Devil May Cry 5 in the test - brilliant action, but not a new series king
But it is not quite enough for a new series highlight. It does not develop all the strengths of its predecessors consistently enough and even falls behind them in some areas.
The action triumvirate
But let's start with what Devil May Cry 5 does right, and that's by far the most important thing for this series: the battles! Seldom have we slaughtered so stylishly by hordes of demons in any video game with such interesting characters. When the hellish giant tree Qliphoth breaks out of the earth in Redgrave City, series protagonist Dante, his successor Nero from Devil May Cry 4 and newcomer V oppose the demon invasion.
The brilliant design of these three characters makes Devil May Cry 5 an unparalleled action festival. As always, Dante is the hero of choice for experienced professionals. He juggles freely with four styles of combat, four melee weapons and four spanking - some of which have more shapes in store! Those who master this arsenal whirl through the most chaotic inferno with incomparable nonchalance.
Vs repertoire is significantly less extensive, but he scores with a completely new style of play. As the first DMC hero, he is too frail for direct brawls and sends his demonic minions forward. With the melee button, we chase his panther at the enemy, with the ranged button, demon bird hurls Griffon lightning salvos. This doesn't work quite as precisely as Dante's direct attacks, but it offers a welcome change in between.
However, we liked Nero the best because the developers made his greatest weakness from part 4 his greatest strength with a clever trick. At that time, he faded alongside Dante because he only countered his huge repertoire of fighting styles and weapons with just a handful of special attacks against his demon arm. The simple solution: an entire arsenal of different robot arms!
One fires rockets that we can even ride on, the other slows down time, a third catapults us wildly through the air. Before each mission, we can choose which of these so-called Devil Breakers we want to take with us and then find more in the course of the game. This makes Nero much more interesting than before and finally takes him to a level of fun with Dante.
All three figures not only reward good play with spectacular combos, they also punish missteps in an interesting way. Nero's Devil Breakers, for example, fly in the air when he receives a hit when deployed. We should avoid that at all, because, as we know, Devil May Cry is not just about winning - it's about being the coolest dog between heaven and hell!
Our style meter shoots up, the more varied we send our enemies on the boards and goes into the basement if we ever get caught. Incidentally, this is easiest with gamepad, so Devil May Cry 5 is the best way to go, despite the fully configurable mouse and keyboard.
Chasing the perfect SSS rating in a frenzy, frenetically avoiding every attack and pulling out all the stops in our arsenal is not only a fantastic feeling, it also rewards us with more red balls. With them we buy new skills for even more grandiose combos after a mission. A wonderful spiral of adrenaline and motivation!
In addition, there are impressive bosses and even normal demons with a wide variety of attack patterns that do not even allow blind button mashing. In short, every aspect of Devil May Cry 5's combat is masterfully crafted.
Or let's say almost everyone. Then there is a hair in the soup, and that's the camera. Precisely because a single hit shoots up our style rating, a perfect overview would be essential. Devil May Cry 5 cannot always guarantee this. Several times our character disappeared behind obstacles like book shelves or the perspective showed only a small part of the field, so that we lost sight of the majority of the opponents.
Between spectacle and sadness
But as long as the camera works, there is a lot to see in Devil May Cry 5! Incredibly detailed characters chase animatedly across the battlefield and burn off a firework of impressive effects - the fights are not only great in terms of game mechanics, but also appropriately staged.
It is all the more negative that Devil May Cry 5 rarely offers them an adequate stage. The levels themselves are surprisingly dreary and monotonous. Gray-brown cities, gray-brown tunnels and finally gray-brown hell mud make up the complete program. This may also be part of the classic Devil May Cry experience, reminiscent of the dark Temen-ni-gru tower where we spent most of Part 3. But that never paid for us as series strength, which a modern fifth part should definitely continue.
On the contrary, Devil May Cry 4 took a sensible step in the right direction and offered significantly more variety with impressive castles and ice and jungle areas. It only nullified that with all of its backtracking. From Devil May Cry 5 we would have wished for the next development: Towards real variety without backtracking. Even the Reboot DmC showed much more interesting level optics.
When it comes to level design, coolness flutes
The stakes of Devil May Cry 5 are also unimaginative in terms of game mechanics. Most of the time we run through simple tube levels that guide us from one fight to the next. In between we collect demon larvae or chop blood vessels to get Qliphoth roots out of the way, but there are never real puzzles like in previous series parts. And also almost no change from the standard fights.
Sure, they are the heart of the series, but how about more battles under special conditions, for example? There are a few of them in the game! We can discover a handful of secret missions, in which we have to sweep a room in a certain time. But they only make up a tiny part of the game, and Devil May Cry 5 would have liked to get more of these special orders!
Otherwise there are only red balls and occasional buffs for life or special ability energy in small alcoves along the way. If it weren't for the (really good!) Boss fights in the end, we couldn't tell some levels apart afterwards, they are so monotonous - the predecessors got it better across the board.
Back to the original story
And what about the story? Some might say here that an action game like Devil May Cry doesn't need any - but veterans know that this series at its best can even tell damn entertaining stories! Sure, Devil May Cry 3 was more anime than world literature , but an astonishingly good anime: wonderfully wacky cutscenes, surprising twists, and enormously cool characters that grew silently and secretly close to our hearts during all the action.
Devil May Cry 5 is nowhere near this series highlight. In the first half, his story is even really boring in places, because we just cut off the roots of the demon tree step by step. It is only in the second half that the plot picks up speed and even serves up some really cool moments. For veteran fans, it fulfills its most important task: It picks up on the most important loose threads of the predecessors and continues them, instead of pulling completely new figures out of the hat like Devil May Cry 4 and indulging in vague hints.
However, the game takes so long to reach these highlights that there is hardly any time left to do a lot with them. Some old acquaintances like Trish and Lady are almost completely left out if they are not used for clumsy nude scenes. Serial newcomers, on the other hand, can hardly do anything with the best moments of the story. But even for die-hard fans, despite some highlights, there remains the feeling that significantly more could have been done here.
Play it again, Dante
After a good twelve hours you will be through with the story - but then the game really starts. Only two of the six levels of difficulty are available from the start, and we unlock the rest of them successively. As is typical for series production, they do not simply screw up opposing values, but actually offer an ever new gaming experience. We keep all of our unlocked skills and in return we now encounter monsters in the first missions, which we only had to face towards the end the first time. What's more, some levels of difficulty even give enemies completely new skills! After all, "Heaven or Hell" lets us and the demons bite the grass with just one hit - and "Hell or Hell" even just us.
So far, so commendable! However, the first run is much less satisfactory this time than in Devil May Cry 3. Because the fifth part packs three playable characters into the same campaign time, we have much less space to learn the nuances of each one. Devil May Cry 5 compensates for this by making his missions a whole lot easier, even at the higher of the two starting levels. Only three times a demon knocked us out of the mountain pines, who wasn't a boss! The first run feels a little too much like a warm-up exercise.
This is a double-edged sword. If you are not interested in playing the same story multiple times, you should bump into it. Devil May Cry 3 managed a better balancing act, demanding a lot of finesse from the first time and thus giving us a feeling of achievement and still leaving a lot of room for improvement to deepen our expertise with further runs. But if you were going to go through all levels of difficulty anyway, you will also get to master three characters instead of just one! Only those hardcore gamers would have been happy about more demands during the first run. Especially since the weak level design of Devil May Cry 5 does not necessarily increase its counterplay value. We found the missions too monotonous the first time!
So Devil May Cry 5 is not the best Devil May Cry, as a complete package it cannot outperform its predecessors in all disciplines. Still, the bottom line is a fun action game, simply because the core of the combat system is so incredibly well done. This does not eliminate its clear weaknesses - but if you are just looking for good action, you will get your money's worth here.