Devil May Cry 5
Disposable exploding robot arms and frustrating camera controls
I found the constant switching of the roboarm move disruptive
Nero has had his demon arm from Devil May Cry 4 ripped from his body and he’s replaced it with a succession of disposable robot arms in Devil May Cry 5. In the playable Gamescom demo, disposable robot arms litter the streets. I find one on a ledge near some fridge-sized insect monsters. I find three in a plaza just before a boss fight. Devil May Cry is hardly the most realistic hack-and-slash series around, but this is bizarre. There are two types of roboarm in the demo: Blue and green, though the final game will have eight versions. The blue arm has a thrusting electric attack. The green arm gives you a spiralling upwards leap attack that takes enemies with you. Nero automatically equips the most recent arm you‘ve picked up, and the only way to switch to another arm is to blow your current one to ash using the left bumper on your controller. The explosion serves as a big area-of-effect combo finisher, or an over-the-top way of discarding an arm you don’t want. If you run out of roboarms you have to keep fighting one-handed with Nero’s traditional throttle-powered sword and double-barrelled revolver.
The new arm attacks look and feel powerful, and they provide more variety than the old DevilMayCry4 devil arm, but it feels strange to have a part of Nero’s moveset change based on what he happens to pick up on the floor. I can see the intent. There’s a risk/reward dilemma to choosing where and when you detonate an arm. You can also charge up your arm attack—referred to as a ‘devil breaker’— but if you take a hit while powering up the arm breaks uselessly. The system also raises the skill ceiling for players who want to master the game. To earn the most slick, high-scoring combos I expect you need to know how each arm fits into a chain effectively.
In this demo the green arm was a great initiator because you can carry a couple of enemies into the air and start juggling. The blue arm blasts enemies back, so if you want to continue a combo you need to lasso the flying demons with the arm, or go chasing with a lock-on thrust attack. Hopefully, all eight arms have distinct characteristics that give them a combat role you want to work into combos.
I love the improvizational combat and sense of speed and flow in DevilMayCry, but I found the constant switching of this important roboarm move disruptive during my 30 minutes with the demo. You are seemingly never forced to throw away an arm, so you can theoretically stick with the one you like as long as you don’t access its most destructive abilities (blowing it up). That’s clearly not how you’re supposed to fight, but in this demo the distribution of arms in the environment felt arbitrary and difficult to plan around.
point of view
Apart from the new arm mechanic, everything else is very familiar and technically impressive at points. But while this is easily the best-looking DevilMay Cry game, there are problems even more worrying than the arm system. The camera was a complete mess for several sections. During a boss fight, the camera regularly tried to wrench me away from the destination I was trying to reach. When I tried to dash for a health globe in the ruins of a nearby health fountain, I had to go to war with it, my right stick fighting the game’s strong urge to swivel the viewpoint back to the boss.
I love the series, and I dearly want it to come back strong, but DevilMayCry5 needs to be better than this demo if it wants to take its crown as the best third-person action game on PC.
A new engine means fancier attacks.
All the old sword combos are back.