Review by Migeira
This Devil is Lacking in the Details
Among Capcom's veritable offerings of long-running video game series, Devil May Cry is one of the few I've been a fan of since the beginning. There have been some missteps along the way, and for a while I thought Devil May Cry was going to cap out on its fourth installment. It is a good thing then, that Itsuno gave Capcom an ultimatum: either he gets to develop another DMC or he walks. Or is it truly? The answer, as in many other facets of life, is somewhere in between.
If you haven't been a fan of DMC for very long, or are just now taking the plunge, I wouldn't recommend starting with DMC 5. You won't have a clue as to the characters, their motives, understand any of the references, and will probably end the game more confused than when you started it. While the game does provide an arguably helpful video recap, I doubt it paints the whole picture effectively. Which leads me to one my main gripes with Devil May Cry 5--the narrative and the characters that fill it. But I'll leave that on the back burner for now.
Devil May Cry 5 stars Dante, a half-human, half-demon wrecking ball of style and flair. And he's been providing cleaning services for all your global demon infestation needs since 2001. In this third-person action game that makes style its sole focus, merely killing all the enemies on the field is not enough. How stylish you can do it is the true gameplay imperative, and one that Capcom is keen to remind you of in every encounter. This game, for better or for worse, makes use of every single button on the controller. Dodging, jumping, grabbing enemies, "revving" up your sword for increased stopping power, and even a devil transformation mechanic all have their own buttons and button combinations. For series veterans, this will almost* feel right at home (more on that later). For newcomers, there will definitely be a learning curve and a ridiculous amount of time spent in the button mapping menu for both groups. This leads into my first complaint with the game: the controls.
Controlling your own character can at times be really smooth. But more often than not, the puzzling decisions surrounding the default button mapping leaves a lot to be desired. For instance, with enough Red Orbs (DMC's staple system of in-game legal tender) you can buy an ability that allows you to do a dancing taunt that ups the rate at which the character gains style points. More stylish points you get, the faster you can reach that coveted goal of SSS (Smokin Sexy Style) and get a better rank at the end of the mission. The problem with this lies in the fact that the default input for this ability is to hold down both the select button and the left analog stick for at least a second or two.
The direction to which your fingers can move in relation to one another that Capcom seems to think is physiologically possible just does not meld well into slaying demons. This can lead to an aggravating amount of time spent in the controls menu, fiddling around with customized inputs until you can stop getting carpal tunnel while you "rev" that sword up for maximum damage. Even stranger is that there is no toggle option for the lock-on mechanic. Dante can get easily surrounded during combat, and having to hold down a button while the rest of your fingers mash on can get unnecessarily chaotic and downright tedious. From what I can remember, a toggle feature was included in certain past iterations, so I cannot help but question Capcom's logic regarding many of the mechanics and controls. There should have been an option at least. Moving on...
With previous entries, DMC did not skimp out on the goodies and unlockables one can acquire once certain difficulty modes were beaten. Different characters, outfits/skins, and modes that give you what is essentially a cheat and to play the entire game with infinite Devil Trigger, allowing the player to go from human to demon, and back again, at their leisure. To my chagrin however, Capcom not only barred most of the extra content to the confines of the Deluxe Edition, which is a fair bit pricier than the standard, but glossed over what I considered to be crucial details for the series' longevity and replay value. To put it plainly, an empty cardboard box has more content within than Devil May Cry 5. After you first beat the game on Devil Hunter mode, the most you can hope to expect is a rummage through Void mode (essentially a place to hone your style during combat and try out new abilities) and a glorified lore dump via menus and notes/journals by certain characters. I found myself very disappointed in how little incentive Capcom gave me in returning to the game once I beat it initially.
The crux of Devil May Cry's gameplay has been refined to the brightest shine yet, and while I still find fault with the controls, cutting through swathes of demons and other baddies has never been more fun. New abilities, new combat mechanics, and new ways to play are all present here. You will never run out of things to do during combat. And considered that there are now three playable characters instead of one or two, there is variety to Devil May Cry like never before. Some of the physics regarding platforming are questionable, and the camera may sometimes, but not too often, get in the way. The first character you control uses consumable mechanical arms that each come with their own unique abilities (think Mega Man). Want to be able to cancel your moves into dodging and escape for increased mobility? Grab the Gerbera. Want to pierce through shields and crack a hell denizen's defense? Grab Helter Skelter.
Another beef I have is the atrocious level design, which has taken a decidedly large leap backwards compared to other games. Most of the levels you'll be traipsing through are linear corridors and provide very little atmosphere or sense of exploration. Many of the levels are homogenized as well, forcing the player to run through the same demonic plant-from-hell hallway with its drab and monotone color palette. One of the more egregious errors I believe Capcom has made here.
Depending on when you first entered the foray of frenzied, demon-killing action, you will either be left astounded at how little screen time the fan-favorites get, or be really lost as to who this new character who just entered stage right is. Many of the story beats rely on new characters who are at best obnoxious, and at worst, completely unwelcome into the DMC universe. Other characters are introduced into the story from other mediums, such as the anime. Unfortunately, Capcom mistakenly assumed I watched this anime and fell into the same trap many other developers do when writing a universe for a video-game. I shouldn't have to go read a novel or watch an anime adaptation to get the full picture, and this manner of storytelling isn't satisfying anyway. I deduct serious points here, and I can confidently say this is one of, if not the worst stories in a DMC to date for me.
The combat is as thrilling as it's ever been, and pulling off Michael Jackson moves in the middle of a fight (Completely serious here) is a welcome breath of fresh air. The graphics are sharp, and the motion capture can be fun to stare at. The soundtrack is hit or miss, with the option to customize battle music as a Deluxe Edition exclusive. But the main theme in particular is really enjoyable. It's just a shame that Capcom decided to focus on monetary schemes rather than give players the full breadth of content for the standard price of admission.
I liked Devil May Cry 5, but I didn't love it. The devil is in the details. It is just a shame that this game opts only for the former and not the latter.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Devil May Cry 5 (US, 03/08/19)
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