Kiss kiss bang bang.
The first Devil May Cry game I ever came in contact with was Devil May Cry 2. I was at Blockbuster. My family had a monthly pass, so I could rent a certain number of games for as long as I wanted. Once I was done, I could take them back and get new ones. I discovered a lot of my favorite games that way: Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Banjo-Kazooie, Halo: Combat Evolved, Knights of the Old Republic… the list goes on. But one game I always wanted to play was Devil May Cry 2. It was a combination of cool box art, an awesome back of the box, and sheer ignorance. It was the early 2000s- nobody was around to tell me it was the “bad” Devil May Cry game. It was the only Devil May Cry game that my store had; I couldn’t just pick another one (Devil May Cry 3 had not yet released). It was also always in stock – which probably should have been a clue as to the game’s quality – but I just thought I was lucky. But no matter how many times I asked my mother, she always said no. I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe it was because the game was rated M; maybe it was because it was because of the subject matter (my parents were fairly religious). Whatever the reason, no matter how many times I asked, I was never allowed to rent it. I can’t remember another game that happened with. I have still never played Devil May Cry 2.
In hindsight, she might have done me a favor. My first DMC was Devil May Cry 4, which I adored. I bought the other games, but aside from the Definitive Edition of DmC: Devil May Cry (which I reviewed), I never played any of them, mostly because I lacked regular access to a PS2. I tried Bayonetta, but it didn’t scratch the same itch. I had a disease, and there was only one cure, so I waited for Devil May Cry V. And waited. And waited. And waited. And now, finally, after more than a decade, it’s here.
"Devil May Cry V is easily the most diverse DMC has ever been in terms of combat, and features the most depth the series has probably ever seen. A lot of this comes from the fact that there are three playable characters, each with a completely separate moveset anchored by a few core principles."
Devil May Cry V takes place a few years after 4. The setup is simple. A mysterious guy named V – who walks with a cane, reads poetry aloud, and looks like he just stepped out your neighborhood Hot Topic – has come to Dante with a problem. See, there’s this super badass demon named Urizen, and he’s coming to destroy the world (because of course he is), and V is convinced that Dante is the only guy who stands a chance against him. Meanwhile, a weird dude in a cape shows up at Nero’s – who returns from DMC4 – and rips his Devil Bringer arm off, then disappears. Dante realizes he’s probably gonna need a hand with this one, so he rounds up Lady and Trish and heads off with V to fight Urizen. Nero, now rocking a mechanical Devil Breaker made by his partner in crime, a lady weaponsmith named Nico – who also drives a van that serves as their own version of Devil May Cry (the place, not the game) – also heads out to help. Because this would be an exceptionally short video game if they won right away, things don’t exactly go smoothly. You spend the rest of the game playing as Nero, V, and Dante as they try to take down Urizen.
Got it? Good. Because any further discussion of DMCV’s story is seriously spoilery, and since some wild stuff happens, I’d like to avoid that. The story’s a good, if silly time. Dante, Nero, and V taunt bosses, crack wise, and engage in very-funny-and-also-super-badass-and-utterly-absurd hijinks. Rest assured, this is Devil May Cry as you know and love it, ludicrous tone, bangin’ soundtrack, and all. Nero can ride one of his Devil Bringer arms into combat like a surfboard, V’s demonic pet bird does a great Gilbert Gottfried, and Dante bursts into his best Michael Jackson impersonation when he is awarded a new weapon, which takes the form of a strikingly familiar hat. Serious business this ain’t. Devil May Cry’s stories have always been absurd (remember how Dante did Shakespeare with a dude who turned into a giant locust in DMC4?), but the characters are so damn enjoyable that you care about happens to them. It’s a fine line, but Devil May Cry hasn’t lost its touch, even after all these years.
Odds are, though, you don’t come to Devil May Cry for the story. You’re here for the gameplay. And man, oh man, does it deliver. Devil May Cry V is easily the most diverse DMC has ever been in terms of combat, and features the most depth the series has probably ever seen. A lot of this comes from the fact that there are three playable characters, each with a completely separate moveset anchored by a few core principles. Devil May Cry V’s combat engine assigns one button to an action. Certain characters can switch weapons or styles, or activate immensely powerful special attacks and transformations; this is usually done with LB or one of the triggers – but everything else is decided by some variation of pressing a button at a certain time, whether or not you are locked on to a target, and the direction of your analog stick. For a game with DMCV’s absurd level of depth, the controls are fairly straightforward.
"See, Devil May Cry isn’t just about laying waste to enormous hordes of demons as an absolute badass, though you do a lot of that. It’s about killing said enormous hordes with style."
What makes DMCV stand out is its style system. See, Devil May Cry isn’t just about laying waste to enormous hordes of demons as an absolute badass, though you do a lot of that. It’s about killing said enormous hordes with style. Devil May Cry is always ranking you while you play, assigning a level of style to the moves you’re doing. Mix in a variety of moves and avoid getting hit, and your style meter will rise. Use the same moves too much, or fail to keep the hits coming, and your style meter will start to drop. The meter starts at zero and rises through D, C, B, A, S, and SS before capping out at SSS.
The more stylish you are, the more Red Orbs (currency that can be spent on new items, moves, health, and special meter, as well as revive you after dying) you’ll receive. Get hit and your style meter will be cut down by two levels. Get hit twice, and you’re almost guaranteed to be back at nothing, or close to it. You can’t block in Devil May Cry V. Your only recourse is to dodge out of the way, stun your enemies, jump, or find other ways to not get hit. At the end of a level, you’re scored based on how well you do. Wanna grab those S ranks? You better get practicin’.
We’ll start as the game does: with Nero. Nero is DMCV’s simplest character. He has a sword (Red Queen), a gun (Blue Rose), the Devil Breaker, and… that’s about it. His sword has more combos than, say, Dante’s because he can’t swap to different weapons. It makes up for that with the Exceed system. Red Queen can be revved up like a motorcycle to one of three levels. The higher the level, the more it has to be revved up. Doing this changes the properties of every single move in Red Queen’s arsenal, essentially allowing giving the weapon multiple movesets and significantly more power.
"Nero has access to multiple Devil Breakers, which are kept in magazines and the next Devil Breaker in that magazine is automatically slotted into place after the previous one is destroyed."
Blue Rose is a little simpler. You can fire the weapon normally, or charge the next three shots, imbuing them with more damage, the ability to stun, and knockback. Blue Rose does solid damage, but it’s more useful when used to interrupt an enemy attack, keep an enemy in the air so you can follow it up with additional combos from Red Queen, or attack far way enemies long enough to keep your style meter from dropping while you get to them, say just after you’ve killed another enemy. And then there’s the Devil Breaker.
Nero has access to multiple Devil Breakers, which are kept in magazines, and the next Devil Breaker in that magazine is automatically slotted into place after the previous one is destroyed. Devil Breakers can be detonated manually, which damages enemies and lets Nero escape from sticky situations and avoid taking damage and losing style meter. They can also be overcharged, which allows access to different, powerful techniques.
There are a variety of different styles. The Overture is an all-purpose model that can electrocute enemies and can be rammed into foes and detonated; Gerbera allows you to move around and cancel attacks with shockwaves or fire a powerful laser; Punch Line offers powerful blows and rocket punches. And this isn’t even getting into the DLC Devil Breakers that come with the game’s deluxe edition, one of which restores health, while another is the Mega Man buster. Yes, I’m serious.
"V’s a little more complicated. He doesn’t so much attack as tell his minions to attack. He has a bird (Griffon) for ranged attacks and a panther made from his shadow (Shadow; I know, it’s not very original) for melee attacks."
As you can imagine, these interlocking systems provide an absurd amount of depth. You can rally off a combo, use a launcher, follow that up with an air combo, knock them back down, use them Devil Breaker to pull them back to you, overcharge your Overture, detonate it, and ride the shockwave from your newly-equipped Gerbera to the next enemy (and start another combo) before anyone could do anything. This is a very basic example. Keep in mind that Nero is the simplest character in the game.
V’s a little more complicated. He doesn’t so much attack as tell his minions to attack. He has a bird (Griffon) for ranged attacks and a panther made from his shadow (Shadow; I know, it’s not very original) for melee attacks. Shadow is pretty standard (he has launchers, air moves, and various combos), but Griffon can summon lightning, force fields, magic bullets, and launch enemies into the air, opening up unique combo paths for Shadow, making him the most unique.
He also has Nightmare, an enormous monstrosity that you can ride (!) should you buy the right upgrades and summon by activating V’s Devil Trigger when he has full meter, which you build by dealing damage. V’s minions do most of the work for him, but he has to be the one to finish enemies off, which means you have to manage not only your position at any given time, but theirs as well. Being fairly weak, V relies on them to get out of jams. Without Shadow and Griffon to move him around, his ability to dodge is limited, so you won’t want to throw them into situations where they can take damage willy-nilly. If they do take “fatal” damage, you’ll have to wait until they come back before you can use them again, a process you can speed up by standing next to where they died.
"Nero and V are great characters, but Dante is the star of the show. As before, he brings several styles to the table, and each has a number of melee and ranged weapons, all of which can be switched out on the fly."
V is simultaneously very simple and very hard to control. The fact that you can’t move your minions beyond ordering them to attack means it’s easy to have them attack nothing, or put them in a position where they can’t escape, a problem that is especially prevalent with Shadow. You can mitigate some of this by sacrificing part of your Devil Trigger gauge, which allows them to attack without your input and increases their damage, but it doesn’t completely solve the problem. Still, it’s a small gripe considering what V allows you to do. I had an easier time getting his style gauge up than anyone else (finishing an enemy boosts it considerably) and the sheer amount of stuff at his disposal is tantalizing. He may not be as initially engaging as Nero, but he’s quite fun, and I’m sure those skilled enough will have a blast using his combos.
Nero and V are great characters, but Dante is the star of the show. As before, he brings several styles to the table – Gunslinger, which gives him access to several special ranged attacks; Swordmaster, which gives him special abilities with his melee weapons; Trickster, which allows him to move and dodge around the map at will; and Royal Guard, which allows him to block and parry enemy attacks back at them – and each has a number of melee and ranged weapons, all of which can be switched out on the fly. The styles are incredible, but the real stars of the show are the weapons, which range from mainstays like Rebellion (his sword) and Ebony and Ivory (his pistols) to Balrog (armor that specializes in punches or kicks, depending on the mode), Cavaliere (a motorcycle that Dante swings as a pair of heavy weapons. Yes, really), and Faust (the aforementioned Michal Jackson hat that takes Red Orbs to use, but provides more of them when you kill enemies).
Combine this with the styles, and you have a character of near infinite depth and almost limitless possibilities. It would take me several years and tens of thousands of words to go into detail on the possibilities Dante provides players, so let me just say that I haven’t even covered all of the weapons yet (some of which I believe it is possible to miss), and then ask you to imagine the possibilities when all of these things are combined with his Devil Trigger transformation (which opens up new moves)- and remember that all of them can be switched to on the fly. If you were worried about Capcom neutering Dante’s moveset- don’t: people will be discovering new combos for this character a decade from now, and as good as the other characters are (both would be capable of carrying other games by themselves. The fact that they’re both even in this game with Dante is absurd), this is Dante’s show. Everyone else is just along for the ride.
"The game features 20 missions, which are split up amongst the characters. Some have to be played by a certain person; others allow you a choice. V has the fewest (only 4 are mandatory) and Nero the most, with Dante clocking in close behind, but no matter who you choose, you’re in for a good time."
It’s a good thing Devil May Cry V isn’t shy about letting you play it. The game features 20 missions, which are split up amongst the characters. Some have to be played by a certain person; others allow you a choice. V has the fewest (only 4 are mandatory) and Nero the most, with Dante clocking in close behind, but no matter who you choose, you’re in for a good time. Levels are linear, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t challenging. Between combat you’ll buy skills from Nico, solve puzzles (sometimes simple, sometimes not), complete secret missions that challenge various skills (some might have you kill a certain number of enemies; another asks you to stay in the air for 15 seconds without touching the ground) if you can find them, collect health and Devil Trigger upgrades, and complete optional side areas. You’ll do this all without the aid of a mini-map. It is easy and possible to miss things. If you want to avoid that, you will have to pay attention.
Each level ends with a big fight, though not all are bosses in the traditional sense. Still, the bosses are a treat. A few are reused a couple times (albeit with different characters or mechanics), but these are utterly brilliant fights that ask you to marry the stylish combos you’ve honed on lesser demons with the ability to recognize patterns and die accordingly. You’ll probably die a few times (you can use Gold Orbs, which resurrect you mid-combat and decrease your score; Red Orbs, which do the same thing; or continue from the last checkpoint), but you likely won’t care, because the feeling you get when you beat them is incredible.
If I have a complaint about DMCV, it’s that the game can be a little gray or otherwise very much the same color (considering it runs on the RE Engine, this isn’t super surprising), and I wish the environments had a little more life to them. They’re not very destructible, and often feel static beyond you and the enemies. The game’s camera can also be a bit frustrating, and the direction inputs for certain moves change depending on where the camera is in relation to your character. This is easily fixable, as you can re-center the camera whenever you like, but it can be a bit jarring if you’re coming from games with a fixed camera or one that stays with your character.
"This game is like a fine meal; it deserves to be savored, and if you do you’ll likely want to re-experience it. The fact that you might spend 1000 hours in The Void (the game’s training mode) because you want to S Rank Dante Must Die, replay all the levels multiple times to find all the secret missions, or end up digging through Nico’s journal for every bit of lore because the story and characters are that much fun is just a bonus."
I stand by these qualms, but they’re so minor I almost don’t care that they exist. Devil May Cry V marries a fun story, memorable characters, excellent mechanics, a wide variety of playstyles, terrific encounter design, cool levels, and exceptional boss fights into a single package that also happens to have stunning visuals, a tight framerate, and a rockin’ soundtrack that changes depending on how well you do. I’m not great at Devil May Cry V – My rankings varied from C to S during my run on Devil Hunter, depending on the level and character – but it’s the kind of game that makes me want to be better. You could play it just once, sure, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice.
This game is like a fine meal; it deserves to be savored, and if you do you’ll likely want to re-experience it. The fact that you might spend 1000 hours in The Void (the game’s training mode) because you want to S Rank Dante Must Die, replay all the levels multiple times to find all the secret missions, or end up digging through Nico’s journal for every bit of lore because the story and characters are that much fun, is just a bonus. This is the kind of game that deserves to be explored, replayed, and mastered, and I’ll be playing it for a long time. We don’t always get what we want; sometimes we can’t rent the cool game, or we have to wait a decade for a sequel to a game we love. Sometimes, even when we do wait, we never get what we want. But every now and then, our faith is rewarded with something spectacular. Devil May Cry V is that thing. Like Nero’s incredible theme, it bangs.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
An incredible combat system. Multiple characters with unique styles. Fantastic bosses. Levels are fun and can often be played by multiple characters. Retains the DMC humor. Engaging characters. Gorgeous visual design. Secret levels and multiple difficulties make it replayable. Rockin' soundtrack.
Camera can be frustrating. A very gray color palette. Levels don't have a lot of life to them. No playing as Trish and Lady.
It might have small flaws, but Devil May Cry V is like a fine meal; it deserves to be savored, and if you do you’ll likely want to re-experience it. The fact you might see everything it has multiple times over in doing so is just a bonus.