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Devil May Cry 5, a Return to Form 11 Years in the Making

As far as being a Devil May Cry fan goes, I’m a relatively new addition to the flock. The first game in the franchise I played was DmC: Devil May Cry, which didn’t really give me a good picture of the other games. Devil May Cry 4, on the other hand, gave me a proper introduction to the series’ emphasis on style and stunt-tastic action. After picking up the HD collection and trying the other three games (yes, even Devil May Cry 2, much to my personal regret), I was all good and hyped for Devil May Cry 5 to bring me back to that first moment when I tasted true, demon-slaying style. And guess what? It totally did. Like, almost immediately.

It’s been a few years since the events of Devil May Cry 4, and the demon-armed rookie slayer Nero is doing okay for himself, having opened up a mobile branch of Devil May Cry with Dante’s blessing. While working on his van, a stranger appears in his garage, and with nary a word, the stranger attacks Nero and rips his demonic arm right from his body, extracting the Yamato, a demonic sword belonging to Dante’s late brother Vergil, from it. Meanwhile, Dante is visited at Devil May Cry by his longtime informant Morrison, as well as a new client, an enigmatic man known only as V. V wants Dante to kill a powerful demon, Urizen, who’s currently making a play for the Underworld’s throne. That play begins in earnest when a gigantic demonic tree rises from the ground. Dante, along with longtime slaying buddies Lady and Trish, enter the tree’s base to put a sword in Urizen’s face, but are quickly overwhelmed by the would-be king’s sheer strength. With Lady and Trish out of commission and Dante missing in action (though not for long), it falls to Nero and V to whack this demonic weed.

Your basic gameplay loop runs the same as Devil May Cry 4; run through the level, introduce demons to the pointy end of your sword, and try to do it really stylishly. Compared to previous games, racking up a big style meter combo is actually a little easier, especially since so many techniques hit multiple times. Though, conversely, taking hits incurs larger penalties, so you’ll still have to work at it if you want a good grade at the end of the level.

As the game goes on, you’ll swap between Nero, Dante, and V as the story demands it, though sometimes you’ll be given a choice between the three. Nero controls similarly to his previous incarnation, utilizing his Red Queen sword and Exceed engine to power up his attacks with fire. However, due to his missing demon arm, he’s had to get outfitted with cybernetics to replace it. Enter, the Devil Breakers. Nero’s inventor buddy Nico whips up new arm attachments for Nero as the game goes on, each with a unique command. These arms are just so much fun to use; the Punch Line is a rocket fist Nero can ride like a surfboard, and the Gerbera propels you around with little explosions and can fire off a gigantic laser, just to name a couple. The only downside is that the arms can break if you’re attacked while using them, but you can hold up to three at once, plus more with upgrades, and more can be found lying around a level, so it isn’t really a problem.

Dante can still swap on the fly between his four combat styles, and his combos, at least early on, are mostly identical to Devil May Cry 4. Hey, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? He does pick up several new Devil Arms, with one of the most advertised being the Cavalier, a demonic motorcycle that transforms into twin chainsaws. Impractical? Perhaps. Incredibly awesome? Uh, yeah. I can’t give more away without spoilers, but let’s just say that Dante’s skills do evolve quite notably midway through the story.

Lastly is our newcomer, V. V is an odd duck, being a frail, skinny man mostly incapable of combat on his own. Luckily, he’s got powerful friends. In lieu of weapon attacks, V can summon three demons to serve as his melee attacks, ranged attacks, and super moves: the demonic panther Shadow, the snarky thunder-bird Griffon, and the hulking golem Nightmare. V can control his demonic menagerie remotely, staying safe from the carnage on the back lines. The only time V himself enters combat is to deliver the finishing blow, since his pets can’t finish demons on their own. While V’s combat is a notable departure from what you may be used to with Dante and Nero, it’s not an unpleasant one. It’s less about combos and raw damage and more about placement and micromanaging, all while maintaining the fast pace you love.

And speaking of love, that’s what I get a feeling of from this game. Every move our heroes make makes me think that, during development the team were wondering “how can we make this look as cool as possible?” The story’s a little silly as a result of all the flashy action, but really, if you went into a Devil May Cry game expecting King Lear, you’re in the wrong place. As it is, Devil May Cry 5 captures that feeling I’ve been missing from 3 and 4: the flashy, overconfident nature of several men taking on legions of demons with swords and guns. Not a mission went by without a big, dumb grin on my face, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.