During a recent hands-on event, we finally got to know what Devil May Cry 5 is really all about. Before now, Capcom had been really transparent talking about the characters we will control, new features being added, and also where the story fits in the twisted timeline of the series. That is why our latest hands-on time with the game - in which we played an almost final version - was very useful in terms of answering every remaining question we had. How do you control V? Is this old Dante a good fighter? Are Nero's Devil Breaker arms really that useful?
The relationship between the characters was the first surprise. Hideaki Itsuno and his team have prepared a narrative about a battle between good and evil and have given us three playable characters with interweaving stories - Nero, Dante, and V. After a few hours playing DMC5, starting with the prologue, we found out that there is no free character selection at all. In many missions, you control the hero who follows the main story and, somewhere in the scenario, he will meet another character in one of the many cinematic videos that drive the narrative.
But there was also that time when we could choose between Nero and V before starting. This is just speculation, but we think that in a potential second run there could be a different path to follow a-la Resident Evil 2, depending on the character you are playing with.
The first one under our control was the aggressive, hot-blooded Nero. After our first look at the game we told you about his ability to combine a sword (Red Queen) and a Pistol (Blue Rose) with just one arm (he lost the other one previously - long story). However, Devil May Cry 5 is not only about killing, it's also about doing it in style in order to get a high score, and the best way to finish a good combo is with Devil Breakers. His partner Nico builds him these temporary, prosthetic arms with different powers and a charged blast. Maybe we like to play like a brute because the electric explosion of Overture and rocket-powered Punch Line are the ones we enjoyed the most.
These add-ons are easily broken if an enemy hits you when they are in use, so we were cautious throughout the first stages of the demo. Soon enough though, we purchased more space at the shop so we could carry more Devil Breakers with us (and there were also a few on the ground just waiting to be picked up). Nero is the easier one to control, a standard character who gets really interesting when you have enough red orbs to unlock new moves.
After Nero comes the mysterious V, who's not quite so chatty. He seems squidgier but has a couple of tricks up his sleeve. He carries a cane because of his limp, but he has no problem fighting or dodging with help from his pets; the bird Griffon, the panther Shadow, and a giant creature called Nightmare. Actually, the first one serves as a ranged weapon and the second one as a melee option, thus you execute attacks by pushing the very same buttons you use to attack with Nero and Dante's swords and guns. The third one is a giant that rushes into the stage if summoned and who clears a few enemies or takes some damage.
At first glance, it doesn't look like there is a big difference between V and the others; you have to spam normal or special attacks with Shadow and Griffon and finish off enemies with his cane, something that's actually rather easy as he can teleport on top of dying targets. Nevertheless, we appreciated how deep the combat could be with V once his beasts abilities have been mastered. These pets can learn a number of special moves, from a line of lightning to a ball of spikes, and you have to activate them using just the left stick plus Y or X. Furthermore, V can even try to manage both at the same time while finishing injured creatures (by pushing B). Want some more? Activate the Devil Trigger Gauge to give increased strength to Shadow or Griffon or to bring Nightmare in.
We spent some time with this new character, enough to learn a little bit about him and his personality. With V Capcom has created a slow-paced guy with a thoughtful demeanour, just the opposite to Nero and Dante. The level design of the stages played with V was quite similar to the rest of the game - it's pretty linear - but there are more interruptions as a few cinematic videos were triggered and we watched him talking to Grif. This is the only talking pet and basically its persona is that of a stupid parrot; the target of every joke.
Dante was waiting for us a little bit further into the game. We found him a bit aged and scruffy, but as cocky and arrogant as ever. His goal is to deliver on the job he has been hired for, no matter what demons stand in front of him. We were running out of time, so we only got a quick look at his moveset, but it was enough to understand that Itsuno's obsession with beauty in battle reaches its peak with Dante. Simpler combos combining slashing and shooting with a couple of special abilities get low scores; with Dante you have to use a few weapons during the same combo, swapping between them on the fly. He also offers four styles (Trickster, Gunslinger, Swordmaster, and Royal Guard) assigned to the D-pad in order to perform different actions and his own Devil Trigger form.
After a few hours playing Devil May Cry 5, we have come to a few conclusions. Upgrading weapons and abilities is essential to score high in battle since the initial moveset is pretty basic. Therefore you need a lot of red orbs to unlock what you need. Combined with character selection, secret missions, and a couple of extra modes, we see a lot of potential replayability.
DMC5 also gives the impression that Capcom didn't want to mess around too much with the level design. It surely is stunning visually thanks to the RE Engine, especially the character models and acting, but the landscapes are not as eye-catching and seem quite small and simple in comparison. It's just action, zero exploration, and platforming.
All in all, it was enough for us to be looking forward to learning more and playing further. Devil May Cry 5 offers a deep and evolving combat system that engages, and Capcom seems to know how to avoid the big problem of hack and slash games, that being the feeling of repetition. We need to play the whole thing in a month's time to confirm our positive impression, and to see if it can live up to our expectations after so long.