Considering this is Devil May Cry, the story here is actually pretty well done. The characters are all great, the cutscenes look amazing and animate beautifully, even the dialogue and banter between characters feels natural for the most part.
That’s not to say the story is by any means original or anything – it’s just the best in the series. We’ve come a very, very long way since “FILL YOUR DARK SOUL WITH LIIIIiIIIGHHHHhT.“
The story itself picks up a while after the events of Devil May Cry 4. Nero is now a part of Devil May Cry – the demon hunting organization run by Dante with the help of Trish and Lady.
Dante, as usual, is pretty much destitute. The power’s out, rent needs to be paid, and the phone’s off. He needs money. Enter Morrison – a name and character that will be familiar to fans who saw the DMC anime series, though he’s been massively redesigned. He’s got work for Dante – new character V has a job for him.
Take down Urizen The Demon King – who currently is trying to Tree of Might the world in order to gain more power.
The game actually starts with Nero, V, Dante, Trish, and Lady assaulting the Qliphoth (The name of the demon tree) – and getting absolutely devastated by Urizen – who doesn’t even get up from his throne. This is going to be an uphill battle.
Nero and V beat a hasty retreat as Dante, Trish, and Lady meet their defeat at the hands of Urizen.
Flashback to 2 months before – and Nero is working in the garage with Nico (Who acts as the game’s merchant/arms dealer). Kyrie calls, letting them know that dinner was ready and Nico leaves as Nero prepares to join them. Until a mysterious hooded figure appears before him, and before Nero can even get a name, he’s attacked – thrown clear across the room with the Devil Bringer severed from his body. Turns out – that’s what the figure was after, the Yamato that was stored within Nero’s arm.
It’s really unclear who that mysterious guy was, honestly.
It’s here that the story picks up proper. Nero now has a new arm – the Devil Breaker – created by Nico (Who also happens to be the daughter of Agnus from the previous game, and the granddaughter of Nell Goldstein – the person that made Dante’s classic Ebony and Ivory.) and now, along with V, needs to work to find a way to bring down Urizen while also finding out what happened to the rest of the crew.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere – Devil May Cry isn’t exactly known for story. It’s never been the forefront of the games, and Devil May Cry 5 doesn’t really change that fact. It’s still not the main focus, but there is actual thought put into it. It doesn’t just feel like something to drive the gameplay along this time.
It’s a lot like Devil May Cry 3 in that regard, but more well written.
It’s actually good – and also acts as a love letter to every single fan of the series, and I mean every fan. Did you like Devil May Cry 2? There’s something for you here, but I’ll get into that more a bit later. Suffice it to say – this is one of the better stories in the DMC series, and it’s worth going through no matter how many games in the series you’ve played – but you’ll certainly enjoy it more if you’ve played all of the others.
It runs on Capcom’s RE Engine, so of course it looks good. Levels are extremely detailed – broken down buildings with demonic tree overgrowth, benches, tables, chairs and other various furniture strewn about to make fights more kinetic (There is so much destructible window dressing that breaks and flies apart, on top of all the flashy particles at a nearly constant rate, it’s a wonder the game runs at 60FPS throughout.) – the game looks and runs great.
It’s also vibrant and colorful without being annoying about it. Character costumes now look more realistic and believable. Nero’s coat is a rich, dark blue. Dante’s is a nice, deep red.
I’m honestly curious what Capcom scanned in to make some of these demonic textures – they’re really gross and slimy looking. It’s great.
I’m also very appreciative of all of the small but useful UI changes. The double health bars of old no longer look ugly and goofy. Devil Trigger meters are uniform and make a more obvious distinction between what recharges and what has to be built manually, Nero’s “Color Up” ability even has a meter of its own, giving you not only an auditory confirmation of when it’s charged but a secondary visual cue that lets you keep track of how many shots you have left.
On top of that – all the information you need to keep track of is available to you, but out of the way and easy to pull up with the tap of a button should you need it, without breaking the flow of gameplay.
On the audio side of things – yet again, best in the series. All of the character themes fit them well – even Subhuman isn’t terrible since they changed it. It’s no Lock and Load or Devils Never Cry, but it’s serviceable and works for Dante.
The music is also dynamic while in fights (Much like DmC – I said there was something for everyone here.), slowly building and adding more layers as you climb in Stylish rank from Dismal to my now all-time favorite rank: Smokin’ Sexy Style. Once you hit that SSS rank, the full song will be playing and it just feels amazing to hear everything kicking in as you’re fighting. A lot like the moments in Metal Gear Rising during boss fights, when the fight would enter its next phase and the vocals would kick in, upping the tension/drama of the battle. Only here, it’s fully under your control and not saved for big fights.
Sound effects are also great – they’re punchy and make it feel good to hit enemies (And help to make sure you know that you are.), there’s a distinct difference between hitting and whiffing. This is a series that relies on audio and visual cues, from hitsparks and character/enemy animations all the way down to the sound Nero’s sword makes between different levels of Exceeding – if these things were off, the game would be nearly unmanageable.
Also, yet another pull from DmC – style ranks have a vocal callout. They even brought back the “Savage” rank for S. Again – I told you, something for everyone.
There are a few animations that are a little janky, but only when they’re slowed down so it’s not really a problem, they just look a little goofy sometimes because these really aren’t things a human being is capable of without a lot of help.
Outside of that, the character designs are great. Much like Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry 5 opts for a more realistic approach to the characters. This time, however, the faces are a bit more stylized – which ends up making them look better and more natural. They animate much nicer and aren’t quite as stiff this time, which is good.
It also helps that they’re all acted well, especially Dante, who now feels like he has actual depth beyond just “Pizza happy fun-time woohoo”. However, don’t get me wrong – the story is still full of massive Shonen melodrama. It’s Dragonball Z almost entirely – but it’s Dragonball Z as done with everyone getting the character development of Vegeta as opposed to Goku.
Honestly – I think I had 1 framerate issue in my entire playtime so far (Which is encroaching on 30 hours now), and I don’t even think it was because of the game as it hasn’t happened again since.
Other than the very minor issues I mentioned, I can’t really find anything to drag this side of the game down.
So, remember how I said there’s something for every single fan of the series here, no matter what entry they were a fan of? Nowhere is that more apparent than in the gameplay – especially in the enemy variety.
Literally every enemy archetype or design comes back in some fashion here. The bug motif of Devil May Cry 1, Pyrobats being influenced by DMC2 designs, the Hells of DMC3, Assaults/Blades, the Blitz of DMC4 being mixed with the Blades/Assaults of DMC1 and 4 as well as the Dreamrunners of DmC – even bosses that were made from weapons of previous entries that we never got to see.
There are even 2 – TWO – boss fights that are just straight up second attempts at DMC3 fights, but done much better.
Everything gets play here.
Even V’s demons are literal DMC1 enemies and bosses (And boy did they pick the right ones to use.)
But how does the game actually play? Really, really well. There was no need to reinvent the wheel here – and they didn’t. Instead, the wise decision was made to simply refine what made the other games great and add onto that.
And it’s here that DmC really shows its influence. Characters feel like they have weight – there’s impact to moves now. Nero, for instance, feels like he did in DMC4, but heavier. It actually feels like he’s swinging around a big sword – but not in a bad way. It’s still fast and frenetic, there’s just more “oomph” behind him now.
This holds true for everyone. Even V, despite the weirdness of his playstyle.
Nero and Dante play the way you expect (Though they do get some new abilities that are extremely useful – especially Nero’s (Some that I can’t really talk about, because spoilers.).), but V is something entirely new. Instead of fighting enemies directly, he uses summons.
V is a mage. He uses Griffon, Shadow, and Nightmare to fight his battles as he himself is too frail to do anything. Now, this is where he gets weird, you don’t actually control the summons fully, you simply tell them to attack and they do, but their movement is handled for them automatically for the most part. You only ever move V – and Nightmare once you gain the ability to control him.
You can also pump DT gauge into Shadow and Griffon to power them up and have them auto-pilot while you focus on evasion and keeping them alive.
And here’s the hitch: Griffon and Shadow are also used for V’s traversal and dodging. So, in order to dodge incoming attacks, you need to momentarily sacrifice offense. Dodging left and right uses Shadow and since he’s busy moving you, he can’t be attacking which leaves you with only Griffon. Same for Griffon who acts as V’s back dodge. Using it sacrifices his attacks for a short time, leaving only Shadow. It’s a great balance, and it feels good to start learning how to not only keep V safe but the demons themselves by dodging with the proper one when they’re in danger.
Should they be incapacitated (Called “Checkmate” in the game – because V is a chess nerd and all of his abilities are chess references which I love.), then V cannot attack or dodge and is left wide open – so do everything you can to keep them alive and healthy.
On top of all of this, though, V’s demons cannot kill enemies. That has to be handled by V – who uses his cane to deal the killing blow. Even against his bosses.
At the core of the game – this is Devil May Cry but with a lot of really nice Quality of Life changes to make the experience a lot more fun and satisfying. Things like difficulty are what you would expect – Dante Must Die, Heaven or Hell, Hell and Hell, etc. – none of that has changed. It’s mechanics where things have seen the most drastic refinement.
First – recovery items are now gone from the game completely. The stylish rank punished using them anyway, and since the way to get the highest ranks is not to use them, they may as well not exist. The only items you can buy now are Gold Orbs, Blue Orbs, and Purple Orbs – so continues and upgrades.
Next – Nero’s gun now only fires on the release of the button. This sounds like a small change – but it now means that you can start charging your charge shots mid-combo without breaking the flow. It’s a small change that has a massive impact on the game feel (for the better).
Secret Missions can now be retried immediately – no more need to load out of the mission, then reactivate it. You can also now play them as much as you want from the main menu. On top of that – resources used no longer count against you! You’re free to play the mission and use what you have without fear of ruining your chances in the rest of the level. Use those Devil breakers all you want.
The Void. By far one of the best additions to the game – you can now try out abilities before you buy them, but more than that, you can go into The Void to simply practice with a whole suite of training options.
Complete with total damage tracking, the ability to turn off or on infinite resources, choose nearly any enemy in the game, have them attack and actually take damage, etc. If there’s anything you struggle with in the game, you can use The Void to practice and learn to get better – with every playable character.
It would be nice if we could practice against bosses, though.
Even taunts are now useful for more than just stylish points.
Speaking of – end of mission Stylish ranks are now scored purely on how well you did in the mission. Were you stylish? Did you die and continue? Take damage? These are all that really matters now. No more needing to collect all the hidden red orbs (Though they still exist), no more being penalized because you missed 20 orbs or took 20 seconds too long.
Just vary up your combat and stay stylish throughout, don’t die and maybe don’t get hit and you’ll S rank every mission no problem.
Red Orbs now have a use outside of buying moves and abilities. Dante has a new weapon, known as Dr. Faust, which makes grinding for them a breeze – and you’re probably going to want to. You’re going to need about 9 million just for the EX Taunts. However, keep in mind that Dr. Faust also risks your orbs to work. Take hits while enemies are wearing it, and prepare to see your orb reserves start to dwindle. The stronger the attack, the more you lose. Add on to that the fact that most of Faust’s attacks drain orbs as well.
However, you’re going to want them more to help you out when you hit the higher difficulties like Son of Sparda or Dante Must Die. You can now use orbs to continue upon death instead of using Gold Orbs. Doing so allows you to choose a varying amount of health/devil trigger/Devil Breakers to recover (And also a varying amount of damage dealt to enemies upon your resurrection.)
Even locking on is refined. The reticule now acts as a proper health bar instead of the weird symbol that would slowly disappear chunk by chunk. A small change for sure – but helpful.
Now – those are just the changes that were game-wide. There are a lot more changes that were a bit more granular. Most of which I can talk about here – some are a bit spoiler-y. For the spoiler-y one’s, I’ll just say this: Check your skill list often, especially after getting new upgrades.
Nero and Dante gain some new abilities that help to make combat flow much better. Nero, in particular, gets a lot of abilities that work to either keep enemies near him or bring him to the enemies. One of my favorite new attacks of his is Payline – which is essentially a dive kick that sends him flying sword first into the targeted enemy. It’s great for closing distance and keeping the pressure on.
There’s also Hard Way (Essentially a grounded Payline), which I didn’t find quite as useful, but I’m sure some will – and it’s another mobility tool he has.
Nero also has a ton of new taunts – a lot of which are actually useful. His Air Taunt, for instance, is amazing. Not only does it look cool – you can Exceed it and MAX-Act it. It also acts as a jump – meaning Nero is capable of clearing some absolutely ridiculous height and distance. After getting Air Hike, he has what is essentially a quadruple jump.
Jump -> Air Taunt -> Air Hike -> Air Taunt.
Even Dante only gets a triple jump – and that’s only when he’s in Devil Trigger!
He also has a few taunts that work to charge his abilities – there’s one that charges Blue Rose to its max for Color Up and one that grants at least one stock of Exceed for Red Queen.
As for Dante – most of his changes come from his Styles. Gunslinger and Royalguard see the biggest changes in particular. Royalguard is now easier to use – it’s easier to time a perfect parry, and missing the timing will still block attacks and build gauge as long as you have a bit of DT. Run out of DT gauge, and your guard will break, leaving you open.
This is actually the first game to feature Royalguard where I actually used it.
Gunslinger also sees a nice update – Dante’s pistols will now charge automatically while in Gunslinger (Other guns still require a manual charge because their charge shots are more situational).
Dante also sees a few QoL changes in the way some of his basic moves act. Specifically Million Stab. They’ve taken what they learned with Vergil in Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition and applied it to Dante – you no longer need to mash like crazy to do the move. It’s now a tap-and-hold at a specific point. You can mash to extend the move, but that’s optional.
Also, Balrog is by and large the best version of the fist weapon Date has ever had. Real Impact is actually viable a lot more often now, and being able to just switch between punches and kicks on the fly feels great.
The only problem Dante has, that he’s always had, is that he kind of lacks the ability to keep enemies near him. Particularly after Stinger. It’s a little aggravating, but thankfully it’s not as much of a problem in this game, due to battle arenas being relatively small.
That’s something I’d like to touch on now – the level design. One of my biggest frustrations with DMC4 was that the levels didn’t feel like they were built for both playable characters. Nero had a ton of mobility options, and the ability to drag an enemy back to him after a knockback. As such, the arenas were built wide open – and it made his half of the game feel great.
Dante didn’t have that luxury. Half of the game was playing as a character in levels that weren’t really built with him in mind. It could get frustrating in the bigger areas when you knocked enemies away.
That’s not the case here. The game is much more linear and focused now. This helps each character feel fun to play – because it means their levels are balanced with them in mind. You don’t run into the problem of V running into an enemy wave he can’t really deal with. Or Dante fighting in an arena that makes it annoying to stay close.
You also don’t run into the problem of getting lost or confused about where to go. Or the problem of having to backtrack for some arbitrary reason.
There are still secrets hidden around the levels, and some alternate side paths here and there – but they’re few and far between, or usually hidden around the corner of an inconspicuous building. V has the most hidden secrets – requiring the use of Nightmare in specific places to reveal them.
The last thing I want to talk about is the all-new mechanic Dante gains. I won’t spoil when or how he gets it – but I have to talk about it.
Sin Devil Trigger.
Now, going back to what I said before – that there’s something for everyone here? – this was the absolutely most surprising pull to make a comeback. The Sin Devil Trigger form is basically the Majin Form from Devil May Cry 2, but cranked up to 11.
Dante gains a new combo in this form, as well as a massive boost in damage and armor. Attacks cannot be interrupted, but health no longer regenerates like regular DT and you cannot turn it off manually once activated.
Unlike DMC2 where Majin was a secret and could only be activated when Dante was at low health – Sin Devil Trigger can be activated whenever – as long as the gauge is full. And in order to fill it – you need to channel your regular DT gauge into it – it takes about a full bar and a half to fully charge, at which point you hold down your Devil Trigger button until the SDT gauge glows, then release it (Kind of like using your DT in Devil May Cry 3 to cause a burst.).
On top of the new DT – Dante also gains a new moveset that fixes almost every flaw he’s ever had in his gameplay. His Swordmaster style moves now become part of his normal moveset – leaving the Swordmaster style free to do some really fun, crazy stuff.
I’m not going to spoil what that stuff is though. Just know that it’s something he should have had a long, long time ago.
I really can’t complain about the additions to the game. Even Bloody Palace, which came as a free update after release, has been improved – you can now start at specific floors once you’ve cleared them in order to practice that floor (To try and clear it faster) as well as save and quit between floors to come back later. Every change made serves as a means to improve upon the past and make things more fun/manageable.
I guess if I had to come up with a negative – it’s that the online portion isn’t quite as realized as I might have hoped. It works, and it’s fun to see either a random ghost or the ghost of your friend fighting in the background on the stages where it’s used – but it’s really not used very often. In fact, there’s really only one mission where it’s used throughout. All the others you might never even see the other players.
Thankfully there’s nothing too important locked behind the multiplayer – just some orb crystals at times, and that’s only on one stage. You’ll never be locked out of a mission because of an asshole random or something.
Extremely high. Multiple difficulties, lots of upgrades to gain, 3 playable characters and just utterly enjoyable gameplay.
There’s also a ton of stuff like concept art and files that work to tell some backstory to characters and enemies – as well as additional costumes and abilities for achieving certain things in the game – like beating Son of Sparda or Dante Must Die.
Trophy-wise, it’s going to challenge you – it requires not only beating the highest difficulties but also S ranking them – which I can see being a pain for most people. That said, I honestly feel like it’ll be a fun time since S ranking actually feels earned here. They’re the fairest they’ve ever been.
This game feels like the end of an era, and the start of a new one. We’ve hit peak Devil May Cry here – and I honestly don’t know where we can go from this point on.
Devil May Cry 5 feels like a love letter to everyone who has ever loved this series, and I mean everyone. No matter what your favorite game is in the series – you are represented here, and well. I’m glad to see that Itsuno got to make the game he always wanted to. You can tell that he and the rest of the team love this franchise – flaws and all.
They’ve taken all of the best parts of the rest of the series and combined them to make something special here.
Here’s looking forward to whatever might be next.