Coming into Devil May Cry 5, you might think you've got the series' formula down pat. Been there, done that, got the t-ssshirt. But Capcom's triple-protagonist demon-slaying adventure, releasing on 8 March, has a few tricks up its sleeves.
Dante and Nero are present and correct, of course, with the latter gaining a new Devil Breaker prosthetic, replacing his mutated Devil Bringer forearm. Set a few years after Devil May Cry 2, which ended with Dante's fate uncertain, the game opens with the player controlling Nero, getting to grips with a few new abilities - moves and skills created by his tech-minded travel companion, Nico. Much later, in the tenth mission, we reconnect with Dante, complete with his Devil Trigger power-up and all the rest of it.
Between these two series stalwarts, though, comes V. Introduced as a playable character in the fourth mission, he changes everything about how to play a Devil May Cry game - or, taking a wider perspective, any title within this hack-and-slash niche of the action genre.
Markedly weaker than Nero and Dante, V walks with a cane, his slender arms and torso covered in a scrawl of tattoos. He has the appearance of a forgotten sixth member of The Horrors, who packed it in when said band started messing with psych-rock to join a Fields of the Nephilim tribute act. Unlike the game's other two heroes, V has nothing devilish in his blood. He is 100% human, his bones breaking just as easily as yours or mine. But he sure knows a thing or two about otherworldly powers.
When was the last time you read a book, in an action game, to overcome your enemies? It's not exactly a common sight; but in Devil May Cry 5, V will regularly pause to read from some kind of occultish tome, powering up his own Devil Trigger. When it maxes out, his hair turning white in the process, he can summon a huge golem-like creature, Nightmare, to blast away nasties with laser-like beams, or crush them with its enormous fists.
Devil May Cry 5 - Nightmare
And while Nightmare's unavailable, V has two faithful familiars to do his dirty work. As a human, and a seemingly frail one at that, it's important to maintain distance between V and his adversaries. He'll always have to get in close for a killing blow; but enemies are weakened by his companions, the panther Shadow and bird-like chatterbox Griffon.
These allied demons use close-quarter and ranged attacks respectively, but can take damage while V is staying out of harm's way. And when they do, V must be moved, carefully, to where they've fallen, to get them back in the fight. It makes for a compelling combat model that I don't recall having played around with before - where your character can't really get stuck in, but instead controls other avatars, to take the fight to the enemy.
Devil May Cry 5 - Shadow
Enigmatic and guarded, V would be an exciting new addition to the Devil May Cry cast even if he played in a manner similar to his co-stars. But by completely tearing up the action rulebook for his moveset, and making vulnerability an asset, Devil May Cry 5 achieves a freshness that those earliest, pre-V trailers never suggested.
And his inclusion means that even the most hardened DMC fan will have to tackle something wholly alien to their previous experience and expectations - stages and situations where the usual power-fantasy butch protagonist is, brilliantly weirdly, a pale skinny dude with his nose in a book.
Devil May Cry 5 releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on 8 March.
Featured Image Credit: Capcom