Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition came along at a perfect time for me. The original had been lingering on my wishlist since launch and I hadn’t quite pulled the (devil) trigger. Seeing a new and improved version to test out on my brand new PlayStation 5 though? I couldn’t resist.
For those less familiar, this is the latest in a series of character action games with stylish hack and slash gameplay where you can show your skill. It’s known for its difficulty but caters to most players with an easy mode providing a fairly laid back experience, to multiple higher difficulty modes including a new one added to this version of the game.
Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition follows on from the story of the previous games, but I never found that I needed to understand more than the gist of them. A good thing, since it’s been quite a while since I played the previous installments. Luckily it comes with a brief summary video explaining the origin of the characters and the events of the previous four games.
As the game opens, you find Dante, Nero, and V making their way to the demon that took Nero’s arm. As much as Dante maintains his carefree but confident attitude, he soon finds himself on the losing end of a battle, only able to hold it off long enough for Nero and V to escape before being defeated.
It skips to some time later. With Dante defeated and the others had retreated, demons have taken over the city. It’s to the point that soldiers are throwing their lives away by trying to fight back to no success. The situation looks hopeless until Nero throws himself back into action.
What follows is an enjoyable narrative focusing on defeating the demons, getting rid of a demonic plant, and finding out what happened to Dante. There were a number of surprises and twists in the story itself, but what I enjoyed the most was the characters and just how over the top their actions were.
We start the story as Nero. He feels very much like a typical action anime protagonist in some ways. Perhaps cockier and darker in attitude, but always willing to throw himself into the fight head first. This is only compounded by cutscenes like those where he will jump on a demon and forcibly ride them while gunning others down or where his gunsmith partner will run over demons in the van and then use the windscreen wipers. It’s that sort of over the top action that this series is known for.
Later on, we come to V. He’s a dark and mysterious type whose background and motives become more apparent only as we get further into the story. It did feel that they really leaned into stereotypes when they made poetry reading a way to recharge his abilities though.
Dante himself is the original star of the series. It’s no real surprise that we see him again, but it isn’t until quite a while into the game. I’ve always liked his attitude while playing through the previous games and it certainly hasn’t changed here.
Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition is a third-person character action hack and slash game. You play as one of the characters, making your way through the levels and hacking demons into little pieces while you do it. It’s not a unique idea, but it’s certainly done well here.
If you play on the easier difficulties, it may not be noticed as much but skill is highly emphasized here. Dodging between enemies, jumping on their heads to avoid hits, chaining together combos well. Easy mode is unsurprisingly easy, but the more difficult modes really require you to learn the wide variety of skills that you can unlock throughout the game and use them well.
Some share similarities, but the skills themselves are unique to each character. More importantly, each character plays differently from the others. That’s one of my favorite things about the game personally.
Nero has a unique ability that involves changing arms, with each arm having a special ability. These abilities provide a lot of variety. As well as serious options, there are parody ones too which I found amusing. You can equip him with Mega Man’s arm cannon and an arm made for eating pasta as examples. He uses a sword and gun as well as this.
Nero’s sword has an ability where you rev it like an engine to charge it up – this actually calls the PlayStation 5’s adaptive triggers into play, with it providing resistance in a way that makes it really feel like revving an engine. This was a really nice touch and surprising to find.
V is quite unique in that he uses three summoned animals to attack. Two of them involve hitting the buttons to attack and another one auto-attacks, at least until skills come into play. The interesting thing is that the animals cannot kill, so V has to teleport over and finish them off with a single hit of his cane.
His gameplay style is quite slow in comparison to the others. This makes sense as he is characterized as a weak person, with interesting abilities.
Dante is complex. He’s obviously been around quite a while because he seems to be able to use a lot of different skillsets and weapons. Being able to switch between swords, gauntlets, handguns, and a shotgun, you’d think that would be enough. But he also has four skill sets that he can freely change between, being centered around quick movement, solid defense, melee fighting, and gunplay. That’s not even considering his devil trigger abilities. I took quite a while to get used to playing as Dante if just because there was so much I could do even before unlocking more abilities.
Finally, unique to Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition is the ability to play as Vergil. You can play through the same levels as this character with some unique cinematics focusing on his point of view of events. There isn’t too much unique content here when it comes to the story side of things.
Vergil plays differently again, with his most unique point being switching between three weapons as well as other abilities. The part that felt the most different though is how much faster he was than other characters. Dodging through crowds with Vergil was a lot of fun.
Having such a variety of characters that felt so different was really impressive. A lot of games in this genre have multiple characters, but it’s rare that they feel so different from each other.
One fun challenge is learning the characters well enough to chain moves together and not rely on just a few. Part of getting higher ranks involves combos where moves need to be varied. Doing the same rush forward with a sword might work to kill the enemies, but you won’t be getting that SSS combo.
Outside of the combat itself, there’s an upgrade system to increase your skills and buy equipment with the red orbs that you can find around levels or by killing enemies. More things unlock as you process through the game and while the pool of red orbs and certain upgrades are shared, each character’s skills aren’t.
When I felt the need for upgrades, I personally dipped into the hardest difficulty mode – new to the special edition and conveniently unlocked from the beginning. This was a great way to collect orbs. If the hardest difficulty is too much and the others you have access to aren’t challenging enough, then other difficulties between them do unlock later. There is also an option to increase the speed by 20% if you want to challenge your reaction time even further.
The final thing I want to touch on about the gameplay is the replayability. As well as being able to play through different difficulties with more and different enemies on harder modes, the level design is great. They’re made so that there are hidden things throughout. From extra red orbs if you look at something at a different angle, to secret missions hidden away – there’s plenty to see when you play through and you might not see it all the first time. Some of the secret missions are particularly challenging too.
Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition looks amazing, simply put. The original version already looked great on the previous generation of platforms, but the special edition really upped the level of detail shown. You can actually customize it quite a bit too by prioritizing how good it looks or how well it performs. High Frame-Rate mode still looks very impressive and some may prefer it to make sure that they experience the smoothest gameplay possible.
I’ve played every game in this series now and Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition has been the best so far. The variety of gameplay, the over the top stylish action, the amount of customization, and the just sheer fun of how it plays. I had a really good time with the game. That’s before even considering the graphical improvements. I would have liked to see more unique content in the Vergil playthrough, but that’s a minor gripe and his addition to the roster was very welcome.
DEVIL MAY CRY 5 SPECIAL EDITION IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Capcom for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.