‘Devil May Cry 5’ exceeds expectations with sleek, stylistic combat

Illustration by Emely Pascual

Jonah Schuhart, Contributing Writer

“Devil May Cry 5” is — without a doubt — one of the stupidest games ever made.

The main cast is a set of nerds with godlike powers who would rather goof around during a fight for the fate of the world than take it seriously. One of the most powerful demon-killing weapons is a hat that makes the protagonist dance like Michael Jackson. It’s purely stupid, but in the best way possible, because that absurdity is carried over to an extremely enjoyable and complex combat system.

In fact, the combat is the best thing about the game. There are three playable characters, and each has a unique playstyle with their own laundry list of radical attack strings and abilities for players to mix and match at their leisure. It’s important to use these strings creatively and effectively because “DMC 5” is a challenging game that actively grades the player’s performance.

A major criterion in this grading system is style, which is where the “DMC” trademark absurdity gets involved. In the “DMC” series, style isn’t just what you wear — it’s almost the main objective.

Whenever players start attacking enemies, a style meter pops up on screen in the form of a letter-grade. It goes from “D” to “SSS” and depends on how much damage players deal and take in a given amount of time. But it also goes down if players spam the same attacks over and over.

This means players must not only play well, but improvise brand-new combo strings to keep their style meters up. That’s a big challenge in a series that already has a reputation for brutal difficulty.

Don’t try to ignore style, either. The game grades players after every level. Style is a major factor for this grade, and the lower the grade, the less rewards players receive to buy extremely important upgrades for characters.

While the gameplay is extremely strong, the story is the series’ weakest suit, and “DMC 5” makes no exception. It still boasts the same one-dimensional characters and cheesy writing as its predecessors. This time around, veteran characters Dante and Nero are tasked by a mysterious character named V to slay the demon Urizen and stop his hellish armies from taking over Earth. This is not an original plot. In fact, it’s basically the same as every other “DMC” game, especially once the antagonist’s ties to Dante and Nero’s family are revealed.

But since the story and characters are oozing with that stupid, campy style, those things become loveable, regardless of their quality. In fact, the game is enhanced by them because they suit the ridiculous stuff that happens during gameplay. Seriously, when players can make the protagonist surf around on his own rocket-arm and power-bomb a demon as if it were his little brother on “Wrestlemania” night, you can expect the plot to be just as absurd. That’s why the story’s conclusion is still so entertaining even though it’s just a cheap deus ex machina filled with fanservice and bad one-liners.

The series’ newest playable character, V, has a unique, enjoyable playstyle. Instead of taking enemies on up close with flashy sword combos and gunfire, he’s a long-range fighter that uses the demons he summons in battle. Playing him well requires a new kind of strategy that’s alien to action games before “DMC 5.”

Also, the new online mechanic — which lets players co-op during certain missions and grade each other’s style — is a fun way to tie together the three protagonists’ levels. Although I wish it had a fully-fledged multiplayer like “Bayonetta 2” did.

The only terrible thing I experienced with “DMC 5” is the way the PC port runs. Depending on your setup, you can see some major performance issues. I had major frame rate drops in both gameplay and cutscenes. Luckily, the game was still playable after I changed some graphics settings.

Overall, I give “DMC 5” a 9/10. It’s a light-hearted, campy game with awesome combat, a solid soundtrack and stunning graphics. If you like action games with campy stories, or if you just want some bang for your buck, then pick up this game.  

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