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After unfortunate detour, Devil May Cry gets back on track

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Devil May Cry 5

Devil May Cry 5
PlayStation 4

Projections were extremely high when Capcom first put DMC: Devil May Cry on store shelves in early 2013. It had been five years since the release of Devil May Cry 4, and not a few quarters saw the ensuing absence as a rejuvenating factor for the franchise that was, by then, so ubiquitous as to be in other media. For all its popularity, its last video game property failed to meet sales expectations, giving rise to the sentiment that it was getting stale. In response, the Japanese publisher went for a reboot and, in order to ensure freshness, tapped British developer Ninja Theory to steer the enterprise to a new direction.

As things turned out, DMC: Devil May Cry was an even bigger disappointment. Commercially, it proved unable to match the numbers of Devil May Cry 4. Never mind that critics generally praised its preferential option to move away from factors that propelled previous releases in the series. For Capcom, the results delivered the message loud and clear: Fans didn’t so much as expect something novel as want something better. In other words, too much of the old was left by the wayside in an effort to inject innovation in both look and feel. And so while work was being done by Q-LOC on its remaster for 7th-generation consoles, so, too, did efforts to retrace the franchise’s beginnings.

Fast forward to March 2019, and Devil May Cry 5 has been met with success. To pave the way for the revival of the mainline series, Capcom altered the timeline by retconning Devil May Cry 4 and ignoring DMC: Devil May Cry altogether. Brutal? Perhaps. Necessary? Certainly. Precisely because of the nature of the latter, there was no way to keep events in the reboot relevant. In any case, there can be no arguing with the outcome; about as many copies of the new release have reached gamers’ hands in the last three and a half weeks as of its immediate past predecessor in the last six years.

No doubt, much of Devil May Cry 5’s positive reception stems from Capcom’s decision to continue with the original storyline. It picks up half a decade from where Devil May Cry 4 left off, with principal protagonist Dante and Nero, a former knight of the Holy Sword, once again teaming up to defeat the demon Urizen upon the behest of V (a shadowy character later revealed to be the human side of Vergil, Dante’s identical twin brother). How they are all ultimately intertwined makes for a compelling account that strengthens the franchise’s overarching narrative.

Parenthetically, Devil May Cry 5 likewise harks back to the fast-paced gameplay of previous entries in the series. Staying true to its “stylish action” roots, it makes use of a meter that fills up through the execution of properly timed combos unique to the playable characters. Longtime followers of the franchise would be pleased to see Dante and Nero once again exhibiting the unique WW traits that hitherto defined their usefulness in combat. In addition, they are given the privilege of controlling V, who, because of his fragile state, needs to let demons he can summon do most of the requisite damage to opponents for him before dealing the death blow.




For a game that hands out adrenaline-pumping combat in heavy doses, Devil May Cry 5 offers surprising depth. Character upgrades are myriad, and come by way not just of newer and better equipment, but of distinct fighting methods as well. For good measure, gamers are required to alternately control Dante, Nero, and V as they make their way to the demon tree Qliphoth deep in Red Grave City. And lest button mashing be the order of the day, the ranking system ultimately judges combat performances based on evasion and hit avoidance.

Along with auto- or manual-combo options, difficulty settings abound to enable newcomers to the series to hit the ground running and, alternatively, provide heady challenges to the more inclined. In this regard, Devil May Cry 5 also holds considerable replay value; increased familiarly with the controls spurs additional runs for improved scores, collection of orbs, and completion of missions. Even the manner in which the narrative is grounded in lore serves as incentive; the tale is further enriched with every playthrough.

Visually, Devil May Cry 5 benefits from its use of the Resident Evil 2 graphics engine. On the PlayStation 4 Pro, colors are lush and remain sharp even when the action is at a frenetic pace, with the gameplay suffering from nary a drop in frame rates. The music tracks are appropriately enveloping and serve to accentuate the intended moods, not to mention complement gamer progress; the better the ranking, the more pronounced the sounds. Moreover, Capcom did right to keep the hyper-realistic framework of previous titles, underscoring the status of its latest release as part and parcel of the franchise.

In sum, Devil May Cry 5 represents the series’ triumphant return to form. It doesn’t so much reinvent the hack-and-slash genre as accentuate its uniqueness. Between Dante’s Ebony and Ivory guns and Rebellion sword, Nero’s Devil Breaker arms, and V’s Devil Trigger Gauge, it supplies variety in spades. A single run-through should be good for some 15 hours, but gamers figure to dip into the well again and again given the wealth of content it has on offer. Simply put, it’s a decided bargain at $59.99.

THE GOOD:

• Triumphant return to roots in terms of story and gameplay

• Nonstop action backstopped by a compelling series thread

• Adjustable difficulty settings to satisfy newcomers and veterans alike

• Tons of replay value

THE BAD:

• Uninspiring level designs

• Tacked-on multiplayer option

• Microtransactions on offer

RATING: 9/10

 

POSTSCRIPT: At Sundown: Shots in the Dark could have been just another title in a sea of top-down arena shooters on the Nintendo Switch. Instead, it manages to distinguish itself off a clever premise: Gamers can see characters only when under — or, as the case may be, over — sources of light. In the case of their own characters, both movement and a specific button press provide visibility. Notwithstanding the potential pitfalls of tapping a seemingly gimmicky mechanic to propel interest, developer Mind Beast Games actually manages to come up with a compelling release that should translate to hours upon hours of mayhem.

Certainly, it helps that At Sundown: Shots in the Dark boasts of intuitive twin-stick controls. There’s a learning curve, but the well-thought-out training mode — which doubles as a robust single-player experience — efficiently gets gamers up to speed on the mechanics of the various offerings, many of them staples of the genre. Four characters (two male and two female) are available at the outset, but none seem to have unique features that can aid in combat. The use of bots is an option, but balance can suffer as a result; the artificial intelligence is too good at times, evidently aware of character positions even in utter darkness.

Needless to say, At Sundown: Shots in the Dark excels in its multiplayer fare. Online matchmaking can take some time (in all likelihood due to a lack of gamer population), but ad-hoc rooms are a breeze to set up. And with 11 weapons, nine maps, and an array of customizable options that include arena selection and AI level settings, the fun factor is amped up over time. On the whole, it’s an ideal title for collocated gamers — assuming they all have controllers on hand. (8/10)