Devil May Cry 5 Looks to the Past to Forge a Better Future

Capcom’s experimentation with their IP last-generation wasn’t isolated to just the Resident Evil franchise. Though a traditional Devil May Cry title launched in 2008 (Devil May Cry 4), Capcom quickly pivoted to a new idea. Bringing in Ninja Theory, Capcom set out to dramatically redefine the Devil May Cry franchise as a more story-focused and stylized game. The fruit of their labor was DmC: Devil May Cry, a game both controversial yet enjoyable. With Devil May Cry 5, Capcom is going back to the franchise’s roots and introducing some new elements to forge a path forward for the franchise.

Devil May Cry 5 takes place after Devil May Cry 4, which now takes place after Devil May Cry 2 following Capcom’s recent re-shuffle of the DMC canon, or so we think. Capcom hasn’t been entirely clear about the timeline. A European city has become the epicenter of a major demon attack that draws the attention of Dante. Meanwhile, Nero hunts for a hooded figure that cut off his Devil Bringer arm and pursues him to the same city. Finally, newcomer V seeks out Dante who apparently has wronged him in some way.

It’s hard to tell what direction the story will take, but based on trailers the series appears to return to the original game’s corny and zany style of storytelling over the more serious tone DmC took. Fans of one-liners and hilariously over-the-top villains are sure to enjoy classic Devil May Cry’s return. You won’t find the angst, seriousness and overly dark nature of Ninja Theory’s reboot. Whether the change is a good or bad one likely depends on how much you enjoyed DmC, but long-time fans will probably be happy with the campaign.

Devil May Cry 5’s campaign features three playable characters: Dante, V and Nero. Of the three characters, Dante will likely be the most comfortable for longtime fans of the franchise. Retaining many of his abilities alongside some new ones, like the Balrog gauntlets, Dante will feel familiar and looks to be a great jumping-off point for those turned off by DmC’s take on the character.

V represents the new in Devil May Cry 5 as a fresh addition to the franchise with a unique fighting style. Wielding a cane and book, V summons three demons to attack enemies. These include Griffon, an eagle that uses lightning to attack enemies, Shadow, a panther that deals melee demon, and Nightmare, a giant golem that serves as V’s form of Devil Trigger. V’s playstyle is about patience and utilizing your demons to whittle away an enemy’s health before delivering the final blow. It’s about staying back, deducing the best demon to use, and then executing on that plan. It’s a stark change of pace from the other characters and injects new variety into a game heavily focused on total offense.

If Dante represents the old Devil May Cry, and V represents new, then Nero perfectly encapsulates both new and old. He’s still got his Red Queen sword and Blue Rose revolver, and many of his combos are carried over. What’s changed are his new Devil Breaker arms, supplied by new character Nico. Each Devil Breaker provides a unique function in combat. For example, Overture provides a forceful push that sends enemies flying, the Buster Arm delivers brute strength at the cost of durability and Punch Line releases an autonomous rocket Nero can ride. Returning players are going to enjoy the familiarity of Nero alongside his new abilities.

If there’s one thing everyone can agree on about DmC: Devil May Cry is the level design. Aside from the white-lettered writing, Ninja Theory did an excellent job turning everyday locations into stylized hellscapes. Even mundane places like a café or factory hallway became interesting thanks to grotesque imagery. Ninja Theory poured a lot of thought and creativity into their world, and it’s a shame it doesn’t appear like Capcom is doing putting the same thought and creativity into Devil May Cry 5. For as stylish the combat looks and how grotesque enemies appear, the world and corridors feel dull. The gothic European city glimpsed so far is a nice throwback to the original game, but there needs to be more. Hopefully, other environments not yet revealed will inject more life into Devil May Cry 5’s world.

Devil May Cry fans rejoiced at E3 2018 when Devil May Cry 5 was revealed, and for a good reason. Capcom’s return to the franchise roots looks on-track to make fans happy and offer plenty of new elements to keep things fresh. All the changes made to the formula by DmC: Devil May Cry have been removed, for better and worse, to create an experience that is true to the original vision. Hopefully, that’s enough to turn Devil May Cry’s fortunes around.

Devil May Cry 5 is out March 8 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.