Gloriously juvenile ... Devil May Cry 5’s V, Nero and Dante.

PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4; Capcom
High-octane challenges in this irresistible romp have resurrected an action series that’s been dormant for over a decade

Despite appearances, this frenetic, over-the-top action game about sexy demon hunters isn’t just another power fantasy. Instead, as you hack your way through the hellish hordes and survive intense battles with single foes of unparalleled ferocity, you’ll realise it’s all about self-improvement, about rising to meet the high-octane challenges before you, and doing it in style. Devil May Cry 5 has the confidence to give you tools, show you your foes, and say: if you think you can do this, then step up and prove it.

The combat itself is a spectacle. It looks chaotically hack-and-slash at first glance, but you’ll soon find that to truly be SSStylish, you’ll need to master efficiency, variety, and precision. Reading enemy movements or trapping them in unending combos is of paramount importance, with defensive options relatively strict in their timing; you can’t get by just wildly hammering attacks and trusting your reactions (though there are difficulty-mediating options for first timers).

At first it looks like DMC5 – which resurrects an action series that’s been dormant for over a decade – might be a bit too self-referential for newcomers, though in truth “there’s a big demon tree and you need to kill it” is all the plot you really need to know. It’s a fun, pulpy romp, aided by quippy writing, sharp action-movie direction and surprisingly emotive character work courtesy of Capcom’s RE Engine. For those who do remember them, though, the story is packed with callbacks to the older Devil May Cry games (the 2013 DmC reboot is politely ignored, though stylistic influences remain).

You might start out feeling overwhelmed, but the difficulty curve is such that it isn’t long before you’re dancing between demons in a single free-flowing combo, bullets flying, sword periodically bursting into flames. Given the dizzying complexity of possible inputs – iconic protagonist Dante can swap guns, melee weapons and combat styles on the fly – it’s astounding how good the game is at training you to play it. Even new character V, who uses summoned beasts in a genre defined by direct, immediate control of your fighter, feels surprisingly agile, fluid, and fun to use.

Earlier Devil May Cry games tended towards the cartoonish, but here every enemy is a grotesquely detailed monstrosity, every attack a flurry of glowing, dazzling particles. It all looks extremely pretty, but can also hurt combat readability, especially when you’re trying to come to grips with new foes. A similar issue arises with the level design: every environment, whether grey crumbling ruin or fleshy body-horror landscape, looks so immaculate that it’s occasionally difficult to tell which parts are purely aesthetic and which you can interact with.

Beyond the fighting, some of DMC5’s peripheral elements feel bolted on. There’s a multiplayer cameo feature where other players’ fights play out in the background, which is cool but inconsequential, a bare-bones training room, and a gacha-esque shop where you can spend real money on in-game cash (though thankfully you probably won’t really need to). But the core of the game – the style and the substance – is rock-solid.

DMC5 is a lot like Dante himself: older, grizzled, more experienced, yet still unapologetically juvenile in the best possible way. It’s bloody, spectacular and irresistible, all cheesy one-liners, guns, swords and explosions while guitars scream in the background, and it plays like a dream. Director Hideaki Itsuno and his team have delivered: Devil May Cry is back.

  • Devil May Cry 5 is out 8 March; £39.99.