“But there was a Devil May Cry in 2013?” are surprising the players. Certainly, it was called DmC, and was excellent, but took the form of a reboot. The soul of the saga was left hanging, this intense mix of sickly gameplay precision and Z-series freewheeling madness. Until the arrival of this Devil May Cry 5 which is in a sense the culmination of over 18 years of kicking demonic ass.
No longer alone in the rare profession of “charismatic, white-haired, anti-demon swordsman” since the introduction of the brat Nero in Devil May Cry 4, Dante is getting old. The nascent beard insinuates itself into his fine lines, the damaged face of a briscard whose valves thrown in the face of evil beings have lost some of their freshness. The collaboration between the two flingers is a good way to find a balance between mastery and ardour in a legacy story, both applied to the characters and to the series itself. You only have to see Dante being titillated by his lack of speed to draw the right conclusions.
And yet, the best red raincoat wearer in the world is not retired and is still in the cast of this fifth canonical episode alongside Nero and especially a newcomer, the mysterious V. Rebellious at heart with his jet-black hair, he doesn’t pretend to wield a sword at all costs and concentrates on handling his cane. No, it’s not the Devil May Cry of the EHPAD, but the Devil May Cry of the Wonderland, as V brings an added value in terms of gameplay.
Invocative of the shadows, the young man has three pets that serve as weapons: a bird named Griffon, a panther named Shadow and a golem with clear intentions, Nightmare. This trio allows the weak V not to seek hand-to-hand combat, without ever sacrificing the visceral percussion of the blows of the other two thieves. Which is a real performance, as it was easy to risk falling into the trap of the slack spellcaster, lost in a game where every attack is a discharge.
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The character is a brilliant find, a perfect alternative to an overexcited Nero and a heavy Dante but an undeniable master of arms. All the more so as V is a test in itself, as the rhythmics and the construction of its sequences require an empirical approach before being integrated. The ideal spice to give even more taste to the player’s pride in his performances, combined with the epiphany of the finish.
Coming from the school of the “Capcomian” fight, the director Hideaki Itsuno was pleased to add a final blow of cane to be given by V to each enemy sufficiently weakened by the attacks of the pets. This is a ferocious conclusion to the slightest confrontation, just like the emphasis given to the ultimate assault in a fighting game. A talent that Nero doesn’t possess, far from his aesthetic inclinations. He’s an effective beater.
Still as enjoyable to play as in Devil May Cry 4 – where he had to hold Dante high in terms of gameplay in order to impose himself as a hero – Nero keeps his particular style. Fast and efficient in aerial combos, he can still catch enemies thanks not to his demonic arm, but to a prosthesis named Devil Breaker. The result is the same, the sequences are based on the recovery of the opponents thrown on the ground or from afar, in order to prevent them from regaining their minds.
On the other hand, the advent of technology implies a certain programmed obsolescence, and Nero’s mechanical arm can break either as a result of a special explosive attack triggered via L1 (left trigger), the interruption of one of the Devil Breaker’s unique skills, or overuse. It is up to the player to judge whether the sacrifice is worth it, knowing that these moves can be integrated into a combo. There are 12 of these expansions, each with abilities that radically change the view of combat and once again force the player to undergo a beneficial adaptation exercise.
Hence the idea, at first sight absurd, to prevent the selection of a Devil Breaker from among the fan taken on a mission. The advantage is to slow down as much as possible the inevitable arrival of the spectre of redundancy. Versatile and supple, Nero embodies the pleasure of an uninhibited Devil May Cry, close to the radical madness of the third episode. Dante on his side is the quiet strength of the assembly, a hybrid of his crazy youthfulness and his usual rigidity. His approach to combat is the most open of the trio of characters, but also the most complex to handle.
With its 4 styles (Swordmaster, Trickster, Royalguard and Gunslinger), its 3 types of “guns” and its quartet of main weapons, the list of its shares requires the purchase of a small notebook to be left next to its controller. Changing approach in a confrontation, while wanting to keep his dignity and style, would be equivalent, with a few manipulations, to going from Taki to Nightmare, before coming back to Mitsurugi in a single round of SoulCalibur. It’s best to choose a few variations and stick to them, at the risk of getting your brushes tangled and ending the mission with a D, for Depit.
The freedom given to the player is also a great strength of the game system. He never takes it by the hand and allows it to dig into a large box of gameplay bricks to create its own crazy constructions. This choice also has the unfortunate consequence of not taking the time to explain certain subtleties that remain difficult to find without fervently looking into every aspect of the system or carrying out a laborious search of the menus, particularly in terms of style. A lack of fine-tuning to reflect the structure of the game.
Illness of the series and several Japanese beat’em up, the second part of the adventure loses a good part of the charm of the first. The reason for this is a courtesy call to the 2500 square meter demon rebuilding facility, the Qlipoth. An organic environment with brown tones without personality, a clear break with the varied ambiences of previous environments.
This escapade wouldn’t have been embarrassing if it hadn’t lasted long hours and wasn’t taking place at a time when the game takes a clever pleasure in making the player make almost identical journeys with the 3 characters in turn. A certain idea of hell that no one asked for a simulation of. With its cramped halls and sticky obstacles everywhere, this poorly maintained world also highlights targeting failures, which were less noticeable in a more relative emergency.
Differences in altitude also impact the lock, taking time to release the target once it is at a lower level. The last two chapters fortunately allow us to end on shivers of excitement, otherwise the final impression would have been detrimental to the whole interesting setup of this DMC 5. For apart from its game system refined to the extreme and its gallery of outstanding characters – apart from Lady and Trish whose under-representation would deserve a DLC in order to balance the roles – Capcom’s game doesn’t tell the story of an antediluvian fight against demons with leather ephebes and a William Blake fan in flip-flops.
Like many games from old licenses in the last two years, it is a passing of the baton, a rebellion. This fall of the old icons is a recent element, coming with the construction of a whole heritage of stories of emblematic characters in a video game still relatively young. There is now a kind of awareness of the status of the so-called unstoppable heroes as the embodiment of a certain immobility. With new players coming on board, changing design methods, the maturity that is creeping into storytelling, the evolution of techniques that bring their share of openings, the transition has to happen.
This is the case in God of War, in Red Dead 2 in a way, in Ace Combat 7 too, and now in Devil May Cry 5. Without necessarily adding an extra quality, the clear will to make a finger, literally, to the old guard of heroes adds human in the series, makes him take a step back. The game now tells more about its designers and acquires an amazing emotional dimension. Nothing worthy of a thesis, but the parent figures and icons seem to be reaching their twilight. And if that makes a saga like DMC as comfortable as it was in this episode, it’s hard to find sadness in it.
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