Dante's Inferno Review
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Feb 09, 10
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Game developers look for inspiration anywhere these days: novels, comic books, movies, science-fiction short stories, science-fiction long stories, short tales with fantasy elements subsequently adapted into lengthy science-fiction stories, and, well I seem to have lost track of what I was about to say. The point is, after all that has popped up on the gaming scene it's no surprise Visceral Games (creators of the survival-horror game Dead Space) would choose Dante Alighieri's epic poem The Divine Comedy as the groundwork for their game Dante's Inferno. Frankly, we're amazed this setting wasn't utilized sooner. In any case, it won't be the first time gamers get to battle the forces of Hell. So, let's get started.
The hero of this hellish tale is Dante, a knight from the crusades, whose corrupt soul and immoral actions tossed him into a series of dramatic events. Upon his return home, Dante discovers his beloved Beatrice murdered and dragged to Hell. Refusing to admit defeat, Dante seizes Death's mighty soul-reaping scythe (*POOF* just like that, ha!) and marches forth to rescue Beatrice. The hero heads out on a most extraordinary journey through the afterlife, at the same time confronting his terrible dark past and many evil deeds he carried out in his lifetime.
Be at peace, you ugly bastard!
Have I ever told you how gorgeous your chin looks?
Not to spoil things too much, as the more perceptive among you have already gathered, you'll be fighting your way through the Nine Circles of Hell, which are divided thus: The Surface, Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery. Each of these areas has been forged for the purpose of dealing out devious methods of torture for sinners (don't miss the brochure on your way in). Judging from what you can see in the game, countless souls are being hurled into the Underworld to receive punishment for the crimes and sins they've committed. I kid you not, this is one of the most gruesome and, yes, realistic representations of Hell I've ever set my eyes on.
Incredibly appealing art, spine-tingling atmosphere and damn fine visuals were some of the first things I noticed about Dante's Inferno, at least while playing the Xbox 360 version (haven't tried the PS3 edition). Clearly people with a lot of talent created what appears to be an extremely meticulous depiction of Alighieri's descriptions of the Nine Circles of Hell. What fascinated me the most were all those convincing screams and shrieks of anguish. It's easy to think these are real cries of people who have been condemned to suffer for all eternity. In short, I have nothing bad to say about the visuals or the sound. Voice acting is pretty good too and adds a fine touch to the overall presentation.
After about two seconds of playing Dante's Inferno, the first words out of your mouth will most likely going to be: "OMG, not another God of War rip-off!" You'd be spot on in thinking so. This game is more of a clone of God of War 2 than some of the recent titles we've experienced, such as Darksiders: Wrath of War or Bayonetta. A lot of the fighting, combos and boss sections are very reminiscent of Sony's PlayStation-only franchise. For this simple reason you're either going to approve of what's on offer, because you enjoy hack'n'slashers like God of War or you'll shun the game for delivering almost no innovation to that particular genre. You slice through hordes and hordes of hellish minions, absorbing three types of souls: souls that regenerate health, souls that regenerate mana and souls used as sort of a currency to invest into new combos. There are two progress bars indicating how many souls Dante has consumed. Every time he consumes a soul, he's given a choice to absolve sinners or punish them. Depending on the choice, he then accumulates 'Unholy' points or 'Holy' points, eventually unlocking more powers. It's all quite standard. There's also a variety of items (most are tougher to acquire than others), which can be used to boost damage or enhance Dante's existing skills.
As far as the action goes, Dante's Inferno provides a satisfying range of combat abilities, special moves and magic. What's more they are very easy to memorize, unlike in games like Darksiders, Devil May Cry or Bayonetta where there's absolutely no chance of remembering all moves (it's impossible, people). Coincidentally, that's where the advantages of this game stop. The three aforementioned games are superior to Dante's Inferno in every other way.
The problem with this game is that the gameplay rarely varies from the usual tearing and smashing through armies of baddies. Sporadic platform sections were included, as well as negligible puzzle areas. Other than that, it's all action, action and more action. Normally, I wouldn't object to this if the action got progressively interesting throughout the Nine Circles. Well, it doesn't. The more you play Dante's Inferno, the less you become involved with the gameplay mechanics. It's just one swarm of foes after another, one boss fight after another. Fraud is an exceptionally dull and frustrating portion of the game, where the developers clearly ran out of ideas and hastily threw together a bunch of specific challenges (killing a certain amount of enemies until the clock runs out, kill all enemies using specified moves, etc.). Seems okay when you start, but as you drag yourself towards the 9th and 10th challenge, you'll be supremely annoyed. So that's a major notch down for unimaginative level design.
The action, mature content and top-notch presentation keeps you going as you pass what's probably one of the most sinister and realistic depictions of the Underworld in the history of gaming;
Little has been achieved by this title as you make your way through the Nine Circles of Hell you become less interested in Dante's journey.