A Human Light in the Darkness – Further Thoughts on Devil May Cry 5

Image result for devil may cry 5 v

So in my review of Devil May Cry 5 I did my best to avoid spoilers, which meant I couldn’t go into nearly as much detail about the story and characters as I would have liked. It’s a direct story with a tight focus, and that’s basically all I could say, other than the characters made real strides, especially Nero. I’ll be going into things in greater detail here with no restraint on spoilers, so bear that in mind going forward. If you haven’t played the game yet and want to know what I thought and then be able to go into the game blind, go read my review, otherwise, this is the last warning for spoilers if you stay. Spoilers follow.


V and Vergil’s humanity

So then, Vergil huh? He was confirmed in the final trailer and shown (with his face covered) as far back as the reveal, but I didn’t expect him to have quite as much of a presence as he does. After splitting himself into his human side; V, and his demon side; Urizen, the whole game is about the former, alongside Dante, Nero, Lady, Trish and Nico trying to take down the latter. They try, they fail, they wait a month and have another go, V rejoins with Urizen to reform Vergil and after a family reunion (more on that later), Dante and Vergil go to Hell to close the portal Urizen opened. It’s straight forward and, like I said, focused. It’s the character interactions that stand-out, with an overarching theme of humanity. For each of the main cast of demon-human hybrids their humanity is what sees them through. V is literally Vergil’s humanity ripped from him and given life of its own; everything he threw away in his quest for power. In order for Vergil to come back from the brink and be a potential ally to Dante and friends he’s going to need to go through a pretty drastic change, and that’s what happens. His human side, aided by physical manifestations of Vergil’s haunting nightmares from his time as Nelo Angelo back in DMC1 are unconditionally on the side of good. V is eccentric but warm, with a sense of humour and a love of reading and quoting Blake poems that meshes surprisingly well with the ruthless way he deals with demons. It’s implied that V is what Vergil would have become if things had been different vis a vis the death of Eva and Sparda, and Vergil’s own feelings of abandonment. He’s also physically weak and slowly dying; Urizen has the vast majority of Vergil’s power, V has a small amount he’s using to stop himself falling apart. Each of the three playable characters has a different connection to Vergil, a different angle to view him from, and in that regard V plays a dual role. He is both part of Vergil and an observer of Vergil’s all-consuming pursuit of power, it’s like feeling regret at your own personal failings while being able to see them happen in front of your eyes, unable to stop them without serious backup. V is my favourite character in the game, possibly in the whole series. His playstyle, design, backstory and interactions with everyone and everything in the game are just so endearing and interesting. It’s for that reason that I’m sad that in order to get Vergil back we had to lose V. Don’t get me wrong, I love Vergil and I’m glad he’s back. I think he, Dante and especially Nero all make great strides in a short space of time, in a way that makes sense because it’s informed by history and unspoken emotions. The way I see it is, V is the flame that burns twice as bright but half as long; all the sweeter for his brevity. Also if he’s got to be sacrificed for anyone I’m glad it’s Vergil and his existence makes Vergil more interesting. But I do still miss him.

Nero and the Power of Love

I certainly wasn’t expecting Nero to be the heart of this whole story. Just as Dante and Vergil are about to land potentially lethal blows, Nero disintegrates his Devil Breaker, grows a human arm in its place and taps into his very own Devil Trigger, regaining the Devil Bringer he lost. His DT is born from a desire to stop his Uncle and Father killing each other, to end their sibling rivalry, connect with his family and turn their collective attention to destroying the Qliphoth.  Dante and Vergil finally stop trying to kill each other because Nero gets in the middle of them, taps into the power of love and literally beats them both into submission. Nero’s brash and cocky but it makes sense that he’d take this turn after everything that happened with Kyrie and Credo back in DMC4, with him even referencing the latter’s death as something that haunts him to this day. His kicking the shit out of Vergil probably doesn’t hurt his image in his Father’s eyes either, considering his fixation with power and strength. Speaking of which, giving Nero a new Devil Bringer that carries over into new game plus is great, especially given that you can combine it with Devil Breakers, adding a whole extra layer to Nero’s combat style. The final boss fight between Nero and Vergil isn’t as hard as Dante’s prior bout (at least on normal difficulty), instead offering an immensely satisfying cooldown, particularly when you first activate Nero’s DT and he yells “FUCK YOU!”, raises a spectral middle finger and an awesome remix of Devil Trigger starts playing. It’s a powerful moment for the series as a whole and in particular Nero; he’s really come into his own as a character in DMC5. I also like that he’s still in a relationship with Kyrie and lives with her in and that she’s still involved as a character, although I wish she had more of a presence than just a disembodied voice. I look forward to seeing where Capcom take him in potential sequels, particularly if Dante and Vergil really are trapped in Hell. Speaking of which…

Vergil and Dante

Hoo boy. So Dante and Vergil finally tone their rivalry down from “duels to the death” to “brotherly sparring” but it takes the hardest boss fight in the entire game for them to do so. Their relationship in 5 goes from trying to kill each other to working together, sparring and trading friendly banter, ending the game with this wonderful exchange:
“Don’t you dare say it!”
I think everything V did was instrumental in this change in Vergil, as well as meeting his Son for the first time. Having lost the nightmares from his time as Nelo Angelo, regained his humanity and managed to avoid dying, which was the whole reason he split in the first place, it makes sense Vergil might be looking for something else to do with himself. Nero’s proved he can best his old man in a fight, and that he has the physical strength and pure heart required to protect the human world, so why not go off with Dante to seal the portal and bum around Hell for a bit? Presumably the two brothers will escape from the underworld eventually, I feel like having finally brought Vergil back to life proper Capcom wouldn’t do away with him so quickly, and as a send-off this isn’t nearly over the top, cool and goofy enough for Dante. Dante’s going to die in the ultimate blaze of glory or Dante’s never going to die. Regardless of where it goes from here, the ending of the game is excellent. It really feels like a satisfying culmination of everything that leads up to it; that focus on the mental and physical strain of waging a seemingly insurmountable war against Vergil; brother against brother, son against father, humanity against demonic power. It takes a toll but it all pays off, and I’m excited to see where a potential sequel would go.

Finally, just some extra stuff I like:
Dante’s styles, specifically this being the first game that made me want to use something other than Swordmaster. Got some good mileage out of Trickster and Gunslinger. This is the most fun I’ve ever had with Dante, his weapons this time around are all fantastic, combined with the styles and how fluidly he moves and attacks, it’s brilliant.
V’s backwards dodge being Griffon carrying him away
The neat little alternate main menus showing Dante and Vergil hanging out in Nico’s motorhome. Particularly the one where Vergil looks over at Nero like he’s about to say something then shyly decides against it
Speaking of Nico: everything Nico does but especially her getting the Devil May Crymobile into all manner of hard to reach places
I just came up with Devil May Crymobile and I like it, I’m going to use it more often
Lady’s new design. It’s like her terrible DMC4 look never happened
Dante’s new design; I like the more simple look in line with 3 after his chaps and Chris Redfield gloves from DMC4. Excellent boot game.
V’s EX colours making his coat have the colour and pattern of Vergil’s DMC3 outfit
Nero’s hood up taunt and V’s violin and orchestra taunts
One the subject of V, one final mention of the fact that I love everything about him. V is best boy.

So that’s Devil May Cry 5, the most fun game in the series, and potentially the best overall. A game that’s immensely enjoyable from start to finish and that balances deeply satisfying action gameplay with a poignant, emotional story that makes real strides for the Sons of Sparda and Nero, introduces V and Nico and continues Capcom’s meteoric resurgence into the top tier of game developers. I love it, and I’ll be surprised if it isn’t either my game of the year or at the very least a close, close second. So far its only rival for first place is the Resi 2 remake. God, Capcom really are killing it right now.

By James Lambert

Devil May Cry 5 Review

Capcom’s been knocking it out of the park over the last few years. Street Fighter V AE, Resident Evil 7 and all its DLC, most recently the Resident Evil 2 remake; they’re on the top of their game right now, and it’s into this glorious Capcom resurgence that Devil May Cry 5 steps. Regardless of your thoughts on Ninja Theory’s DmC I think we can all agree that a new mainline Devil May Cry game is a good thing. I’ve been hyped for it since its stellar E3 reveal and I’ve finally got my hands on it.

The story is simple but direct and with a sense of dread and urgency that keeps it interesting. There’s a lot I can’t talk about for spoiler reasons, but basically Dante, Trish and Lady, Nero and newcomer V are all trying to take down Urizen, an unfathomably powerful demon king residing at the top of Qliphoth, a huge demonic tree that’s sprung up in the city of Red Grave. The whole game is spent trying to beat Urizen, with Nero and Dante trying to get stronger so they can even scratch him, with initial attempts playing out as hopeless “Supposed to lose” boss fights. This guy means business, even for Dante. The story jumps around between flashbacks and each character encountering different bosses in different areas at the same time, and on some missions you can choose between two or more of them. It’s a proper campaign that includes the three of them equally this time, rather than the DMC4 story where Nero runs through the whole game then Dante runs through it backwards fighting all the same bosses. As I said it’s a simple but focused story: there are no real side characters besides an information broker who makes brief appearances at the beginning and end, the gameplay has a real combat focus, there’s no backtracking or puzzles that carry over between missions and there’s really only one type of puzzle in general. It’s an important, personal story that realises the weight of its events and handles it accordingly; its narrow focus means it makes real strides for all involved, particularly Nero, and paves the way for an interesting, different direction for the series going forward. To say any more would spoil it, but its story stands out as one of the best in the series.

Of the three playable characters, new lad V is the most interesting. He fights with three familiars: Griffon; a bird that deals in ranged attacks and acts as V’s double jump, Shadow; a panther that handles melee attacks and lets V use him as a surfboard in place of sprinting, and activating V’s Devil Trigger turns his hair white and summons Nightmare; a hulking colossus that causes heavy damage and acts independently, but can be ridden and controlled directly. Riding him never seemed as effective as letting him do his own thing, but it’s an option all the same. The only attack V does himself is finishing off wounded enemies with his cane, as his familiars cannot kill anything themselves. Also he can read aloud from a book of poetry to regain DT quicker and his taunts include air violin with actual music playing, and the same thing for conducting an invisible orchestra as they play Ride of the Valkyries. I expected to enjoy V’s sections the least because I’m the type to get stuck in with melee, but it got to the point where I chose him over Nero and Dante. He’s got interesting story implications, a unique playstyle and a cool design, and alongside support character Nico is the best new addition to the series. Nero is the next best, with his Devil Bringer demon arm having been removed and replaced with the Devil Breaker; a series of robotic arms with different effects. One shoots an electric blast, one slows down time, one launches off a rocket fist that repeatedly attacks an enemy, that sort of thing. You choose what order they’re equipped at Nico’s (more on her in a minute) shop, but cannot do so in game. They’re also rather fragile; take damage while using one and it breaks, and you can choose to break them yourself either through a self-destruct mechanism or by using their powerful and unique charge attacks. This variety combined with Nero’s slick playstyle carried over from DMC4 make him a joy to play and experiment with. Nico, who runs the shop for each character and designed and built the Devil Breakers is sassy, snarky comic relief; driving the Devil May Cry camper van into all manner of hard to reach, dangerous places to secure business. Nero will get through a tricky area with demon-powered double jumping and superhuman agility and then Nico will just plough through it all in a van like “I’m here too, dickhead!”. I love her. Last but not least is Dante, who you should all know by now but if not then his whole deal is collecting new weapons to use on top of his default two handed sword and twin pistols. Unlike V and Nero who do have variety but have a core weapon or style that everything revolves around, Dante’s mix and match arsenal of long and short range weaponry suits all manner of different playstyles, and can all be mixed together with ease. While the most familiar of the three he’s by no means boring; he’s still good fun to play and rounds off the trio of playable characters nicely. His partners Trish and Lady unfortunately don’t really get anything to do, although the latter’s had a redesign that’s far superior to her DMC4 look.

Some of the changes are a little odd. Vital stars and DT stars are gone, as is holy water. The only items you can buy now are blue orbs (which increase max health) and gold orbs (which resurrect you on the spot), the latter of which are surprisingly abundant, and you can resurrect yourself with increasing amounts of red orbs. I’m not sure whether removing the ability to manually heal outside of green orbs and putting in red orb resurrection has something to do with the microtransactions, but if that is the case they’re rendered moot by the game’s generally low or at least reasonable difficulty and aforementioned abundance of gold orbs. Outside of that it’s Devil May Cry business as usual: racking up stylish combos ranked on a meter through carefully stringed together melee attacks, taunts and ranged weaponry, over the top action with a goofy streak and feeling like a total badass. Plays like a dream, consistently fun and engaging, all in all a good time. The level design is more grounded and lacks both the gothic architecture of past games and DmC’s colourful, impossible space, altered reality areas. Red Grave is a city that looks a lot like London, and the game is split evenly between the city and Qliphoth, which is a mass of slick vines and underground caverns. Qliphoth isn’t particularly interesting at all, but the levels set in Red Grave provide something unique to the series: seeing the effects of a demonic invasion on a mainstream, populated city rather than an isolated community like Fortuna, or areas devoid of humanity like Mallet Island and Temen-ni-gru.

Overall, Devil May Cry 5 is great. A focused story that gets the most out of every last drop of tension and satisfaction of struggling to overcome an all-powerful foe, with great personal stakes for Dante, Nero and V. V and Nico both steal the show whenever they’re on screen, and while it’s a shame Lady and Trish don’t get anything to do, it’s not their story. The gameplay is as satisfying as ever and the new elements like V’s familiars and Nero’s Devil Breaker make it the most fun game in the series. It looks great, it plays beautifully, it’s everything I hoped it would be and I love it. Capcom have once again nailed it, and this is the second fantastic game they’ve released in six weeks. I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers here, so I’ll be doing a follow up article soon where I go into my thoughts on the story in greater detail, with no such restraints. Until then I’ll leave you with a hearty recommendation to go buy Devil May Cry 5. It’s dead good.

By James Lambert