Looking in from the outside, Devil May Cry’s Dante doesn’t seem like anything unique. He’s another roguish and charming anti-hero, firing off cheesy one-liners and making light of the latest big bad looking destroy this, that, and the other. But for fans of the character, and the series at large, Dante is also a character that is defined by gameplay.
While the earlier entries in Capcom’s action series focused heavily on his attitude, with some added spice thanks to a set of stylish abilities and moves, it wasn’t until Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening that the character really came into his own. In this game, Dante was at his most complex and interesting. This wasn’t because of some narrative revelation, it was ultimately still a game about slicing and dicing demons, but because doing this effectively was an incredibly involved, demanding task. But those that managed to put the pieces of DMC3’s combat systems together discovered a character that felt exciting, nuanced, and thoroughly satisfying to control.
Like Devil May Cry 4 before it, the fifth entry in the mainline series builds on the Dante that was established in DMC3. Although Dante is older, rougher, and a little more rugged, his prowess in combat remains just as sharp. He still has the four distinct fighting styles at his disposal; Swordmaster allows him to use his melee weapons with an expanded moveset, Gunslinger makes every projectile fired from his arsenal of firearms more deadly, Trickster gives him increased acrobatics ranging from dashes and extra jumps to a teleport that hones in on enemies, and Royal Guard allows him to absorb incoming damage and return in with greater lethality.
Individually, these four style give distinct flavours to the gameplay experience when you’re in control of Dante. They can cater to different types of players, ranging from those that like to play the distance game, to the duck-and-movers, to the reckless attackers. However, the real fun lies in stringing it all together; finding the abilities that naturally create openings to switch between styles, back and forth until you’re dancing around the battlefield launching enemies around, rending them in two up close, and shredding them with a hail of bullets from afar.
Devil May Cry 5’s version of Dante is incredibly satisfying to play as and, for longtime fans of the series, it feels familiar. At Tokyo Games Show 2018 I got to play the game for a few hours and, within minutes muscle memory started to kick in. Some of it from Devil May Cry 3 and 4, others from fighting games such as Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, where Dante was also playable and just as complex to control.
Perhaps the most obvious, and biggest addition, is a new weapon called Cavaliere. This is a motorcycle that breaks into two buzzsaw-like blades that are surprisingly versatile. The Cavaliere’s attacks are quite slow, with drawn out swings that sweep across the battlefield around Dante, catching multiple enemies and trapping them in place as the blades tear into them. They feel almost like a Monster Hunter weapon: slow, methodical, and demanding of smart timing. However, what they proved to be most effective for was creating a little bit of time that can be used to plan a few moves ahead. While the Cavaliere are slowly shredding enemies, you have the time to think about what the best style to switch to next is, and the weapon you should pair with the style to keep the momentum going. It’s a fantastic way of slowing down the breakneck pace of combat for those that aren’t able to bash out long strings of button presses for minutes on end.
In the video above, you can see some of this in practice. While I wasn’t exactly optimizing movement and abilities to do the most damage possible and ratchet up the combo in each encounter, I managed get comfortable enough with to get an overall ranking of S for the mission, and show off some of what he’s capable of along the way. Devil May Cry 5 launches for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on March 8, 2019.