I gotta admit, I wasn’t all that hyped for DEVIL MAY CRY 5.

I never knew much about the series and I was never a particular fan of character action games. Sure, I played the much-derided reboot. I even enjoyed it, but I never really thought much about the franchise.

Then I watched the reveal trailer for DEVIL MAY CRY 5, and everything changed.

In an instant, without ever touching the game, I was immediately obsessed with it. I tore through playthroughs, delved into the history of the franchise, and probably played the demo a dozen times. How did that happen?

For me, it all comes down to style.

When we talk about “style” in games, we’re talking about everything that surrounds the gameplay. The tone, the characters, the atmosphere, the music: it all comes together to create a unique style. Style is a game’s first impression, it’s how you win over fans long before the game comes out. Most importantly, it’s what sets your game apart from others.

DEVIL MAY CRY 5 is defined by its style. It’s absolutely dripping with personality, and it’s a testament to how art, atmosphere, and character are just as important as gameplay.

So how does DMC 5 develop its unique style? Why should we care? What can other games learn from the series? Well, let’s take a look!

The World of DEVIL MAY CRY 5

Within minutes of starting DEVIL MAY CRY 5, the tone is set perfectly. We see Nero playfully bickering with his buddy Nico, a chain-smoking, RV-driving super-genius with a corny southern accent.  They speed through the streets of a fictional London when all of a sudden they’re beset by demons.

What follows is a slow-motion fight scene packed with action, humor, and beautiful choreography. The scene ends with an anti-smoking PSA, breaking the fourth-wall without taking you out of the experience. It inserts a hint of wholesomeness into an otherwise violent fight scene.

This Is DEVIL MAY CRY 5

Welcome to a world where demons invade modern cities. A world where motorcycles are weaponized, where the only thing stopping the apocalypse is a trio of hot boys. This is DEVIL MAY CRY 5, and it’s freaking insane.

DEVIL MAY CRY 5 Style
Our heroes, fresh off the runway. Image courtesy of Capcom.

The tone of DEVIL MAY CRY is at the core of its popularity. It gives the series an identity that’s uniquely its own. Gameplay is integral to the success of any game, but it only gets you so far. If you were to change the tone of DEVIL MAY CRY, it would be unrecognizable. Plenty of games share similar gameplay, but it’s their style that sets them apart.

For example, let’s look at THE ELDER SCROLLS: OBLIVION and FALLOUT 3. Both are popular games released around the same time, from the same company, with similar gameplay. But you’d never confuse one for the other.

They each have their own unique world with their own unique tone. In fact, the world helps inform the gameplay. Where a gun would be out of place in Tamriel, rocket-propelled nukes make perfect sense in FALLOUT. Developers use these cues to create interesting mechanics. Having a clear, passionate vision for your world is key to creating an interesting game.

But it’s one thing to make a unique world. It’s another thing to sell it. That’s the key to DEVIL MAY CRY 5.

Treading The Line

On the one hand, it’s clearly aware of how silly it is. The game never takes itself too seriously, and it doesn’t expect you to either. On the other hand, it never comes off as sarcastic or overly ironic. If nothing else, DEVIL MAY CRY 5 is genuine: it presents a world that is completely ridiculous but is confident in its own absurdity. There’s no winking at the camera or mocking its own premise. This is another world, and I want to be a part of it.

You can make a game about almost anything. Your world can be as crazy and unrealistic as you want. The key is to be confident in your creation, and consistent in your delivery.

But style goes beyond tone and worldbuilding. To really set yourself apart from the pack, you need to dig a little deeper.

The Music of DEVIL MAY CRY 5

This probably goes without saying, but the music in DEVIL MAY CRY 5 is amazing. I know some of the character themes are divisive, but I love all three. From Devil Trigger’s hype chorus to Crimson Cloud’s eerie vocals, each song is brilliant. Hell, even Subhuman gets my head banging. Each song is enthralling, sucking you into the mindset of the characters, and making you a part of their world.

DEVIL MAY CRY 5 Style
This is demon-slaying music. Image courtesy of Capcom.

Good music enhances the atmosphere. It plays with your emotions and sinks you deeper into the world. When I listen to Crimson Cloud, I feel like an angsty goth kid. Devil Trigger makes me feel like a rebellious teen.

These songs are shamelessly indulgent. They play with your inner adolescent and put you in the perfect head space for the game.

A Visual Masterpiece

But when it comes to style in games, what you see is just as important as what you hear.

DEVIL MAY CRY 5 is visually stunning and this goes beyond graphical quality. There’s an artistry to this game that you may not initially notice.

I touched on this earlier, but I can’t stress enough how great the choreography is in this game. Cutscenes are action-packed, each fight scene a highly detailed dance of death. This series can make picking up the phone an exciting moment. You rarely go a few moments without something cool happening on screen. From intense car stunts to insane acrobatics, DEVIL MAY CRY 5 is full of enthralling cutscenes.

As you walk through the ruined streets of Redgrave City, you get the sense that this was a living, breathing town. The city feels dense, detailed, and, most importantly, lived in. You see ice cream stands and department stores. You travel through abandoned bars, mansions, and apartment buildings. All the while, the streets are littered with the ashen corpses of citizens, frozen in time like statues.

DEVIL MAY CRY 5 style
The city is full of life, yet the shadow of death is everywhere. Image courtesy of Capcom.

Honestly, my only problem with the environments is that they left me wanting more. The levels become a bit repetitive toward the end, but even so, the amount of detail is staggering.

It Goes Deeper

But Capcom didn’t stop there. Every weapon has its own style and identity. They each tell a story through their design. Even the clothing is meticulously designed, using each character’s sense of fashion to give you a sense of who they are. In just a glance, you know what to expect from V. One look at Dante, and you know what kind of person he is.

This isn’t an accident. For decades, games have used art to brand their characters, to cement them in your mind. Take a look at the characters from STREET FIGHTER and break them down to their core components. Even if you barely know anything about the series, you’ll probably recognize a few of these shapes. This is all intentional, the result of a skilled and passionate art team.

Of course, many players won’t notice any of this, at least not consciously. This is DEVIL MAY CRY 5. We came here to slay demons, not stare at the scenery. But that’s the beauty of a good atmosphere. You don’t need to stop the action to appreciate it. It’s all around you, sucking you deeper into the game whether you realize it or not.

The Point

It’s easy to assume that games are all about gameplay. To be fair, they definitely rely on interactivity. But without the context, without the style, what are we left with? Mashing buttons without direction or satisfaction. This is why style matters in gaming. It’s how developers draw you into the game. DEVIL MAY CRY 5 is the perfect example of how style can enhance a video game.

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