Devil May Cry 5
Since confirming the swirling rumors about Devil May Cry 5 at E3 earlier this year, Capcom has kept quiet on many of the details behind the actual hacking and slashing behind the impressive looking characters in the first trailer. With Devil May Cry 4 being a decade-old title and the more recent DmC: Devil May Cry being developed by Ninja Theory and not Capcom proper, I was curious to see what kind of ideas Capcom would pull from where. After all, with Bayonetta as stiff competition and God of War upending expectations of what an action game could be earlier this year, the genre has evolved quite a bit since our last white-haired protagonist. After getting some hands-on with the game at Gamescom, it looks like Capcom is mostly playing it safe, sticking to what's worked for in the past when it comes to structure. Some of the changes at play in my demo, however, could be major.
My demo had me playing as Nero, the young protagonist of DMC4 who’s now several years the wiser but no less the wisecracker. The first thing I notice as I start moving around (with the trademark dash that kicks in after you move in a single direction for a couple of seconds) is the camera follows Nero far more closely than it has in the past. Nero doesn’t run from one camera shot to next, as he did in DMC4 - instead, it follows one continuous “shot,” like in most modern action games. While the change makes for a more cinematic look (and cuts out the part where you’re not sure which direction to move as you enter a shot), I had trouble adjusting to the closer angle during combat.
The combat is mostly as you know it from the classic DMC games: You have one button tied to your sword, gun, jumping, and Nero’s arm. In the demo, Nero was packing a revolver, which didn’t outpace the Red Queen in terms of damage but packed enough punch that I didn’t feel like I was simply peppering enemies like I might have with the Dante’s Ebony and Ivory. You can also lock on to enemies to make combat flow better, as well as display an enemy’s health. Even as I was relearning the controls, I could feel old instincts kick in; using the Stinger attack to close the distance to enemies is valuable, and while it lacks some of the high-flying finesse and versatility of Bayonetta, the interplay between gun and sword attacks feels great.
Although he doesn’t have the Devil Bringer anymore, Nero now makes use of different kinds of Devil Breakers, a line of robotic arms with different abilities that attach to his amputated arm. You’ll find these arms scattered throughout each level, and they each have a limited number of uses. The Overture, for example, fires of an electric wave that deals damage, while the Gerbera allows for more aerial maneuverability, which made for some balletic airborne combos. You can also charge up these attacks to deal more damage, or discharge by pressing the left bumper to produce a pulse the forces enemies off of you, though doing either will break your current arm completely.
I’m a big fan of tying new abilities to different arms, but I’m not sold on having to scavenge the battlefield for them and potentially not having access to them during a boss battle. The question is how plentiful this "ammo" will be, but in my demo, I found more than my fair share. It's hard to say whether this was for the sake of the demo, or whether this mechanic works as a way to really get you to second-guess spamming the Devil Breaker button.
Even if you’re out of metal arms, Nero can still use a coil to reel in smaller enemies and pull himself toward larger ones. Stringing these abilities into combos is effortless, but this is where I missed DmC’s combat system most; being able to push or pull enemies independently of their size made for more freeform combat, and while implementing that here might have been tricky, I’m sad to see it go.
Devil May Cry is known as a punishing series (DMC3 is regarded as an exceptionally hard game), but I didn't get much of that here. This could just be the demo, but aside from the boss fight at the end, I never felt like I was in danger during any particular encounter. And with this only being a short snippet, I can't speak to how managing your health between encounters matters. Hopefull,y it'll have the regular, varied suite of difficulties to really test what players can do.
Aside from these changes, this is Devil May Cry as you know it. After getting used to the new camera angle, putting together some combos with all the new tools at my disposal was effortless. You can also once again slow your button presses to produce different attacks, and by the time my demo was over, I was getting in some solid A-tier combos by putting thought into how I approached combat. A nice little touch: As your combos get cooler and climb the letter grades, you begin to hear additional layers in the combat music, which gives you another incentive to be stylish (along with the regular one of getting more stylish points to use as a currency).
My demo ended with a tough boss encounter that had me using every tool at my disposal to control my distance to evade attacks and get in damage whenever I could, which is exactly what I want from a Devil May Cry game. The boss isn't too intricate, with a glowing weakpoint, but his flurries of fireballs and short-range swings at me whenever I got in close took some maneuvering to work around. After defeating the boss with a sliver of health remaining, I was glad to be back in Nero's shoes. It felt cool, in a way action games haven't in a little while.
Devil May Cry 5 is sticking to its guns, doubling down on the mainline series' strengths while sprucing up the edges. That doesn't strike me as a bad thing, though. I may not be sold on the ammo system for Devil Breakers, but I’m not ready to dismiss it yet; I had plenty of them in stock during my demo, and I’m hoping that with more variety in abilities and some clever upgrades, it’ll lead to some challenging scenarios where I have to think on my feet about which arms to use when. Plenty of action games have filled in the gap between mainline Devil May Cry entries, but what I played of DMC5 has not only reminded me of the series’ unique brand of fast-paced combat, but has left me eager to see what changes are in store for Dante, as well as what new surprises the mysterious third playable character has in store for us when it DMC5 hits sometime next year.