Though it’s often known for enduring and iconic franchises like Street Fighter, Resident Evil and Devil May Cry, Capcom are a developer and publisher who have had more than their fair share of ups and downs – lest we forget Operation: Raccoon City.
Yet, over the last few years, they’ve found themselves in a significant upswing. From Monster Hunter: World to the recent Resident Evil 2 remake, Capcom’s new strategy isn’t hard to conceive of but is surprising to see realised with such consistency.
Making largely-conventional but genuinely great games might sound like an obvious formula for success but it’s also much more difficult to execute on that it sounds. The fact that Capcom have managed to do so while also finding a deft balance between catering to the expectations of aging fans and newcomers only makes things more impressive.
And based on our quick hands on with the game, it looks like Devil May Cry V will likely continue this trend.
Returning from the alternate timeline of Ninja Theory’s reboot and set following the events of Devil May Cry 4, V brings together the franchises’ wider roster of characters - Dante, Nero, Trish and Lady (plus newcomer V) - to take on a demon king threatening to invade and destroy the human world.
Though this setup does look and feel like classic Devil May Cry at first blush, the execution this time around is just that little more cinematic. At times, it feels like you’re watching a serialized anime or comic. Even across the handful of missions we played, there were plenty of flashbacks, flashforwards, setups and payoffs.
Obviously, we’ll have to spend more time with the final product to see how this all plays out but there’s a reverence here for the source material (and the series' characters) that’s really endearing and the cutscenes in the game do their best to live up to the series’ bonkers legacy.
As for the combat, there’s not a huge amount to be said. I mean, this is a new Devil May Cry game – and it looks to offer much of the same bloody, frantic fun that previous installments have. Regardless of which playable character you’re taking control of, things feel fast, fluid and kinetics.
Most of our demo missions involved playing as Nero - so lets start there. The young demon slayer’s moveset in Devil May Cry V is close to what it was in Devil May Cry 4. Nero can still rev up his sword for bonus damage and blast away at enemies using his pistol.
Due to various spoiler-filled reasons, Nero has had to swap out his devil arm for a mechanical one. This new appendage behaves similarly in combat, allowing you to grab and throw enemies around. It also introduces some intriguing durability mechanics. The more you use Nero’s arm, the higher the risk of it breaking. When that happens, you’ll need to scavenge spare parts to repair it. You can also deliberately sacrifice the arm for more powerful attacks. All up, it feels like a smart evolution that further distinguishes Nero from his counterparts.
Speaking of, Dante’s moveset has also received some minor reworks of its own. If you’ve spent much time playing Devil May Cry before, you’ll still be able to pick up and play him in seconds. However, this time around, Dante can now swap styles mid-fight. Being able to swap from Trickster to Gunslinger at the press of a button feels super liberating and it helps encourage you to experiment outside your comfort zone in a way that previous Devil May Cry games didn’t.
Then there’s V.
V plays significantly differently to pretty much any other playable character in the Devil May Cry series thus far. Similar to something like Diablo 3’s Necromancer, his gameplay loop relies on commanding a pair of demonic companions to fight on his behalf. Once they’ve worn down enemies to their final sliver of health, it’s up to V to come in and secure the kill. It’s fun, different and every bit as extra as playing as Dante or Nero.
The other big takeaway I had from my hands-on time with Devil May Cry V was a sense that Capcom has heard the complaints of fans loudly and clearly. They’re making Nero more distinct from Dante. They're steering well clear of Devil May Cry 4’s bad habit of recycling levels and giving each of the game’s playable character their own unique missions. There’s a quiet but distinct sense of confidence here.
With style and substance to spare, Devil May Cry V is shaping up to be a Capcom classic in the making – and it knows it. The combat feels kinetic, the soundtrack Is catchy and the cutscenes are colourfully written and hyper-cinematic. It plays great. It looks great. Bring it on.
Devil May Cry V launches on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC on the 8th of March.