These impressions have taken nearly as long to arrive as the game they’re for, the long-awaited and often thought never happening sequel to Devil May Cry 4, DMC 5 is here. The rocky history of the Devil May Cry franchise since DMC4 back in 2008 is well known: a franchise that increased sales with every game was rebooted as a divisive, mechanically inferior performing hack-and-slash game developed by Ninja Theory. Many words could be said about that game, but that’s not what this is about. The first sign that DMC might not be dead yet came in the form of re-releases of both DMC4 and DmC: Devil May Cry, the reboot of DmC in particular addressed many of the complaints of the original such as the 30 FPS framerate and fewer difficulty options. These games were seen by many as Capcom testing to see which direction the series should continue in if it continued at all. So it unfolded that, after continued teases on twitter from the games director, Devil May Cry 5 was announced at E3.
Longtime overseer of the franchise, Hideaki Itsuno, who took over directorial duties on DMC2 a mere four months before release and went on to direct DMC3 and DMC4, has returned to the director’s chair again. The old voice actors are back, and keen eyes scoured the reveal trailer to find exact combos from DMC4 present in the game. Things were looking good for a franchise that for a while looked like it might not continue.
GamesCom brought the first playable build of DMC5 to the public and, as a big DMC fan, I was interested in how the game would feel and perform after the long road it took to get here. After playing it, I can say that not only is Devil May Cry back, but it’s coming back with Smokin’ Sexy Style.
Smokin’ Sexy Style
The brief demo I played (I skipped the cutscenes, I’m sorry alright, the time concerns were pressing) had me playing as Nero, the main character from DMC4, who returns with his Red Queen sword and Blue Rose double barrel pistol. Not returning is his fancy demon arm due to, uhhh, let’s say ‘reasons’; instead our boy Nero sports a robotic arm called Devil Breaker, as developed by newcomer Nico, the inventor/mechanic/driver that Nero has partnered with in his mobile demon hunting business.
Many functions have been shown for this sparkly new arm; an electric shock, a rocket punch, and slowing down time to name a few. There’s a lot to cover with these, as the main fancy new mechanic, so let’s get to it: arms can’t be swapped freely. Rather, the only way to move on to a new arm is to destroy the one you’re currently using. There are two ways to do this; get hit while attacking with the arm and it’ll shatter, or charge up and use the arm’s secondary attack and it’ll break itself afterwards. Arms are scattered throughout the level, so while the demo starts you off with eight you don’t need to worry about breaking them and running out.
If you do run out of arms, it’s not the end of the world. You can’t use any of the Devil Breaker attacks obviously, but the sword and gun attacks work exactly the same. Though, a little touch I love is that some of your animations change due to this lack of forearm. Not sure what exactly changes, but I did see the animation for reloading the Blue Rose changed, a lovely little bit of attention to detail. Instead of the normal reload, Nero now tucks the Blue Rose under his upper arm and shoves bullets into it with his working hand.
Now, with the basics of how the arms work out of the way let’s get to specifics. The demo contains two arms, though the full game will contain eight. The first is Overture, which is a shockwave attack and when charged up is a large electric discharge. The second is Gerbera, which is amazing. You can propel yourself in any direction with a spinning jump, and the jump will pick up any nearby enemies and carry them with you. It’s a great offensive dodge, and if timed correctly will even reflect incoming projectile attacks. Its charged attack, meanwhile, sees Nero locked in place as he fires what could safely be called a ridiculously big laser.
The arms are a nice addition to an already good combat system, though I must say I found Gerbera to be considerably more useful than Overture. Let’s face it, aerial combos are fun and Gerbera is wonderful for extending your airtime as well as closing the distance on enemies without needing to land.
Combos straight out of DMC4 return here, looking slicker than ever, as does the unique Nero mechanic of revving the sword which I must admit I can’t get down for the life of me. Nevertheless, I will continue to try and fail to correctly rev the sword during combat and have a big smile on my face as the combat is responsive, satisfying and flows so well that I was wishing the fights in the demo went on longer.
Getting To Grips
A gripe I would have with the game is I feel the camera sticks too close to Nero; I tend to find a lot of games have a more claustrophobic camera than I would prefer, so this may only be an issue to me, but pulling the camera back a little would be lovely. Aside from that, the game is a visual feast. Nice animations, responsive and fast. Could maybe do with running a little faster; I mean you’re clearly a fit guy, Nero. surely more than a jog is possible, but I’ll not harangue them too much over that.
The final aspect of the combat, a Devil May Cry staple that is returning yet again: it’s the style meter. Each of DMC5’s three playable protagonists has their own battle theme; first, we were given Devil Trigger, the Nero theme and a total banger. Then in the wake of TGS Capcom released Subhuman, Dantes track, which is not great if I’m being honest. Whatever the flavour of the music, the game is using music as an instant reward for good play.
Style And Substance
The higher your style ranking, the better the music gets. At a B rank the vocals are there, but pretty understated in the background. Get that up to an S and the song gets pretty close to its true bopping form. Even the visuals of the style meter are slick this time around, with rings around the letter acting as a visualiser for the music playing. Quite what it feels like to hit and maintain that SSS rank, and get rewarded in an instantly noticeable way, I sadly don’t know yet, but once I get my hands on this game proper I’m looking forward to finding out.
Care and attention to detail are oozing out of this game, entirely due to the impressive efforts of Itsuno and the development team; nothing about it feels cheap or like a corner has been cut. It’s a slick, fun, and challenging game that looks like it’s going to easily earn its place standing alongside the DMC games of the past, if not standing above them.