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Devil May Cry 5 is a savage, spectacular action game

  • Style is everything, and Devil May Cry 5 has it in spades. It's in the blithe way rakish new character V holds a book of poetry and reads from it in the middle of battle. It's in the adolescent aggression that flows through the attacks of Nero, the character who was front and centre in the last numbered entry finally coming into his own here. It's in the swagger of Dante - oh that sweet, sweet swagger - who brings along every trick he's learned in the series' long history alongside a few new ones. It's an outrageously broad vocabulary of punishment that Devil May Cry 5 boasts.

    Nero is where new and old ideas come together. Replacing his lone Devil Bringer from DMC4 are new prosthetic arms called Devil Breakers. With them, you can pull enemies towards you, as well as tap into an assortment of special abilities depending on which Devil Breaker model you have equipped. For example, Overture can deliver a wide shock attack, while Punch Line shoots a rocket-powered fist that continuously damages enemies. Devil Breakers significantly evolve Nero’s playstyle by expanding his attacks, but what’s most curious is how switching between them requires you to discard your current one in order to equip the next down the line. At first, this seems like an arbitrary way to access each arm’s unique abilities--not to mention there’s little done to justify this rule in-game other than asserting that they’re simply "fragile."

    Nero, Dante, and V don’t reach their full potential until the end of your first run through. The next difficulty level remixes every combat encounter and lets you keep all of your unlocks. The refresh is so extensive that it makes the main campaign feel like a mere tutorial, and this is before Capcom adds the bloody palace gauntlet mode in April.

    In full flow Devil May Cry 5 is a savage, spectacular action game, stylish to the extreme if not exactly fashionable. After the Shoreditch edge of 2013 prequel DmC: Devil May Cry, this is a return to the more classically teenage boy concerns of old; it's all long hair, leather jackets, motorbikes and demons and music that raaaaaaaaaaawwwks. I absolutely love it, even if perhaps the one misstep here is a failure to acknowledge Ninja Theory's frequently wonderful, wrongly maligned spin-off that feels a little like capitulation. This is Devil May Cry as you remember it from its noughties pomp, a rediscovery and thorough retooling rather than a reinvention.

    While part of the fun is taking in the spectacle of a fight, playing as Dante is really about expressing yourself. There are so many attack combinations available that you can’t help but get sucked into learning the nuances of his every ability to achieve your desired style and flair. DMC historically excels when it’s continually motivating you to not only master its systems, but to execute upon them as elegantly and creatively as possible. Eventually, you get into a kind of flow with Dante, where combat is less about thinking than it is about feeling your way through it. Each character in DMC5 exemplifies this depth and intensity, but it’s with Dante’s open-ended combos where it feels most liberating and rewarding.

    Really, an action game of outrageous extremes delivered with a craftsman's touch. Devil May Cry 5 is an inescapably backwards-looking title, though in referencing its past it discovers and invents whole new depths. It's the kind of thing where the first playthrough feels like simply the warm-up before you explore those reaches further with the help of higher difficulty levels, and that rewards you with spectacle the more you master it.

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