Monday, March 18, 2019

Devil May Cry 5 Review

For a while there, the Devil May Cry series seemed to be going the way of other Capcom series, like Ghosts 'N Goblins and DarkStalkers. But eleven years after DMC4, the series is finally back in full form, and yeah, I do think it’s better than ever. Devil May Cry 5 feels like a game made by people who love Devil May Cry for people who love Devil May Cry. It’s not trying to change too much, or trying to be something it’s not, yet it feels like a modern game that can stand toe to toe with games like Bayonetta.

The story of DMC5 is told like one of those movies that skips around back and forth through time, like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. It's all over the place, but not too tough to follow. DMC5 takes place 5 years after DMC4. Nero has started a mobile branch of the Devil May Cry demon hunting business with Nico, an engineer and mechanic with an over the top Midwestern/Southern accent, which is weird because she's Agnus’ daughter. I've lived in both the American South and Midwest, and can't tell where she is supposed to be from. She's very funny, though. One day, a not so mysterious hooded man rips off Nero's devil arm, pulls Yamato out of it, cuts a portal into the air, and teleports away with it. It's not very subtle. This man gains great power through Yamato and becomes Urizan, a demon king obsessed with gaining more power to kill Dante. Also, they don't really explain why or how in the game, but the tree of life, Qliphoth, has started growing out from the underworld into Red Grave City. Urizan has not been doing any demonic gardening, as far as I know. This tree's vines are sprouting all over the city, killing people, and sucking out their blood to grow a magic devil apple that will give incredible power to whoever eats it, and of course, Urizan plans to eat the apple.

Devil May Cry 5 is a much faster paced game and more of a pure action game than DMC3 or 4. A lot of the exploration, obstacle courses, and Resident Evil style puzzles found in previous DMC games are gone. There are no trampoline platform sections, item delivery chains, or gyroblades, and long grappling sections are only required to reach hidden items or beat secret missions. Each level still feels like it's in the same world, and the way everything is connected makes sense, but you can't backtrack to other levels, like you could in previous games. There are times when you have to get a key item to open the path forward, or hit some kind of switch to clear the way, but you usually don't have to run around too much to find the switch or go very far to use the key. There is one level that has a big 4 part switch puzzle, which feels like a real throwback, but that's as complex as it gets. The rest of the levels are pretty straightforward. Secret Missions and Blue and Purple Orb fragments are still hidden around the levels, just like in DMC3 and 4, though. I like how they've put the focus on the action. The puzzle elements always slowed things down too much. The series had to decide what it wanted to be; action or action adventure, and I think they chose correctly.

If you didn't like how you played the same levels in reverse order in DMC4, don't worry, only one level is the same for all 3 characters in DMC5. They just look like they're the same ones sometimes. You still have to play about half the game before you get to play as Dante, but you switch between Nero and V a few times before then. Sadly, there's no way to replay missions with the other characters, and since Lady, Trish, and Vergil aren't playable, you can't play through the story with new characters like in DMC4SE either.

This game does have an online multiplayer component, but it's not exactly what you might imagine. There are a bunch of missions with online connectivity, but you're not getting co-op in most of them. I've only fought alongside someone in 2 sections, and no one even shows up most of the time in one of them. Most of the time, all you see is another player fighting monsters in an unreachable nearby area. These areas are actually other missions, but since each mission is closed off from the others now, you can't just run over and help. If you play without connecting to the network, you just get recorded ghost AI from the developers. Online matchmaking does cause lag spikes when connecting, but you get Gold Orbs if someone gives you a Stylish rating, so I've left online on.

The combat in DMC5 feels better than ever. It felt a bit weird at first, coming fresh off DMC4, because the animations in DMC5 are much more realistic looking, but the games play very similarly. The biggest improvement in the controls over DMC4 is how much more lenient the game is about position dependent inputs. For example, Nero's Calibur and Shuffle moves, which require you to press back and then forward plus attack, work correctly more often for me here than they did in DMC4. This is important because all 3 playable characters have moves with inputs like this now.

Nero plays a lot like DMC4 Nero. He has his gun and sword, and can charge both up, but since he has no Devil Bringer, he has no Devil Trigger. Apparently, all the devil power was in his arm. Nico has been making new robot arms for him, though. These robot arms are called Devil Breakers. They can snatch enemies up like the Devil Bringer, and come with many different abilities. There's one that lets Nero air dash, one that freezes enemies in a time bubble, and one that powers up your sword and gun attacks, among others. Nero can't cycle through Devil Breakers, but he can equip a few of them at a time, and they actually break after a few uses, so he automatically switches to the next one then. Instead of Devil Trigger, Nero can shoot his Devil Breakers off like Mazinger Z for a powerful attack. Nero feels like the easiest and most complete character of the 3. He has a tool to do pretty much everything, and doesn't have to cycle through styles and weapons, like Dante.

Dante starts off as basically DMC4 Dante, but gets a new weapon that really changes how he plays later on. Dante has his usual handguns, shotgun, and rocket launcher, a new version of Kalina Ann made by Nico, he can dual wield Kalina Anns, and gets a new magic hat made by Nico, which can be thrown like a boomerang. This new hat costs red orbs to use, but also rewards more red orbs after killing something with it. Dante has his sword, Rebellion; Balrog for hand to hand combat; King Cerberus nunchucks; a new motorcycle weapon that can be split in two and dual wielded called Cavaliere; and the new Devil Sword Dante. This new sword gives Dante a 2nd superpowered form of Devil Trigger called Sin Devil Trigger. Think of it like Super Saiyan 2. After getting this sword in the story, Dante can either use regular Devil Trigger, or hold down the DT button to fill a second DT meter and use the new one. This sword also moves most of Dante's sword wielding Swordmaster style moves from the style button to the main attack button, making him play a bit more like Nero. Instead of secondary sword slashes, Devil Sword Dante's Swordmaster style moves are magic sword moves, which can be used at the same time as normal sword attacks, thrown at enemies like Vergil's swords, or charged up and used with other weapons for a limited time. Dante also still has 4 fighting styles and can switch between them on the fly with the d-pad. And since the equip screen is back, you can customize different gun and Devil Arm loadouts for Dante if you don't want to carry a weapon you don't like, which is more useful than it might sound when you have 4-6 different Devil Arms and guns. Dante is still a lot of fun to use, but I think his abilities are bit too spread out over all his weapons and styles.

V is the mysterious man who hires Dante to kill Urizan. He is very skinny and weak, covered in tattoos, walks around with a cane, and reads poetry from a book to refill Devil Trigger meter. His only physical attack is dealing the finishing blow to enemies with his cane. His main method of attacking is through the demonic animals at his command. These animals are actually his demonic magic tattoos. It's kind of like Sai from Naruto. You can see how V's tattoos go from filled in to ink outlines when Shadow and Griffon are out. V has a Devil Trigger which turns his hair white, but that is the only hint of demonic magic he has aside from his tattoos. V is like a Pokemon Trainer with pets that play like DMC characters. The main problem with V is that playing him is like trying to control 3 characters at the same with the same controller inputs. In a game that's all about spacing, timing, and positioning, it just doesn't work very well. Keeping your pets in attack range is a problem because V calls the cat to help him dodge and the bird to double jump, pulling them away from their targets. Both Shadow and Griffon have moves with directional inputs, but they change depending on which way the camera following V is facing, and you don't have much control over which direction they stop and attack from. V, Griffon, and Shadow can all take damage too, so you're constantly watching out for all 3. It's like a Pokemon Trainer that can also be attacked.

Buying moves and abilities is back in DMC5, but handled a bit differently than in DMC4SE. Proud Souls from DMC4 are gone and you have to buy everything with Red Orbs again. Red Orbs carry over from character to character, but they are not refunded for each, like in DMC4SE. You have to buy moves for each character separately with new Red Orbs. There's a ton of stuff to buy, too. I've played through the game 4 times and still don't have everything on all 3 characters. The final taunt for all 3 characters is 3 million orbs each. The way character progression in handled here feels like a downgrade from DMC4SE. It's too grindy. These games are more fun when you have all the moves, so why not speed this up?

There is no Bloody Palace in DMC5 yet, but we do finally have a real training room, The Void. It's pretty basic, but it allows you to experiment with all the weapons and abilities. You can choose from the 3 playable characters with whatever weapon loadout you want and use any normal enemy as your training dummy. You get options for Devil Trigger meter, Exceed, and Reload Charge recovery, enemy actions, and displaying damage on enemies. It's a nice thing to have, but it could use a few more options. I would like to be able to throw in a few more enemies and to have enemies with Devil Trigger, for example.

This game both looks and runs great. I was able to get it running at 60 FPS at 1080p with only the post processing effects, like motion blur and chromatic aberration, turned off on my PC. The lights reflecting on puddles on the streets, dust particles flying around in the air, rain falling and creating ripples on water, and steam and fog effects make all the city environments look amazing. The Qliphoth looks slimy, gross, and demonic, but we get way too much of it. A good portion of the levels take place inside the Qliphoth, and they all start looking the same after a while. There’s way too many giant spine and rib cage roads and bloody flesh wall tunnels. It doesn’t help that you have to play through missions in the same general area with all 3 characters. I really like the enemy designs in DMC5. They're a huge improvement over DMC4’s, which I thought looked kind of tame for the most part. DMC5’s creatures look much scarier and more like what I imagine demons in this world would look like. Oh, and the Resident Evil style fixed camera angles are finally gone. DMC5’s camera is fully controllable at all times and never switches to weird angles while you’re trying to run around.

The music is also a huge improvement over previous games. It’s not all Powerman 5000 and crappy techno, and there are no boy band ballads. There’s a really good mix of funk rock, mellow acoustic guitar stuff, metal, dance, and classical. I love Nero’s battle theme, “Devil Trigger”, and the slower remix of it, too. I also really enjoyed all the moody piano and violin tracks. They fit in perfectly, like something that was always meant to be in the series. They sound like the score of a tragedy, which is what DMC was inspired by. The game also lets you buy tracks from older games and set them as a character’s battle theme in the options, or just mix and match the ones that come with the game. I think this is the best soundtrack in the whole series. It’s not even close.

Devil May Cry 5 feels a bit light on content compared to DMC4SE, but I think it’s overall a better game. Hopefully we get some cool DLC for it, even though Capcom said they don’t have any DLC planned after Bloody Palace. I really want to play as Lady, Trish, and Vergil. I really enjoyed the story, even though I felt like a lot of it wasn't explained well enough, the music and graphics are the best in the series, and the game plays better than ever. The few things that drag it down for me are how the Qliphoth looks so samey in so many levels, and V’s fighting style. I like V as a character, but he plays like he belongs in another game.