Smokin’ Sexy Style! – Devil May Cry V Review
Developer: CapcomIt has been ten long years since we have seen Devil May Cry. Despite how you may feel about DmC: Devil May Cry, the much maligned reboot of the series, even its most ardent defenders will admit that it was a much different game from the rest of the series that spawned it. Last year at E3, fans got the news they had been waiting a decade for. Devil May Cry proper was back. Dante, the legendary Demon Hunter, was returning and bringing all his friends along for the ride. Capcom has been on what has been called their “Redemption Arc” for the past year. It started with Monster Hunter World and continued into this year’s Resident Evil 2. After what seemed like one flop after another, with the company dangerously close to bankruptcy according to numerous reports at the time, Capcom is the strongest they have been since their golden age both commercially and critically and Devil May Cry V is the next chapter of their ongoing comeback. It brings me great pleasure to tell you that not only is Devil May Cry V the best game in the franchise, but the best character action game ever made, and one of the greatest games of all time.
Let’s start off with the easiest aspect of the game to appreciate, the fact that it looks absolutely gorgeous. Utilizing the RE Engine that made Resident Evil 7 and the Resident Evil 2 Remake look so good, DMCV pushes this engine to its limits producing some of the best character models and facials animations I have ever seen, even more so than the already fantastic looking RE2 Remake. Using a combination of motion and facial capture, Dante, Nero and the rest of the gang look the best they ever have. The hair on character’s heads blow naturally, blood splatter effects paint the ground and walls with a startling level of realism, and clothes move naturally as the DMC crew perform impossibly stylish demon killing maneuvers. The facial capture is amazing as well, with every laugh, grimace, wince of pain, and shout of anger looking as realistic and dramatic as possible.
It would be one thing if just the characters looked great, but the environments and enemies look great as well. From abandoned city streets to the inside of a hellish demon tree, the various combat sandboxes Dante and crew find themselves in feel like real, breathing places despite how fantastical some of them are. Enemies are also as creepy as they have ever looked before. Returning enemies from the original games like the Death Scissors and new enemies like the bug with a human face Empusas all look creepy and intimidating and are just as fun to see get torn to shreds from your various guns, blades, and demonic superpowers.
It should also be noted how great the game sounds. Ambient noise and enemy sound effects are top notch and add an extra layer of depth to combat, and the soundtrack is the best it has ever been as well. Nero’s battle theme, Devil Trigger, might as well be the new theme to the entire series at this point, encompassing everything fans love about the bombastic, over the top combat, and V’s battle theme, Crimson Cloud perfectly encapsulates the brooding emo demon summoner. The game also includes fantastic remixes of themes from the previous games like Devils Never Cry from DMC3 and The Time Has Come from DMC4. While Dante’s theme, Subhuman, has improved from its original release that was almost universally panned by fans and critics, it is still the weakest of the three, stemming mostly from the fact that it doesn’t feel like a song for Dante in the way that Nero’s and V’s do. But the battle themes can be changed from the gallery in the main menu to customize to your heart’s content. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the sound design is how it ties into DMC’s combat. The higher your style ranking, the louder and clearer the music becomes and the more in synch your attacks become with the music creating a beautiful ballad of blades, bullets, and beats.
Now we come to the most important aspect of the Devil May Cry series, the glue that holds the whole thing together, the combat. The combat is the best this series has ever had. Considering that DMC as a whole is largely regarded as having the best combat in all of video games, this is saying something. Each of the three main characters play completely differently from each other but are fun in their own unique ways. The most important part of a character action game is to make you feel awesome at all times, and DMCV does that masterfully.
Nero, the protagonist of DMC4, uses his sword, gun, and new Devil Breaker arms to dish out demonic damage. Devil Breakers can be used by pressing the Circle button, and you can hold the button down for a super attack which will use up one of your arms entirely. If Nero is hit while using a Devil Breaker he will lose it entirely and his inventory will move to the next available arm. This creates an interesting dynamic to Nero’s gameplay in that you can’t use your Devil Breakers with abandon, because you will risk getting hit and running out of them. You can also press L1 to perform a breakaway which will manually detonate an arm to escape a dangerous situation. Nero has eight Devil Breakers available in the main game, each with wildly different abilities that can be useful in different situations. From the Overture arm which fires a giant electric blast in front of Nero, Punch Line which shoots Nero’s arm off to pummel the opponent, to wackier abilities like Ragtime which can create a small field around an enemy where time slows down. Combining the Devil Breakers along with Nero’s sword, the Red Queen, which can be revved up by pressing and holding L2 to deal extra damage, and his signature pistol the Blue Rose which can be charged up by holding down Square to release multiple shots at once, tied together with his grapple arm that can pull enemies towards him or him towards heavier opponents, and Nero is a Swiss Army knife of combat versatility. Combining this plethora of moves together make Nero an absolute blast to play.
Next up we have series poster boy, the wacky woo hoo pizza man himself, Dante. If Nero is a Swiss Army knife, then Dante is an entire toolbox. The four styles from DMC3 and 4 return and each can be powered up to unlock extra abilities. Royal Guard lets you parry enemy attacks, Gunslinger lets you use unique gun attacks by pressing Circle, likewise for Swordmaster and your weapon based attacks, and Trickster lets Dante dash around the screen by pressing Circle. These styles can be switched in and out of at any time, even mid combo. Dante also has multiple long range and close range weapons to choose from including the trademark pistols Ebony and Ivory, a shotgun, the Rebellion sword, the Gilgamesh gauntlets, and more fun additions obtained during the course of the game. Which, again, can be switched in and out of at anytime, including mid combo. If this all seems a bit overwhelming at first, well it is. But that is kind of the point. Dante is the strongest character in the series and his toolset reflects that. Dante can do basically anything, having brought over his skills from 4 previous games, and your options are nearly limitless. Learning to utilize Dante’s multiple weapons and styles lead to some of the most satisfying gameplay moments in the game.
Last, but certainly not least is the mysterious newcomer, V. Leading up to DMCV I was worried that V would be the most glaring weak point of the trio. V does not attack enemies in the traditional fashion, instead, he summons demons to do his bidding for him. Griffon, a flying demon bird, acts as V’s “guns” providing long-distance attacks, and Shadow, a black panther, acts as the close range weapon or V’s “sword”. When V activates his Devil Trigger, he summons the massive demon Nightmare which deals big damage with huge, room clearing attacks. The caveat here is that these demons cannot actually “kill” any enemies. When enemies take enough damage they go into a stagger state that requires V to manually deliver the finishing blow himself by pressing Circle. V can walk right next to his foes to accomplish this, or teleport in an instant by locking on with R1 and pressing Circle. V is, of course, left vulnerable during all this, but can move quickly out of the way by side stepping with Shadow or double jumping with Griffon. These maneuvers will also call the demon pets back to V, which you have to be mindful of as if they take too much damage they will become immobile until they recover their health, leaving V completely wide open and unable to use his previously mentioned escape options without the respective demon available. V is actually a ton of fun to play and requires a different way of thinking and playing as opposed to Dante or Nero as you must skillfully call out your demons and avoid enemy attacks. Controlling the demons might feel wonky at first, but once you understand that they function like standard weapons, you can start to utilize them to their fullest potential.
This brings us to the core of what DMCV is about, which is fun. The characters are fun, the music is fun, the gameplay is fun, even the story, which is more serious and po-faced than other entries in the franchise, still makes time for moments of the series’ trademark, over the top ridiculousness, and genuinely great character interactions. Seeing all these characters together, even newcomers like V and new fan favorite Nico, are all fun characters to occupy this world with. DMCV rewards time, dedication, and skill but is still playable by even the most novice of action players. What changes to the formula there are, like getting rid of green orbs as purchasable items and being able to come back from defeat by spending red orbs in addition to gold orbs, the series’ standard method of revival, only serve to improve the overall gameplay experience. DMCV is everything I love about video games. Its sole purpose is to be fun and engaging above all else, and everything from the characters to the music are all there to support this main function. It is rare that a game so highly anticipated lives up to such massive expectations, let alone exceeds them in every way, shape, and form, but Devil May Cry V is that game just like Director Hideaki Itsuno promised us over a year ago. Devil May Cry is back, baby, and we hit the jackpot.
Side Note: To address the “controversy” of Red Orbs, the game’s main currency to buy items and upgrades, being purchasable with real life money, while the feature is still available in game it is so negligible it may as well not even exist. Through normal gameplay, even at a very amateur level, you will receive more than enough red orbs to purchase upgrades and new moves at a fairly regular pace. So for those worrying about how obtrusive this system is, don’t even worry about it. Chances are you won’t even notice it.