This very much follows the guidelines of your typical DMC game which confounds me as to how that manages to be more good than bad. Stagnation is never a positive mark but come to think of it, DMC isn’t the franchise that pumps a title out every year or every other year for that matter. So following the steps that made the IP successful to begin with isn’t exactly something to fault. To go even further, I’d say it’s a little refreshing in the old school approach it takes to gameplay loop and presentation. It reminds me of how the previous generations felt while keeping me locked in the present with the gorgeous graphics and art direction. The gameplay expertly straddling the old and new gaming worlds in an intoxicating concoction of nostalgia and realization of what modern gaming can be.
Combat overall is timing and direction based due to the one button controls. It forces the player to splinter their command concepts, throwing away the convention of light, medium, and heavy attacks. Your variation comes in the direction of the left stick in combination with the spacing between button presses, and even whether or not you’re locked on. Your melee, projectile, and special buttons are spread out in the typical DMC fashion and this alone is very unique to this series. It seems like a lot because the control scheme doesn’t coddle the player and in many ways demands quite a bit from them. Especially when this game is meant to be played at the speed of two hummingbirds fucking. (Also, anyone else’s hands get tired af after a battle? Or am I just old now…)
Nero to Hero
Boy-wonder is all over the place with frenetic and quick movements that take him from enemy to enemy or more interestingly: bringing enemies to him one by one. The grapple arm is great, on the lighter enemies (most of them) it pulls them to Nero, however, the largebois work as anchors and pulls Nero toward them. Each devil-breaker is unique and even when some may seem niche, at least they have a purpose when they were put into the game. There’s a lot of layers when throwing in not just what you like and when you want to whip it out, but which ones you don’t mind burning should the situation arise. The devil-breakers have a main function and an alternative mode with one even having a third ability (Punch Line’s missile-hoverboard feature). My only real problem with Nero’s mechanics is that we can’t rotate through the holster to pick which breaker we want to use next in-game. Other than that, Exceed moves spice up the swordplay and bouncing around the arena never losses it’s feeling of excitement and sense of raw power.
V is for Vanity
Everyone’s combat comes with a level of understanding and familiarity even if you’ve seen nothing but cutscenes and gamers playing. V shakes up the gameplay and the mindset of the player which was jarring at first, but in time I would gain these moments of clarity where I’m this maestro of chaos orchestrating from afar as the battle plays out before me. The demonic bird handles projectiles while an equally demonic Jaguar (…Panther…?) that is your melee attack. With an Ogre like Devil Trigger that lays waste to everything in the arena. It’s clear and understandable why he’s so divisive given these “hands off” aspects but it’s just as over the top as the rest of the series so it doesn’t feel out of place. It’s well designed so much to the point of almost being too easy but again like the specific devil-breakers: V is different from the ground up and it’s done to freshen up the experience. A commendable act especially when it really seems to be an honest go at it and less than an idea they threw in last second. There are issues with commands and some not working exactly as you think but with adjustments to the way you play it becomes smooth and fun in no time again. Back to V being dipped in hyperbolic angst: reading his own poetry refills his meter and it sounds like the angriest high schooler wrote it, but again, it’s how aggressively everything is leaned into that gives it the charm. Also, V definitely has the best “sprint” feature. He hovers on this little nimbus cloud of black thoughts and Pierce the Veil lyrics it’s so cute.
The top shelf killer, Nero is close with his arsenal, but Dante’s is the most varied and honestly the most fun. I’ve encountered few things more satisfying than Lu Kang combo-ing the shit out of two demons to seamlessly switch to your motorcycle dual ax and eviscerate whatever remains of the crowd. It’s so intoxicating I can honestly name on one hand how many other games gave me this feeling (Spider-man 2, Far Cry 3, God of War, and Halo 2). Four styles of combat change most weapon move sets and this keeps the player at the edge of their seat all while the ride remains smooth as butter. Between guns and other projectile launchers as well as the handful of weapons all very diverse in functionality and performance, there’s almost too much to thoroughly use in a single level playthrough. Of all the levels, I’m constantly throwing myself back into Dante’s to see just how smokin and sexy my style can be.
After the learning curve is conquered, the flow and style of combat are entirely dictated by you the player. This combat is the shining achievement of this series and this iteration of it may be the best yet. The camera does a good job of managing the angles on its own and with little attention, it lacks almost all jank and assists the experience more than competently. Levels are bog-standard but what they do offer past the intro missions are many alternate routes and passages that lead to item discoveries, secrets, and combat scenarios you will otherwise miss if you barrel along the main path forsaking all others. I really enjoy how brave this game is for being itself in a world where every game needs some crazy intrusive online feature or component that stifles or gets in the way of the core game’s potential. The most of DMC5′s online capabilities begin and end with the cameo system, something that drops other players into your level at specific times to assist you or mainly just to look at and watch them do their thing. It’s not intrusive and is even exciting when the action starts to heat up and you and another player are cutting everything in the room to ribbons. I almost want more of it, and that’s what a well-implemented feature can do.
Concerning red orbs mentioned in my demo post, Capcom went with the confusing decision to load us up with orbs and means of getting them in the main game; only to give us the option to pay for more whenever the need arises. Why Capcom? This game has next to no blemishes but this is one minor one in my book, but I can understand why anyone would look past it. This, however, is my biggest peeve: locking so many of Nero’s alternative busters behind the ultimate edition or whatever, made me sigh disappointingly. Why couldn’t it have at least been the option to unlock those immediately while other players can grind for them like…everything else in the game… To me, it just goes to show that oldboi Capcom is still lurking in the shadows somewhere looking to nickel and dime us at every dark alley it finds us in. At least this $60 dollar product is one I’m still proud to own. This goes in my “GOTY contenders” folder honestly and I have been having an absolute blast with DMC5 and can’t suggest it enough. Even if it’s your first in the series just do it they have a catch-up cinematic you can watch. Seriously. Play it, pull that fucking devil trigger.