Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition Review (Series X)
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After Devil May Cry 5’s initial release drew praise from critics and gamers alike in 2019, it was only a matter of time before we were given extra content. The moment Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition was announced, fans of the franchise were chomping at the bit to get their hands on it. This time, though, the release coincided with the release of next-generation consoles. With that comes enhancements that make Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition a must-have for those hard-to-come-by gaming consoles.
The Return of Vergil
The most notable addition to the DMC5: SE is Dante’s brother, Vergil.
Capcom repeats their strategy here, placing us in Vergil’s boots. His versatility is a real testament to his growth through each game that has featured him as a playable character. He’ll feel both familiar and new, and his differences from the main cast won’t have you worried about repetition.
He returns with the infamous Yamato and Beowulf, two weapons he’s carried throughout the series. He has a third weapon called the Mirage Blade, a phantom blade that acts like Force Edge. The Force Edge is the unawakened form of their Father’s sword, aptly named the “Devil Sword Sparda.” Because the Force Edge has long lost its unremarkable form, he does not own the physical blade this time. Of course, he still has projectile phantom blades as a solution to his distaste for firearms.
Players hoping to slowly unlock his devil arms are out of luck. As with previous special editions, he comes equipped with all of his weaponry. This does make it a touch difficult to get the hang of Vergil, though veterans of the series won’t see a problem. Don’t worry! You’ll still need to hunt hundreds of thousands of demons to gain red orbs to acquire the rest of his abilities!
Every Devil May Cry game includes a gameplay element called gauges. These bars indicate the number of certain resources you have available at your disposal.
The Vitality Gauge
Everyone is familiar with a health bar, and that’s what this is. It can be increased by finding four blue orb pieces scattered throughout the game or locked behind Secret Missions.
Devil Trigger Gauge; The Doppelganger
There has been plenty of time to refine Vergil, but this iteration isn’t only built from the canon versions. In DmC: Devil May Cry, a re-imagining of the series, Vergil’s activation of Devil Trigger summons a doppelganger that could be given commands for different attack behaviors. This has been integrated into the main series’ Vergil. Likewise, this bar can be increased by acquiring four purple orb pieces. Unlike other Devil Triggers, his does not automatically regenerate health.
Sin Devil Trigger Gauge
Dante has a version of the “Sin Devil Trigger,” an activation gauge that accesses a second, more powerful demon form. Vergil’s operates the same, although this is his standard demon form. To gain the transformation resources, players must hold the devil trigger button to drain the regular devil trigger gauge. However, if the player has both gauges filled, Vergil can unleash his doppelganger and enter the form, raining down destruction on any demon unfortunate enough to cross his path. Taking this form activates health regeneration.
Vergil operates under a “Concentration” mechanic. He is the stoic swordsman who does not waste his breath, his time, or his words. He intends to discard his enemies as efficiently as possible. Button-mashing and panicking movements are acceptable for his Brother, but he will have none of it. To this end, his appearance in DMC4: SE and DMC5: SE includes a blue gauge that represents his concentration.
In battle, successfully landing attacks, walking, dodging, and standing still will increase his concentration. In turn, the power of each of his weapons and abilities. Certain abilities consume concentration, such as a block ability that negates incoming damage. On the opposite end of the spectrum, running, taking damage, and missing enemies will deplete your gauge – Taking damage drains it entirely.
There are three levels to this concentration bar, and as they’re filled, Vergil’s advantages are stacked. His attacks do more damage, and some of them increase the range of his attacks. At level three, you are capable of using SDT exclusive combo modifiers outside of his demon form.
Concentration; The World of V
Vergil is calm and collected, but even the unmoved need a panic button. He impales himself to separate his demon and human halves, summoning V. This drains the concentration bar. Still, the field is flooded with attacks from V’s cane, Griffon, Shadow, Nightmare, and Phantom – all enemies from the wildly popular first Devil May Cry. Coupled with the damage output, this attack grants an increased drop rate for health orbs.
The Legendary Dark Knight
Returning to the franchise is the Legendary Dark Knight mode that became a favorite for fans but eluded console players because of the hardware drawbacks. Well, with next-gen upon us, we’re all finally able to experiencing play that is meant to overwhelm. This mode automatically increases the difficulty to “Son of Sparda,” the game’s hard mode, and tops it off by spawning hordes of demons. It doesn’t ease you into the trouble; The first few encounters pose no real threat for veterans and the moderately skilled. As the game progresses, the variety of enemies threatens to push the limits of players.
This isn’t a mode in-and-of-itself. Once activated, the game’s speed is increased by 1.2x. When it comes to Devil May Cry, the pace is already expeditious. Accelerating it sounds bad on paper, but the execution is so good. The gameplay still feels fluid and perfectly under control. If I were so bold, I would not mind 1.2x being the default speed for this series.
The rest of the modes are returning from the base game. Players may enter the Void to practice combos and learn the attack patterns of each enemy. Meanwhile, Bloody Palace is intact, pitting us against waves of enemy minions and bosses. The goal is to reach floor 101, although the mode cycles you through the game’s increasing difficulty modes as you progress.
Human (easy) and Devil Hunter (normal) are the first difficulty modes players are faced with. Upon beating DH, Son of Sparda (hard) mode is unlocked. Each time you defeat one of the new modes, another opens up for all new challenges, and stronger enemies spawn earlier in the story. Dante Must Die (the name says it all) is the most difficult, where enemies will activate their own Devil Trigger if they’re not defeated quickly enough. That’s on top of their other enhancements.
Then there are gimmick modes to unlock. After beating SoS, Heaven and Hell mode is unlocked. Everything, including you, dies in one hit. Once players breeze through that, Hell and Hell mode presents us with one-hit deaths for our characters, but the enemies remain as tough as they are in SoS mode. Die three times in a mission, and you’re finished, and don’t rely on checkpoints. They’re gone.
What’s not to like
If I have to nitpick, I will go all-in on a few features I miss.
The Cameo System
In the base game, the cameo system is a gameplay mechanic that records a player’s gameplay and imports that into another game. The narrative has each character interacting at different times, and this system drops in cloned gameplay. Although it’s a small feature, I enjoy glimpses of the other characters struggling during their own journey while I’m slaying demons.
Vergil’s campaign does not utilize this. He is solo in his endeavor, so there is no reason to include the cameo system. I get it from that point of view, but this system is responsible for including a single, thrilling multiplayer mission. Players would no doubt love the chance to control Vergil while fighting demons with two other players.
Different character; Same Campaign… sort of.
The storyline for Devil May Cry 5 is a phenomenal chapter in the saga. However, Vergil’s inclusion reintroduces the same downside he always does: a lacking narrative. Though it is the same story, all cutscenes are gone, save for those specific to Vergil. There are a few added, but those are tacked on at the beginning and the end of the game. Therefore, there is no context to the entire journey, and you’ll be left wondering what is going on.
Special Editions are usually released with it in mind that the base game has been played. No doubt, the fan-base has torn through this content, so many players won’t bat an eye at it. While I personally don’t see this as a mark against the game, DmC: Devil May Cry released DLC to give Vergil his own story. It was short and nothing worth the praise I give the main series, but I would have liked to see something similar.
Added Bonus – Next-Gen Tests
DMC5:SE is more than just a game – it’s the perfect software to test the power of our consoles and TV sets/monitors. The game offers several graphical and performance modes, and I have spent plenty of time bouncing between them to get a decent look.
The options we’re given are:
4K, 30FPS with Ray Tracing turned On.
1080p, 60fps, with Ray Tracing ON.
4K, 60fps, Ray Tracing OFF
120 FPS, Ray Tracing OFF.
While I love the graphical improvements of Ray Tracing, this is a feature I use the least. Lighting effects and reflections add to the wow-factor, but a fast-paced game needs more frames! The second option pushes us up to 60 frames per second, but only at a 1080p resolution. It still looks gorgeous, but the loss of details will turn some players off. I will continue playing at 4K, 60fps until I’m ready to buy a television set that can truly utilize HDMI 2.1.
As for 120fps, ray tracing off, I experienced that at 1080p with my AOC C27G2 monitor. While it’s true some can’t tell the difference between 60 and 120, I am one of those people who notices. It is nothing to scoff at, and I look forward to the day this is the standard targeted frames per second.
It’s worth noting that the Legendary Dark Knight and Turbo modes automatically disable ray tracing.
Ray Tracing Off/On Example
Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition offers a variety of characters and modes to keep players busy until Capcom releases the next entry. Perhaps this will be a turning point and Vergil will be a playable character going forward? Or maybe there’s truth to the rumor that this is Dante and Vergil’s last outing. While Hideki Kamiya wanted the series to follow Dante’s descendants in each sequel, it’s hard to imagine the franchise without its signature characters. For now, we have this to tide us over until news of Devil May Cry 6 surfaces.
Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition was released digitally to coincide with the release of the Xbox Series X|S and Playstation 5. A physical edition will release December 1st. Vergil will arrive as separate DLC on December 15th, 2020 for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.