The strength of the Devil May Cry (DMC) series has always been its hack-and-slash action gameplay. The latest instalment, DMC5, is no exception. Indeed, its stylish combat system is deeper and more polished than ever.
Although the mechanics are complex and fights can be challenging on higher difficulty settings, new players should not be deterred. The game has an "auto-assist" mode that makes stringing impressive combos together easier, and once you get the hang of it, it will feel even more rewarding when the training wheels are taken off.
DMC5 features three playable characters: returning protagonists Nero and Dante, and a mysterious new entrant, V.
Players switch among the three as they slay demons and rack up "stylish points" through the game's 20 story missions.
With just one gun and one sword, Nero was criticised in DMC4 for having a simplistic moveset. That is no longer an issue in DMC5 with the brilliant Devil Breaker mechanic, which raises the skill ceiling to a new level of complexity and variety.
Nero can now be equipped with an array of mechanical arms called Devil Breakers that let him throw rocket-propelled punches, fire laser beams that bounce off walls and even slow down time.
The Devil Breakers are powerful but fragile; taking a hit while using one or using a stronger charged attack will break it and you'll have to find or buy a replacement.
Best-in-class style-oriented action gameplay
Great visuals, reasonably well-optimised on PC
Fan service elements hit the jackpot
New players may find the story baffling
Environments could be more varied
Price: From $71.90 (PC, version tested; PS4; Xbox One)
Genre: Third-person action-adventure
Dante feels largely familiar, but he has some new tricks up his sleeve too. Most of his weapons have been seen in some form before, but now come with additional moves. New ones like Cavaliere, a ridiculous but awesome motorbike weapon that can be split into dual-wielded buzzsaws, and the quirky Dr Faust hat that uses red orbs (the game's currency) as ammunition are welcome additions.
Meanwhile, V has a summoning play style entirely new to the series. His three pets or "familiars" - Shadow, Griffon and Nightmare - do the heavy lifting while he saunters around reciting poetry by William Blake, but V must finish enemies off himself.
I didn't like his moves at first as they felt like too much of a departure from those of the classic DMC characters, but he grew on me as I learned to approach fights differently.
Another tidbit: V's pets are named after and resemble enemies from DMC1. There is a story-related reason for this which I shall not spoil.
Director Hideaki Itsuno has done an impressive job tying together convoluted plot threads from 18 years of established canon, not only from the games but also the more obscure light novels and anime. Throughout the 10-hour campaign, there are numerous easter eggs that series stalwarts will appreciate.
Newcomers may find the story incomprehensible, but it will satisfy fans who have waited eleven years since DMC4 to see its conclusion. The campy charm and signature self-aware humour of the series is on full display, though one could justifiably call it cheesy writing.
DMC5 runs on Capcom's RE Engine, first built for Resident Evil 7 (RE7), and its graphics are stunning. Assets like clothing and the facial performances of the voice actors were scanned into the game from the real world, giving DMC5's characters a photorealistic quality. It is fairly well-optimised on PC, running at a relatively stable 60fps on high settings despite my machine being five years old.
However, despite looking great, the environments aren't as memorable as those in previous entries. There are also times when the lip-syncing doesn't quite match the audio, a problem that RE7 had as well. This can be a bit distracting given the game's generally high production values.
Overall, DMC5 is a delight to play and I don't expect to stop any time soon. I jumped right into a new game on the Son of Sparda difficulty setting (Hard) after finishing it once on Devil Hunter (Normal) and I'm looking forward to the return of the Bloody Palace mode. This survival mode pitting players against waves of enemies will be released as a free update on April 1.
Capcom has clearly built DMC5 with a lot of thought and a deep respect for its fans. This game is a love letter to veteran players, but newcomers alike will enjoy one of the best action titles on the market.