We played Devil May Cry 5 at New York Comic Con 2018 and have some thoughts. Usually, when a series gets rebooted, it's the kiss of death to the original continuity. As much as the fandom may desire it, there will likely never be a Spider-Man 4 starring Tobey Maguire, and Christian Bale's tenure as The Dark Knight has come to an end. However, every once in a while, against all odds, a brand can "un-reboot" itself.
Devil May Cry is one such franchise. After three successful PlayStation 2 titles, the series successfully jumped to PS3 and Xbox 360 with DMC4, but publisher Capcom outsourced development of the next title in the series to UK studio Ninja Theory. The resulting title, 2013's DMC: Devil May Cry, was a divisive reboot which jettisoned the existing story for an all-new versions of Dante, his brother Virgil, and changed their backstories significantly. While some fans enjoyed this new take on the lore, others were disappointed, or even outright furious at this new direction.
At the time, and for several years afterwards, it seemed the old mythology of Devil May Cry would be left behind, in favor of Ninja Theory's more Hollywood-inspired direction. There was a glimmer of hope when PS4/Xbox One remasters of both DMC: Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 4 were released in 2015, suggesting there was still room for the old guard.
During Microsoft's E3 2018 press briefing, dreams became prospective reality when Devil May Cry 5 was announced for current-gen consoles and PC (no Switch, though). At NYCC, we got hands-on time with a playable demo of the title, and walked away with some positive impressions, which were overshadowed by the specter of a lingering fear.
Devil May Cry 5 Runs on the RE Engine (From Resident Evil 7)
The final game will have three playable characters; Dante has been the protagonist since the very first game back in 2001 and fights with a combination of swords and handguns; Nero was introduced in DMC4 and has a series of interchangeable robotic hands with various effects; and V is a mysterious new character armed with a walking stick and a book. It's unclear how he fights, since his powers are being kept tightly under wraps by Capcom. For the demo, we took control of Nero. Contrary to his "Little Dante" look from Devil May Cry 4, Nero in DMC5 has a new haircut which makes him look a bit like rock and roll singer Billy Idol.
Upon starting the demo, the most immediately showstopping element is the game's pristine visual style. Devil May Cry 5 runs on the RE Engine, the same technology which powered Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, and the upcoming re-imagining of Resident Evil 2. Comparing the visuals of these three games makes it obvious: the RE Engine is a versatile collection of tools. Whether the claustrophobic and extremely detailed textures of RE7, the incredible facial detail and lighting of RE2, or the unadulterated, high-octane spectacle of DMC5, the RE Engine delivers some of the best visuals possible on current-gen machines, all targeting sixty frames per second (RE2 has been reported to feature a 4K mode at 30 FPS as well as a lower resolution option at a blistering 60 FPS).
The Devil May Cry 5 demo takes place in a large city environment, with streets essentially serving as extra wide corridors for demon-slaying, but there's plenty of action inside of buildings as well. The levels are filled with destructible environments, from tables and chairs to cars and other debris, adding extra layers of immersion to the series' famously kinetic combat.
Nero One of Three Playable Devil May Cry 5 Characters
Playing as Nero should feel familiar to fans of the franchise; one face button is used for jumping, and two more are for sword slashes and gunfire. The classic DMC staple of launching an enemy into the air with a sword swing and then keeping them suspended with a hail of bullets remains just as cool now as it was in 2001, but Nero's got plenty of other tricks up his sleeve. As previously mentioned, he has only one hand, but he can switch between multiple Devil Breakers. Back in DMC4, he used the Devil Bringer, the loss of which plays a key role in the plot of the new game.
Each Devil Breaker has a different suite of attacks, and they can only be switched following the destruction of a Devil Breaker. Spare Breakers are littered throughout the environment, enhancing the arcade feel of the fast-paced, skill-based combat. Thus, players are encouraged to use their charged Breaker attacks, which do massive damage at the cost of the Breaker itself.
As usual, combat is graded on a style system. As the player's style goes up from D-rank to A-rank and above, the dynamic music score becomes more and more energetic, ramping up in intensity as the player kicks more and more demon butt. The now-infamous "Pull My Devil Trigger" song which serves as Nero's battle theme is a catchy tune which fits the over-the-top action perfectly, but one wonders how it holds up over hours of play. As the fights intensify, gorgeously lit particle effects of flame, sparks, energy beams, and gory showers of demon blood fill the screen, rewarding victory with spectacular visuals.
Devil May Cry 5 Features Epic Bosses
After slashing, shooting, and vaporizing a legion of visually distinct demonic monsters, the demo culminated with a massive boss fight against a gargantuan, horned beast with ambitions of ruling the Underworld. Nero is unimpressed, and, in the fight's introductory cutscene, casually avoids the creature's building-destroying attacks while fighting back with little more than petty insults and indifference. It's a display of classic Devil May Cry swagger that would impress even Dante himself.
Of course, once the boss fight properly begins, it's a whole other story. The mighty Goliath, which the game refers to as an "incandescent colossus," is no joke, and a single hit takes out a big chunk of Nero's health. The fight begins inside on the roof of a large, cathedral-like building, but the two combatants eventually crash through the ceiling and continue duking it out amidst the interior's giant columns, which the Goliath rips apart and swings like a giant club. Eventually, the fight brings down a whole section of the sprawling building, which crumbles apart in real time, all while Nero attempts to land varied and stylish combos on the rampaging beast.
During the final phase of the fight, we weren't able to keep up with the Goliath's sweeping claw attacks, and were unceremoniously killed while the boss still had about 25% health remaining, a death we could blame on none but ourselves, for thinking we could endure more heavy blows than Nero was built to handle.
Devil May Cry 5 isn't messing around. This isn't the type of game in which one can button-mash their way to victory... That is, unless one has a ton of money to burn in DMC5's troubling use of pay-to-win microtransactions. It's a shame that this dangerously predatory business practice is getting in the way of what is shaping up to be one of 2019's biggest hits. Much like how the core gameplay of Star Wars: Battlefront II was overshadowed by its microtransaction-based progression system, the incredible visuals and creative combat of DMC5 are doomed to be overlooked in favor of Capcom's irrepressible greed... That is, of course, unless the publisher removes or adjusts these unbecoming microtransactions before the game's release. Capcom says they're interested in artistic merit more than bottom-line profit – now is the time to prove it.