Devil May Cry 5 is like a swift kick up the arse. Over the last few weeks, games like Far Cry: New Dawn and ANTHEM have left us numb. Somewhat enjoyable, but ultimately, totally disposable experiences. Devil May Cry 5 is an intense reminder of what games can achieve when they have crystal clear focus. It's a linear, highly replayable action game that pulls no punches, and as soon as we tore through our very first demonic enemy, we haven't wanted to play anything else.
Capcom has crafted something remarkable here. In terms of pure action and resulting spectacle, Devil May Cry 5 comes scarily close to embarrassing the competition. The combat has a depth to it that you won't find outside of fighting games, and in true series fashion, dispatching your foes with style requires knowledge of the many tools at your disposal. What we're trying to say is that this is Devil May Cry back to its absolute best -- it's an adrenaline-pumping thrill ride from start to finish.
There are three playable characters and each one of them is a joy to take into battle. Devil May Cry 4's Nero has lost his long silver locks along with his right arm, replacing the latter with a robotic limb known as the 'devil breaker'. In part, Nero's gameplay revolves around his new toy, with each devil breaker bringing a different technique to the battlefield. Devil breakers can, ironically, break, and coupled with his reckless swordsmanship, Nero's emotional personality is mirrored by his rough and ready fighting style.
In contrast, newcomer V likes to sit back and oversee combat from afar. Using his pet demons as his weapons, V's gameplay relies almost entirely on commanding these bestial entities, ideally from a safe distance. It's a fresh and uniquely brilliant deviation from the usual up-close-and-personal scrapping that the series has always known, and it's really just another feather in the cap for Capcom's supremely talented combat designers.
Last but certainly not least, Dante is back with a range of weapons that he can swap between in the blink of an eye. The legendary demon hunter oozes confidence and finesse as he changes fighting styles on the fly, all while correcting combos and pulling off some ridiculously cool attacks. After playing as Nero and V, Dante's numerous abilities open your mind to just how involved Devil May Cry 5's combat system can be if you really want to push it.
And that's the genius thing: you don't have to push it. The learning curve in Devil May Cry 5 is excellently judged, and there are two base difficulty levels: Human and Devil Hunter. There's no denying that the game provides a hardcore action experience, full of do-or-die situations and incredible boss battles that'll make you sweat, but if you're new to the franchise or just want to soak up the story and atmosphere without too much hassle, the Human difficulty is a great place to start. What's more, there's an automatic combo system that you can toggle at any point, allowing everyone to get in on the action. Even with the assists the title still has its tricky moments, but this is probably the most accessible Devil May Cry yet, and it allows for all of this without sacrificing anything that veterans have come to expect.
Simply put, this is a masterfully designed release, and the pacing is absolutely on-point as well. The game retains the series' traditional structure of cutscene, mission, boss, cutscene, but you're never out of the fight for too long. What's more, the cutscenes themselves raise the bar for the franchise. Don't get us wrong, this is still schlock of the highest order, but Devil May Cry 5 pulls it off with such swagger that you can't help but love every minute. Plenty of games mistake over-the-top craziness for personality, but Devil May Cry 5 has perfected its blend of badass action and unapologetically dumb jokes.
We obviously won't spoil any of it here, but the story of Devil May Cry 5 is more personal than we expected it to be. Despite the world being taken over by a colossal demon tree, the plot hones in on the three main characters and very rarely pulls back to show the broader picture. It's not necessarily a criticism, but you could argue that the game's narrative could have been more ambitious. That said, the plot still does an outstanding job of celebrating Devil May Cry as a whole.
And yes, you can quite easily jump into Devil May Cry 5 without having played the previous games, although naturally, select events will have more impact if you're at least familiar with what's come before. Fortunately, the title does include a brief history of the series in the form of a video that you can check out through the main menu, and it's informative enough to get you up to speed without being overwhelming.
Devil May Cry 5's campaign will take you around 15 to 20 hours to complete, but as mentioned, the game's highly replayable. There are numerous secrets scattered throughout each mission, and the sheer depth of the combat practically drags you back for more time and time again. On top of that, all of your unlocked moves and red orbs -- in-game currency -- carry over between new runs, and you're always free to jump back to any of the chapters that you've finished.
At this point it's also worth mentioning that the game's microtransactions weren't live during the review process. However, over the course of two playthroughs, we had acquired more than enough red orbs to unlock everything that we wanted or needed. With that in mind, we're going to assume that the incoming microtransactions won't make any meaningful difference to the overall experience.
Moving on, we can't stress enough just how shockingly good looking Devil May Cry 5 is at times. This could well be the flashiest combat that we've ever seen in a game. Indeed, some of the visual effects are jaw-dropping, and they only add to what is already a visual feast. Our one and only complaint is that the environments are all a bit drab and samey, whether you're running through a crumbling city or battling across a bloody hellscape.
But all in all, Capcom's RE Engine is clearly a technical marvel, and Devil May Cry 5 makes for a superb showcase. The icing on the cake is that the entire thing -- cutscenes included -- appears to run at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, even in 4K on PS4 Pro. It's an absolute beauty.
Not to be outdone, the soundtrack is predictably stellar. From the immensely popular Devil Trigger to some deliciously heavy boss battle themes, the music is a blast, heightening the tension and providing an additional kick to just about every challenge that the game throws your way.
Oh, and before we forget, there is a form of multiplayer in Devil May Cry 5, but it's little more than an interesting concept that's barely explored. In a number of missions, you may see other players -- or at least the recorded gameplay of other players -- going about their business. Because the campaign splits off at points and switches playable characters in the process, you may be playing as Nero and see V wrecking shop across the level, or perhaps Dante's over there showing off his most impressive combos. While it's neat to see what other players are up to, standing there watching them isn't all that much fun, especially since they're usually quite far away, or beyond a wall that makes their battles difficult to view. Again, cool concept, but it feels more than a bit tacked on.
Devil May Cry 5 is quite easily one of the best action games on PS4. Flawless in the execution of its often jaw-dropping combat, it's a masterfully crafted title that begs to be played over and over again. Stunning presentation helps sell some of the coolest cutscenes going, and the story ties the series together with style. Among a sea of uninspired open world outings, Devil May Cry 5 is an explosion of character and laser-focused excellence. Capcom is well and truly back.