Sometimes, style really does make up for a lack of substance.
When people talk about a game that has style – in that low, almost jazz-like tone that indicates everyone else is missing out somehow – chances are you’ll hear Devil May Cry crop up a little. What that means in practical terms, at least for Devil May Cry 5, is the absurd, over-the-top cutscenes, with music synced up to ridiculous twists and turns as Dante, Nero and co. weave their weapons through one demon after another.
But perhaps the best way to explain DMC 5‘s style is through Nico, the engineer of the crew.
For those unaware, Nico is the granddaughter of a legendary gunsmith, the same one who fashioned Dante's pistols. She's armourer and support mechanic to Nero and V, occasionally chiding V's pet demon crow with thick Southern accent, and occasionally geeking out over demon appendages left on the battlefield.
It's a mutually beneficial relationship for Nico. But that relationship means that Nico often gets called into weird places and weird situations. So when the whole world turns to shit and someone needs a demon power-up or to save the day, Nico finds a way.
The entrances serve not just as a mini mid-level cutscene, but also light comic relief. And as the levels go deeper, the circumstances of her entry get more absurd. Perhaps the best comes mid-way through the game, and stars V's sassy crow Griffon.
For whatever reason, Griffon feels the urge to play while waiting for V. So the crow nicks V's demonic walking stick and flies around for a little, only for Nico's van to come hauling through.
Nico had already joked about cooking the talkative Griffon like a small chook, so seeing the crow dodge a flying campervan as it flips and rolls (without taking any visible damage, I might add) adds another element to it all.
It's a nice way of breaking up the monotony of the levels, which truth be told, aren't that great. The moment-to-moment slicing and dicing of DMC 5 is all well and good - it's what the series does best - but the design of the levels is pretty formulaic, and not in an inspirational way.
Ninja Theory's reboot of Devil May Cry suffered from this as well, but it was smarter about it narratively. With Kat as a medium explaining Limbo, DmC at least had a sensible hook for why you were suddenly braced with invisible walls. And some of the levels were genuinely entertaining in their own right, like Lillith's nightclub.
But DMC 5 is the sort of game that you make concessions for. It's the price you pay for a weird, unique game that involves wise-cracking arseholes slaying a ton of demons in incredibly fashionable ways.
And, as it turns out, the world's best mini-van driver.