4th February 2010 - At any other time in the history of video games, if I were told that a company was making The Divine Comedy into a no-holds-bared action game I would have laughed mercilessly and shuddered at the thought of playing it. But after a few promising clips at game expo’s, Dante’s Inferno looked like a masterpiece in the making and a very unique side track to the years other big titles. However the premise of the whole thing still seemed like it was flawed for an action game. One way or another, the game wasn’t what was expected. Read on to find out whether it was for the good or the bad.
At first glance, Dante’s Inferno shows major similarities with games like God Of War and Darksiders. But where it sets itself apart from other ‘Heaven and Hell’ type games is that its not trying to be a completely original premise. Now, while that’s not usually a good thing, the reasoning behind Dante’s ensures it is nothing but great. The game is based on a heavily influential piece of Epic Poetry many of you will most probably not have heard of; The Divine Comedy. This centres around Dante, whom traverses the nine layers of Hell in search of his beloved Beatrice. Accompanied by only his pleasantly trusty guide, Vigil. Of course, a straight transfer of the text into an interactive media form would have been a recipe for disaster, so the minds over at Visceral Games buffed our brave hero up a bit, armed him to the teeth and sent him on his way with a little more of an attitude and an intolerance of peace than one would have expected. But the result was great, as Dante is now a hard-hitting piece of work to be reckoned with. Travel with him as he descends deeper and deeper into the darkest pits of Hell facing his own personal and inner demons along the way to saving his wife from the grip of the dark lord himself, Lucifer.
Dante’s Inferno starts out quite simple, casual and very, very easy. But venture yourself a layer or two down into Hell and it becomes apparent that you’re going to have to step up your game if you want to get out of here alive. The controls are simple to pick up, but as you progress and level your desired combat traits, you have to master quick button mashing combos and timing to overcome some of the more intimidating beasts that dwell in the shadowy realm of all that is evil. Basic two button melee combat becomes a battle of fast paced flippage and rippage, and an even more simple one button ranged attack can transform into a hellish slew of fiery combos and jaw-dropping manoeuvres by the end of the game. And speaking of levelling up, the further you descend into the abyss the more points you will be sure to rack up. Be they Holy or Unholy will decide on some of the choices you make during both combat and in deciding the fate of a little more than a few lost souls just waiting to be further judged for their so called sins. The different points you gather throughout reflects what upgrades and abilities you have access too, which can entice a further playthrough or two to satisfy your hunger of all things power.
But amidst all this great combat is something far more sinister; the camera. Given the right joystick controls Dante’s dodge move, you have absolutely no control over the camera for the duration of the game. This sometimes wont be a bother, as it sits at a particularly nice angle most of the time, but there’s still far too many times when you will curse its name. It can cut out enemies from battles, leaving you defenceless to their attacks as you fail to see them coming. It can crop off important pathways as you explore, leaving many-a-secrets uncovered. It can even make for some of the games few puzzles to become tedious as it seems to not like showing just what you should be aiming for.
However, the camera isn’t the only thing that will get on your nerves while playing this demonic adventure. There are what can only be described as far too many frustrating moments in this game, and the camera only helps to make matters worse. Certain battles can get tiresome with too many enemies, others can get tiresome with just a few overly difficult ones. And some of the games little fight-intermission challenges will also be sure to get to the heart of you with a sherraded edge of hate unless you manage to get your timing downpat and your reflexes trained to dodge a bullet.
Not too many games these days seem to include many, if any at all boss battles. Dante’s Inferno isn’t one of those, as this game pays tribute to action games of old by throwing a decent number of chew-up-and-spit-you-out bosses and sub-bosses. While there’s no doubt all nine layers of the underworld are awe-inspiring set piece after set piece, showing you just how messed up Dante’s Hell is, practically each and every one of these layers forces you into a head on battle with a demon of the dark. If not a boss, then some sort of unique gameplay variant that keeps you on your toes. But back to these hellspawn; every boss is a marvellous creation, ranging from giant behemoth women who’s nipples spew killer babies, to some quite nasty surprises that ill leave a secret, as to keep the games suspenseful atmosphere when presented.
One thing that could have really made this games gameplay stand-up to the adrenalin rush you get from fighting through the slew of aforementioned set pieces is a certain degree of puzzles and challenges. Dante’s Inferno does have a few intelligent puzzles here and there mind you, where they’re being ruined from bad camera angles that is. But given the amount, it really is a letdown. A few more intelligent puzzles here and there, are a few less patience-consuming time wastes would have been a superb addition, and would have really set the game apart from the rest.
For a game that spans throughout Hell and beyond, fire doesn’t seem to be such a pretty sight; very last gen. However, apart from a few little atmospheric effects here and there, and the transition of characters in and out of water, Dante’s Inferno is very much a cookie cutter in the graphics department; it doesn’t hit any Good spots, but doesn’t seem to express forth any signs of half-assed imagery and outdated visuals. For the gameplay side of things anyway…
During the games Cinematics, you will be on the floor in pure awe at the absolute beauty of each and every detail to each and every other details details - And that’s a lot of detail. By no means an exaggeration, as one look at one of the many wonderful cutscenes and you will instantly see that these are the best looking animated video game movies you have ever seen. You can see every individual hair, skin pore and more in the characters. In short, its too detailed to be put into words, but rest assured it’s as close as it gets to a phenomenon. Another mentionable would be that there isn’t one female character in the game who doesn’t get her top off at one stage or another, even the scaly, burned and downright ugly demonic ones.
Every layer of hell has its own array of minions of demon spawn, but even though so many separate models and characters, Visceral have certainly put amazing detail into the demons every aspect. Most are stomach-churning monsters, the stuff of nightmares, but even the lesser demons and common minions look great. It all goes into creating a great representation of Hell and really does wonders for the games atmosphere.
As you probably could have guessed, given the games hellish setting and dark atmosphere, Dante’s has a wonderfully dark score. It echoes through the unknown abyss like a wind chime in a desolate mental asylum on a dark night; frighteningly arousing, yet scarily eerie. It sets the mood perfectly.
As I mentioned rather heavily before about the cutscenes looking beautiful, they also sound good with Dante’s Inferno’s top notch voice acting, despite not having any notable cast members. The actors managed to get under the skin of their characters (in a good way) and really get into it with deeply emotional and believable acting.
The game has no multiplayer modes, and unless you brave the bottomless pits of the nether lords domain, nothing but a campaign. Beat the game, on any difficulty, and you get access to a sort of trial, of 50 waves of increasingly difficult enemy combinations. Sure, sounds familiar, but it doesn’t stop it from being quite enjoyable.
Although not always a bad thing for a game to have no multiplayer, Dante’s campaign clocks in at anywhere between 7-9 hours, depending on skill and exploration time, which seems to be average these days, but is still a woeful sight when it comes to the end of the game. Worry not though, as the game plays out almost as one continuous level, with only a subtitle distinguishing Hells layers, and this somewhat unique style really does make it seem a lot longer than it is, and still manages to get the pacing just right throughout most of the entire game.
If a campaign and an endurance trial still isn’t enough for, you may want to wait till Dante’s gets its first bit of DLC in a few months with The Trials of St. Lucia, which adds a few neat little surprises (read about The Trials of St. Lucia HERE).
Dante’s Inferno presents itself to be a solid gaming experience, but falls short of being anything spectacular. A lack of intelligent puzzles, a few too many frustrating moments, no more than an averaged sized campaign and some rather horrid camera angles (of which you have no control over) all bring the game down but ultimately the combination of a deep, personalised combat system, amazing set pieces, epic boss battles and all round awesomeness in the form a modern media take on a great piece of Epic Poetry overcome the games flaws to ensure its success. Fans of gore, nudity, demonology and heck, even poetry can bask in all that makes this game great as Dante’s Inferno throws together the best of all worlds to make itself a unique gem. To top off what makes this game great, Dante’s Inferno really does have one of, if not the best video game representations of Hell the gaming world has ever seen. Dante’s Inferno, at its core, is simply a game made from one of the best poetic writings of all time into an action filled adventure sure to please most.
AAG SCORE: 8.0/10
+Wonderful representations of The Divine Comedy, Hell and the Demons within
+No shortage of epic boss battles and set pieces throughout
+Very deep and well-rounded combat system
-Lacks an array of thought-provoking puzzles
-Certain battles and stages can become maliciously frustrating
-Lack of camera control gets atrocious far too often
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott