DMC V is the latest instalment in the long running action series from Capcom. A return to its original version instead of the 2013 reboot. A return for the better, I believe. Don’t get me wrong, I never hated the 2013 Dante or Donte as some like to call him, but I also never really cared for him or the world around him. The characters of OG Dante and Nero were always characters that I enjoyed watching in over the top cutscenes and felt good to play as in game. It’s over 10 years since we last played as OG Dante and Nero and so how does their return fare? I can happily say that after 10 years, they haven’t lost their touch.
DMC V takes place in Red Grave City, a London-esque fictional location. A tentacle like flower has erupted through the ground and Dante, Nero and the new character V are on a mission to stop the evil behind this occurrence. This is shown in mission one and we as the player, are jumping into a story already in motion. The very first mission takes place during established conflicts and as you progress in the game you’ll discover character motives and what led up to this point. It works well for this flashy series. There is very little downtime in DMC V and this opening perfectly encapsulates this. The game is broken up into 20 missions with certain missions taking place around the same time but with a different character. This leads to cool moments where you can see V in the background of Nero’s mission, fighting a bunch of demons or upon entering a room, being able to join a fight already in motion. This ties in with the Cameo System but I’ll touch on that later. As you progress through the game you’ll play character specific missions as well as missions that have character choice. As you progress you’ll unlock specific character weapons and earn red orbs which allow you to level up your characters and unlock new moves or buy health or Devil Trigger increases. It’s a simple structure but it suits this style of game. Having the missions broken up into 20-30 minute missions means that you won’t tire of the same character or location if they’re not to your preference.
DMC V isn’t a revolution in storytelling but I had an immensely fun time with it nevertheless. This game is telling a more serious tale, more akin to the original DMC but with a healthy injection of cheese now and then. There is also a healthy amount of past game references which if you’re a fan of past iterations, you’ll enjoy. The Devil May Cry series is known for its bombastic and over the top cutscenes, cringey dialogue and all. DMC V is more retrained in that regard. It’s still stupid and charming but it feels more restrained than 3 or the antics of Dante and the second half of DMC 4. Is this for better or for worse? It depends on what you like. Personally I love the flamboyant and outrageous in these kind of games. It’s why Bayonetta is one of my favourite characters of recent years and why I love the anime/manga Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. The ridiculous has its place in media and the DMC franchise was one of the pioneers of that in gaming. There are still moments but this is a game where the stakes feel substantial and the physics more grounded, it suits what DMC V is going for, without pulling into Spoiler Town.
Most people don’t play Devil May Cry for the story they play it for the stylish gameplay and DMC V has that in spades. If you’re at all familiar with Dante or Nero then you’ll feel right at home with them in V. Nero plays very similar to 4 but with his new Devil Breaker functionality. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock new mechanical arms for Nero. Each arm offers a unique functionality with some specialising in crowd control, evasion or dealing large amounts of damage to a single enemy. Nero can only equip one arm at a time and can only hold onto a certain amount. If you get hit when using a Devil Breaker, the arm breaks. Each arm has basic functionality and a one time use function. You could go through an entire mission using the electric palm blast of Overture or you could use its one use feature to latch a high damaging sticky bomb to an enemy. Combine this with Nero’s ability to yank enemies towards himself and you’ve got a fun and unique character. Dante is a more varied combatant. Dante has 4 fighting styles that you can switch between with a touch of the D-Pad. He has his fast moving Trickster, the added melee abilities of Swordmaster, the extra ranged oomph of Gunslinger or the risky but rewarding counter style of Royalguard. Each of these styles can be upgraded to higher levels which unlock extra features for each style. As you progress in the game, you’ll also unlock new weapons which will in part will mesh with your upgraded styles too. These weapons range from a simple rocket launcher or set of gauntlets to the crazy weapon that is a motorcycle and cowboy hat. As you can see, Dante hasn’t lost his panache. Dante also has his Devil Trigger ability which lets him enter into his demonic state and inflict greater damage to enemies as well as gradually recover health. Overall, a character with a lot to learn but a fun character to play as.
Then there is newcomer V. V is a great addition to the cast of characters. He fits in well, even though he is a mysterious individual. In cutscenes and in his overall aesthetic, I must say that I am a fan of him. Gameplay wise though, I waver a bit. I think the idea behind his gimmick is really interesting and for the most part it works surprisingly well. V doesn’t fight like Dante and Nero, instead he utilises the help of Griffon, Shadow and Nightmare, 3 demons that he conjures to support him. Griffon is a bird which acts as his ranged attack, launching projectiles and electric based attacks at enemies. Shadow is a panther-like creature which acts as V’s up close and personal attacks. Then there is the huge lumbering Nightmare who uses V’s Devil Trigger meter to appear. Often falling from the skies like a meteor or bursting through a wall (often revealing hidden secrets), Nightmare is the big bruiser of the gang and one that you don’t need to control. Just summon him and let him go to town on foes. The only thing you need to do with V is evade and finish enemies off with a killing blow. You can also make V read his book which will generate a steady amount of Devil Trigger. Griffon and Shadow you control with your range and melee attack buttons. Both companions have a health gauge though and if they take too much damage, they’ll retreat into a dormant state, represented by an orb on the ground, while replenishing their health. By placing V next to his inactive friends, they’ll regenerate their health faster. All this together creates a character where you are essentially hanging back from the fight and making your minions do your bidding. It’s a fantastic idea and suits V’s personality but when you add complex systems like this, complexities tend to arise too.
For starters, being so far back away from the action at times often leads to mistimed melee hits as your perspective is off. In a lot of games that wouldn’t be a major issue but the DMC series utilises a ranking system and the aim of the ranking system is to keep combat going so that you can raise your ranking. Then there is the fact that Shadow isn’t always where you want it to be. Often times I’ll click the melee button only for Shadow to have spawned next to me a split second before I hit the button. Making his close range attack completely whiff. I wondered if this was to my own lack of skill and to an extent I believe it is but I also saw a lot of people having a similar issue online. Shadow is difficult to orientate at times and in a game where calculated actions and precision yield better results, the experience suffers because of it. Not by a lot, but some. As I mentioned, there is a ranking system for individual battles and for each mission. Your individual battles and other factors will round up to your overall ranking for that level. With Nero and Dante I felt in control of my rankings but with V, I was less confident I deserved that D or even that S ranking. At times with V I was getting SSS’s for what I thought was pretty basic gameplay and then other times I was getting C’s because I couldn’t hit with Shadow. It felt like you ranked up quicker with V and the reason for that is because the developers realised they needed to add that because of his margin of error. Again, I do think I was playing him wrong at times but I tried different tactics with Shadow and I just couldn’t get consistent results. Not a major issue but on harder difficulties where you have to be deliberate, I can see V being a frustration at times. Other than the inconsistent Shadow though, I think he’s a great addition to the franchise.
Another part of the rankings I want to mention is the taunting in this game. During combat you can hit a button to taunt. Not only are these taunts flashy or funny, they also can up your style meter and also act as a way to prolong your style from decreasing. These taunts range from V coughing, Nero playing eenie meenie minee mo with enemies and even scaring them away, to Nero putting his hoodie up or V using his cane to conduct an imaginary symphony to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries. Each taunt gives you a glimpse of their personalities and the fact that certain taunts only activate if you have a specific style ranking is a nice touch. It adds incentive to do well in battle and to vary up your moves as you will get less style points if you use the same move repeatedly. The style system is a fantastic choice in design and I can fully believe the idea that each character is ranking themselves in their heads. It fits the tone perfectly. As does the soundtrack to the game. Each character has a battle theme that really helps to amp up the fights. Nero’s punk/metal Devil Trigger will never get dull to me and V’s goth style look perfectly lines up with his Crimson Cloud song. You get to listen to these great tracks while you pummel the ever increasing array of demons and let me tell you, there is an ample variety on display in this game. Most of the missions in DMC V introduce at least one new enemy and does so in remarkably stylish enemy intros. I never got bored with the cannon fodder in front of me and the end of mission bosses that lay ahead. While I enjoyed the majority of the boss fights, I am struggling to remember them all as I type. There are fantastic fights like the time manipulating knight and horse but a few forgettable entries compared to the likes of DMC 3, where even over 10 years later I still remember Jester, Nevan and most of the other bosses. This is understandable though as I believe there is a boss fight for nearly every mission. You definitely get your money’s worth regarding boss fights.
I almost forgot to mention the Cameo System which is probably because it feels like a bit of an after thought. It’s not a bad system but I felt that I barely saw it in motion during my game. Basically, similar to how in Dark Souls you can see players ghosts run past now and then, in DMC V sometimes you will have other players in your game or their ghost data anyway. I believe it is a live player most of the time but there is a belief that a lot of it is ghost data. For the majority of the missions you will have other people playing as a different character in your game. Most of the time you won’t interact with them. A lot of the time you won’t even see them unless you shift the camera around or go looking for them. You’ll hear the sounds of battle and you might see them in the distance. Certain mission will have your paths merge and you’ll have the opportunity to fight alongside the other player. But you have to be at the right place at the right time. It makes this feature quite lacklustre as I always felt that I was missing out on potential co-op action. Most of the time I’d get to an area to see my fellow player finishing off the enemies before I could even get there and then racing to the next zone. I like to take my time and look for secret missions or collectables in these games and so I wasn’t interested in rushing through the levels. I kept getting people who were doing that though which is understandable but it just meant I had fewer enemies to fight and therefore less of an experience. It’s a gameplay element that I’m sure when it works well, it works really well. I’ve started playing a higher difficulty and so I’m excited to go back through again and hopefully meet another player who is open to having a more co-op experience than racing to the end goal. But that’s a personal hope and maybe I was just unlucky with my experiences.
All in all I really enjoyed my time with DMC V. It had some of the best player-action gameplay I’ve had in a long time and features super satisfying gameplay systems. Not only that but the sound design on the weapons is great and the locations and graphics look amazing. And even though I would have appreciated a bit more cheese in cutscenes and dialogue, what was on offer was very pleasing to my eyes and ears. And that about does it for my review on DMC V. Feel free to let me know what you thought of this game in the comments. Thanks for reading.