Review: Devil May Cry 5 is a return to hardcore hack-and-slash fans have been craving for

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Reviewed on Xbox One X

I think it’s more than safe to say that Capcom is claiming back their place as one of the world’s greatest game developers. While the once-great company saw an undeniable lull during the latter half of the previous generation, Capcom has been pushing back hard to regain their place. With the recent releases of Monster Hunter World, Resident Evil 2 and now Devil May Cry 5, Capcom can once again be branded as the King of Video Games.

Much like the aforementioned Monster Hunter and Resident Evil, Devil May Cry 5 is a true continuation of what made its franchise great. It’s an evolution of the series’ core concepts—in this case, you can expect a hardcore, skill-based hack-and-slash gameplay cradling an intriguing narrative. For those who have played Ninja Theory’s DMC: Devil May Cry, this is nothing like that, but it is much better. This isn’t DMC, it’s Devil May Cry—this is a proper hack-and-slash. In this game, Dante is sleek, stylish, sexy and suave. He’s not a whiny, “edgy” teenager.

For hardcore fans of the series that were worried about any DMC: Devil May Cry influence, there’s no need to worry. This is Devil May Cry as it should be and it’s almost unbelievable to actually have it in our hands. Featuring the return of characters Nero and Dante, alongside newcomer V, there’s a staggering number of playstyles to learn and adapt to. As you unlock new moves with the use of red orbs, you’ll gain access to a much larger suite of intense and stylish ways to attack your foes. However, learning how to combine those moves with others is the real meat and potatoes of the experience.

Taking place after the events of Devil May Cry 4, DMC 5 tasks the trio of grunge-boy-band-members with taking down a powerful demon named Urizen. From the off, he’s already proven as the deadliest foe the series’ cast has ever faced. A horrid unification of bone, viscera, and tentacles, Urizen refuses to even stand before the powerful demon hunters. He sits atop a throne, hand on his face, as he attacks from afar. Throughout recurring fights, you’ll get to witness his true power.

Surprisingly, despite uniting a powerful cast, Devil May Cry starts with a horrendous defeat. Nero and V are forced to retreat while legacy characters Dante, Lady, and Trish get trapped inside with the vicious Urizen. It’s a cold opening, but one that leads to one of the best hack-and-slash games you’ll ever play.

Immediately pushed into the role of Nero, it’s only a few minutes until you get to experience the action of DMC 5. Remaining faithful to his original DMC 4 appearance, Nero’s moveset is familiar but also bolstered. His core moveset revolves around the use of three mechanics: EXCEED, Snatch and Devil Breakers.

Well, that looks uncomfortable.

EXCEED is slightly more complicated than the other two. Nero’s sword, Red Queen, can be revved up like a motorbike throttle to dish out higher damage. You can charge outside of fighting to make your attacks as powerful as possible or you can charge while fighting. Hitting the EXCEED button at the exact same time as attacking an enemy will grant you one blip on your EXCEED gauge. Snatch is simple and clean: pressing RB and B at the same time will bring smaller enemies towards you or you towards larger ones. It’s an important part of elongating your combos to get that sweet SSS style ranking.

Devil Breakers are new to Devil May Cry. After losing his Devil Bringer arm, Nero’s friend Nico has designed a series of mechanical hands for “kicking demon ass”. From the time-stopping Ragtime to the spinning blades of Helter Skelter, there’s a wide number of different devil breakers to attach (and explode) throughout the course of your journey.

Of course, with the return of pure Devil May Cry comes the true return of series protagonist Dante. He’s an unstoppable monster in this installment. Combining his core moveset with the new two-mode Balrog, the motorbike Cavaliere, the tri-mode Cerberus, and some secret weapons, Dante has more options than ever before. His now-standard style switching also returns to offer even more options to fight. He’s an amazing character to play as, one that always makes you feel powerful.

Third on the list of playable characters is the newcomer: V. As a much weaker character narratively, V doesn’t attack with the same grace and complexity as Dante and Nero. Instead, V attacks from afar, summoning demons to do his dirty work for him. He’s the least interesting character out of the three, although he is the most unique. In fact, once you get into the groove of his attack style fights become rather easy compared to others. However, unlike Dante and Nero, V lacks that visceral feeling that the series’ combat has always achieved.

That also looks rather uncomfortable…

Thankfully, V is one of the more interesting characters in DMC 5. Learning exactly what his relationship is to the villain and his motivations may be rather transparent, but his characterization is still fantastic. Fans of previous DMC games will be able to tell exactly where the story is going, but it’s still one of the more enjoyable stories in the series.

From start-to-finish, DMC 5 is a remarkably fresh feeling sequel. Characters feel more grounded in reality with natural sounding conversations. No more, “I should have been the one to fill your dark soul with liiiiiiight!”. Most of the conversations here are well written. They’re tense when they need to be, they can be genuinely hilarious. It’s still cheesy, like it should be, but it’s a clear step up from some of the more awkward interactions in previous entries.

Level design isn’t as strong as some other titles in the series. There’s plenty of exploration to do in order to find more orbs, permanent power-ups, and secret weapons but it doesn’t feel as interesting as some of the platforming tasks we’ve seen before. Alongside a smattering of visual repetition later on, there’s much to be desired. With the exclusion of series staple Bloody Palace mode on launch, you’ll have to be contempt with playing these 20 levels over and over again for at least a month.

Without spoiling too much, this DMC is what DMC fans want. While it isn’t as big as previous games, it does feel remarkably higher in its production values. Bosses and enemies are all animated with minute details to show emotion and, more importantly, attack patterns. Some bosses, in particular, are such an awe-inspiring spectacle that they surely will not be forgotten for years.

Devil May Cry 5 is the true successor to the series’ name. It’s a proper continuation in story, gameplay, and style. For those looking for a hardcore hack-and-slash with inventive new weapons, amazing bosses, and fantastic characters this is the game you need. While it’s disappointing it took so long to get back here, DMC V is more than worth the wait.

More about the topics: Capcom, Devil May Cry 5, Devil May Cry HD Collection, Devil May Cry V, Resident Evil 2