The upcoming Devil May Cry 5 is somewhat of a homecoming for the long-running action game series. Following its reimagining by British developer Ninja Theory in 2013’s excellent DmC: Devil May Cry, Capcom’s sword-swinging, monster-juggling action game is returning to the hands of its Japanese developer. Developed by an internal Capcom team, the fifth numbered entry in the series feels like it’s striving to be as familiar as it is fresh.
That intent is driven home from the very outset. Seconds into my hands-on with the Gamescom 2018 demo I noticed sound effects pulled straight out of the first game. If that didn’t immediately evoke PS2-era nostalgia for the series, the new and improved Nero definitely would have. Although he’s making a return from Devil May Cry 4, he has offloaded the angst and replaced it with a wisecracking attitude and a confident swagger. He might look like a fresh-cut Nero but he definitely acts like old-school Dante. Given that Devil May Cry 3 director Hideaki Itsuno is helming the project, it’s not surprising to find striking similarities between new Nero and young Dante.
Capcom is very much leaning on its heritage in Devil May Cry 5, taking the familiar and adding a little twist, and this is most noticeable in the combat mechanics. At first blush it feels like little has changed: you attack with a sword and guns, use evasive rolls and jumps to escape sticky situations, and string a unique mechanic to create synergy between all these individual components. However, the biggest gameplay shakeup is in that unique mechanic: Devil Breaker. In Devil May Cry 4, Nero’s arm–then called Devil Bringer–was the glue that held gameplay together, it allowed him to snatch enemies from a distance and drag them towards him, or anchor himself to them and throw himself around the battlefield. Although Devil Breaker can also serve that purpose, it can’t be endlessly relied on.
Instead of being a weird, demonic arm imbued with supernatural power, Devil Breaker is a prosthetic arm, and–for some reason–they can be found in the game’s various environments, waiting for Nero to pluck them off the ground and attach them to his stump. Devil Breakers have unique properties, some restoring the grabbing ability from DMC4, others giving Nero the ability to unleash a explosion of electricity that’s deadly at close range. They also get into weird and wacky territory, with some Devil Breakers able to unleash a barrage of laser beams or launch a rocket punch in their powered-up states.
Crucially, Devil Breakers are finite, and you won’t always have one. They each have limited mileage and, once they bottom out, Nero is left to battle on with just one arm. Devil Breakers can also be manually exploded, creating additional damage and combo potential. For fans of the series and veterans of the genre, the opportunities this system provides will no doubt be exciting. Capcom hasn’t revealed all the types of Devil Breakers that will be in the game, which means their unique properties also remain a mystery. If my time with just two of them is any indication, this system will open the door to deep, rewarding, likely very complicated combat–though there is a simplified control scheme for those that want to make cool things happen quickly.