesn’t count — for a continuation of the story of both Dante and Nero, the franchise’s protagonists. Capcom’s well aware of this, offering a small taste of combat in a prologue sequence before a series of long cinematics that set the stage, offering more shots of main characters posing than you can shake Rebellion at. One particularly over-the-top cutscene is bizarrely prefaced with a disclaimer that Capcom doesn’t condone smoking… right before one of the characters defies the laws of physics in order to get back to her lit ciggie. It’s ridiculous, but it’s Devil May Cry, and one aspect that DMC 5 gets right.

Combat is the other, diverse, rewarding and fluid in 60FPS on the Xbox One X we reviewed upon. You’ll control Nero for the most part, using guns for range and swords for close-quarters combat alongside his new changeable prosthetic arm and its Devil Breaker mechanic. The new system lets Nero switch between a range of detachable arms, each with unique properties. One styled after Mega Man’s Mega Buster shoots a hadouken-like projectile at baddies while another lets Nero ride upon it like a surfboard. The arms’ specials are activated with a press of the B button, though Nero can also choose to literally break his arm with a press of LB for area of effect damage. The downside to this new ability is that Nero will take massive damage himself if he gets hit in the middle of a Devil Breaker attack.

I had the most fun fighting with V, a mysterious newcomer who relies upon three demon familiars in combat rather than fighting himself. It’s certainly a change from Nero, and takes a bit of time getting used to; V needs to finish baddies off himself, so things become a weird dance of being far enough to avoid damage, but close enough to deliver killing blows yourself. Two of V’s familiars — a crow and a leopard — are controlled with range and melee attack buttons while a third, a giant golem named nightmare, is basically V’s special move.

While Dante takes a backseat to the other characters, you’ll instantly feel like a beast when you eventually gain control of him. Dante is the ultimate demon hunter, and it shows — not only does he get to toggle between a variety of ranged weaponry, he gets to do the same with fight styles and stances. His close-quarters weaponry is the most fun to use, including a pair of twin motorcycles that he swings around with glee.

As standard for the franchise, fighting with style is key — if you can chain together a variety of moves without taking hits, you’ll be rewarded with a high style ranking. If you want maximise progression, high scores mean Red Orbs, and they’re the currency you’ll need to unlock new, more powerful moves. While you can explore areas and pick up Red Orbs alongside Blue, White and Purple ones outside of combat, I found it a bit strange that my Deluxe Edition review code came with 200,000 bonus Red Orbs, effectively giving me a ton of special moves without the need to earn them.

Sadly, everything around combat is stale and dated. While it’s relatively enjoyable to replay missions to find secret missions that reside within, the levels themselves are very linear and exceptionally repetitive. You’ll find yourself running down a corridor into an open area that gets fenced off for combat more times than you’ll be able to count. Near the end, you’ll be looking at the same demonic wall and floor texture for hours on end as you fall from platform to platform.

Boss battles start off feeling epic and challenging, but quickly to blend together as you progress. You’ll encounter the same projectiles, the same push-back waves and comically, the same boss itself over and over. A challenging end boss is the exception — it throws out all the rules and becomes so cheap I was forced to use life-giving gold orbs for the first time in my playthrough. Repeatedly. The same feeling of repetition is present throughout Devil May Cry 5‘s story, basically becoming background noise as you move from encounter to encounter.

If things aren’t feeling samey, they simply make no sense. The decision to have your female sidekick bend over seductively to get Nero new Devil Breakers is simply absurd and diminishes an otherwise charismatic character. There’s also a random rating system that has you deciding if other real players you’ve somehow come across fought stylishly inside their own playthrough; I didn’t understand why I was saying they were good, but I think they earned a Gold Orb for my efforts. You’re welcome, randoms. The only good new addition in a easy-to-use photo mode.

People come to the franchise for combat and, despite its flaws, that’s precisely what Devil May Cry 5 excels at. I personally still prefer Ninja Theory’s take on proceedings and hope we’ll see a continuation of that world next; I definitely appreciate new ideas and takes on this well-established franchise.

 

7 out of 10

The good

  • Amazing, varied combat.
  • It’s super fun to fight as newcomer V.
  • Fluid, 60FPS action.
  • Cool photo mode.

The bad

  • Missions and levels are bland and repetitive.
  • Some weird choices with characters and real-life ranking systems.

 

Devil May Cry 5 was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox One, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.