Devil May Cry 5 continues to build on the idiosyncratic feeling of bad-assery… this time in all 4k glory, Nero, and music that changes based on how you play.
Call me old all you want, but I don’t really enjoy EDM or techno music like I used to. It’s loud and annoying and makes me head hurt. However, when that type of music is combined with absurdly fluid combos, a narrator telling you how awesome you are, and kicking some demonic ass, my brain suddenly relishes it. “You are a total bad ass,” it says in booming bass-filled validation as I slice through a demon and punch another one in the face. Since I’m the type of girl who puts a glass jar over a spider instead of smooshing it, this kind of catharsis can only happen in a video game.
And that, ultimately, is what the Devil May Cry series offers. Catharsis. Feelings of achievement. Of punching a pillow like a boss. It challenges and provides things to improve upon. It’s clear that Devil May Cry 5 will continue this in all the glory of high framerates and 4k. It is beautiful, colorful, and fluid. And now it’s music works alongside the combo rating system by changing based on how you play.
During the PAX West demo, you take control of the beloved Nero, running through a city that has been ravaged by demons. As it starts, you jog around quickly to stretch, maybe throw some punches and try out the Devilbreakers (his Hellboy-like electric fist of death). The controls feel good. You like it… but you need something more now. Some light bass picks up in the background and you see the first demon. You wait for it. Wait for the moment. And then it happens. The song “Devil Trigger” picks up and combat initiates and you let loose.
While the story of Devil May Cry is always entertaining, the combat is clearly where the game shines. That, along with the soundtrack, is what the series is known for. The first demon you encounter in the demo dies quickly with a couple swings, but as more approach you find yourself releasing combos: dodging, using Nero’s sword, jumping in the air, using his gun, and then finalizing the combo with a Devilbreaker charge all in tune to the music that drives you forward, drooling for that “SSS” to fly up. The genius in this design is not simply the prettiness of the combos or even the music, but in how you compete against yourself and how you are rewarded. Psychology 101 in game design. The performance gauge is still there, rating each combo. It still echoes your performance ranging from “dull” and “bad ass” to “Smokin’ sexy style!”. It challenges you to push forward and improve. And now that the music changes based on performance, it’s even more effective at making you work to feel like a complete beast. If the meter drops to dull, the music slows. When you work your way back up to savage, it picks up in full-swing and inspires the performance. It’s a dance, so to speak. And it’s absurdly enjoyable. Despite my dislike of techno, I wanted the glorious bass and tuned voice screaming in my ear while I smashed demons with an electric fist. I mean, where else can you get that feeling?
As the demo advanced, the demons increased in difficulty. At one point you encounter scythe-wielding skeletons and learn how to grapple enemies toward Nero. That’s when things really begin to pick up. You’re able to create glorious combos that explode into violent hues of blue and red: Nero slicing with his sword, dodging with a well-time jump while firing his gun, pulling the enemy into the air, and then smashing them into the ground before pulling another enemy towards him and continuing the chain of complete badassery. Despite being a melee attack, even the Devilbreakers have some range to them.
At the end of the demo, you are faced with a boss named Goliath, who deems himself some sort of king. His massive body shrouds over Nero with gray horns and a mouth in his belly that spews fire—an amalgamation of bosses from Bayonetta and Shadow of the Colossus. True to form, Nero retorts with a witty fart-joke before narrowing his eyes and beginning the fight. The boss, who apparently took out many who played the demo, was a solid challenge that required the use of all Nero’s weapons and abilities. Dodging fireballs and smashes. Using ranged attacks to stagger. Punching certain targets. Luckily, I ended up killing him with little health to spare. And as the music slowed and I had to hand the controller back over, I eyed the “A” on the screen knowing I could do better. I kept the headset on for a moment and took a deep breath, embracing the feeling of the music and adrenaline until its release on March 8th. That “A” is going to change.
Devil May Cry 5 will be released March 8th on Xbox One, PC, and PS4.