Early on in Devil May Cry 5, we’re introduced to a mechanically gifted gal, named Nico, with a purring southern drawl and a penchant for constantly puffing cigarettes. After we see her light one up with a sly-eyed, cool-girl-next-door flourish, the DMC gamemakers take time to post a notice to players saying, “This game does not promote smoking or the use of cigarettes.”
That could be an earnest warning to young players, or just ironic humor. Especially since the hours and hours of grotesque dismemberment, gushing gore, dankly twisted spirituality and vulgar language that follow never get even the tiniest of frowns or disclaimers from the game or its makers. But however you take it, it’s definitely all of a piece with the wild-mess heart of a Devil May Cry game.
The latest entry in this franchise centers around the devastating ways of half-demon-turned-demon-hunter Dante—a DMC mainstay. But the game actually spends most of its time jumping back and forth between the stories of a couple other sword-swinging leads.
There’s twentysomething demon-demolisher Nero, who wears a robotic arm, since most of his demon-infused left arm was ripped off by a mysterious baddie and turned into a powerful sword. He’s joined by a heavily tattooed, magic-imbued guy named V who fights via three different demon pets. And … well, it really doesn’t matter who the rest of the male and female “heroes” are. We don’t actually get to explore much of their backstory anyway.
The central thrust of the story is that this group of pretty, young demonic and human battlers is out to face down and best a powerful “demon king” named Urizen. Turns out he’s caused a writhing and life-sucking gigantic tree—demonic, of course—to sprout up in the human world. Bottom line: Our heroes will need to get out there and stylishly disembowel and brutalize everything in sight.
Then do it some more.
The game itself is initially very playable from a gaming-mechanics perspective. The graphics are bright and sharp, the thumping soundtrack keeps your blood pumping, and the graceful-as-a-dance demon-hacking action keeps the gushing gore profusely pumping, too.
Players use an assortment of guns, swords and mechanical gadgets (such as Nero’s weapon-launching mechanical arm) to slash, impale, freeze, burn, rip and otherwise mulch all manner of malformed, devilish grotesqueries. And there’s even a special move unlocked later in the game where you can drive a blade into your own chest for an increased demonic power. (A disturbing plot twist indeed.)
There are also a few scenes where female characters get into the action, at least long enough to get out of most of their clothes. (The ESRB characterizes what we see as “partial nudity,” with the “partial” part of that equation consisting only of smeared blood in some cases.) And on top of all that visual gush and blush, players also get spattered with a steady stream of profanities, including f- and s-words as well as uses of “d–n,” “a–,” “b–ch” and “b–tard.”
Are you getting the sense that we aren’t really fans of this game?
And even those who might be tempted by an over-the-top actioner such as this should take pause. That’s because that initially fluid-seeming gameplay quickly morphs into a tedious grind: run, slaughter, run, slaughter, repeat.
Result? A brainless, demonic gore-fest. Period. Full stop.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.