Dante’s Inferno Review
Game: Dante’s Inferno
Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available on: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (reviewed on Xbox 360)
Dante’s Inferno, widely named the God of War clone, perhaps starts a little on the back foot with some members of the gaming community dismissing the game before they have even given it a fair shake. I first played Dante’s at the Eurogamer Expo 2009, just after I had played the awesome God of War III demo. To say the games were similar would be a huge understatement! I remember thinking at the time if I had been told Dante’s Inferno was a special level in God of War III and that you had been fighting as a different character, I would have wholeheartedly believed it. The controls, the enemies and game mechanics seemed identical at the time. However that whole experience was based on a couple of short sections taken from game, it would be slightly unfair to judge Dante’s Inferno based just on them. Well, now the full game is here and, with it, a chance to give a more informed verdict. Does it rise proudly from the depths of hell or is it just damned forever? Read on for the full review.
STORY: Dante’s Inferno is loosely based on the poem Divine Comedy which sees Dante, a veteran of the third crusade, return from battle to find his fathers villa torn apart and his beloved Beatrice murdered. To make things worse Dante arrives just in time to see Lucifer drag his beloveds innocent soul down to hell. The story is told using a mixture of formats with the epic moments using pre-rendered cut-scenes, the not so important moments using the in-game engine and, finally, animated scenes showing Dante’s past.
The story telling in Dante’s Inferno is certainly a strong point mainly down to the way it is told. The transition between the different ways in which the story is told is smooth and I found it to be the most unique and interesting part of the game.
GAMEPLAY: Dante’s Inferno is an action game that will see you hacking, slashing and quick timing your way through hordes of hells dark minions. For the most part the action is reasonably good but never threatens to be great.
Dante has a couple of weapons at his disposal through out the entirety of the game, the cross he carries allows him to project holy light at his enemies from ranged whilst the scythe (claimed from the cold hands of death) enables the crusader to get in close with a wide range of melee attacks. Both weapons are bound to different buttons to allow for a quick change of attack during combat to rack up the combos and finally punish or absolve Dante’s foes. Once enough beating has been dealt out executions and, in some cases, quick time events take place to add some cinematic quality to the combat. I am a fan of well placed quick time events that keep the action going but for the most part in Dante’s Inferno the events are boring and re-used far too often to thrill past the first or second time.
The cross and scythe can be upgraded through holy and unholy talent trees. The scythe is Dante’s unholy weapon of choice and therefore new attacks, combos and improvements to the scythe appear in the unholy tree, whilst all upgrades for the cross are kept on the other side in the holy tree. Dante will have many opportunities through out the game to punish or absolve his foes and in doing so gain some souls to spend on new abilities. Punishing enemies of course gives unholy souls whilst absolving souls will redeem holy souls, at first I was mixing it up giving points to both tree’s but I soon got bored of the repetitive absolving of souls as it instigated a button bash event even on the smallest of foes. For most of the game I swiftly punished my enemies to save my fingers the trouble and to get on with the game.
A good opportunity for some extra souls comes in the form of famous people from the past that pop up every now and then, seemingly waiting to be judged by the crusader. Opting for punishment will cue a quick execution sequence, where as absolving will start a sort of “rhythm” mini-game where souls must be caught as they pass through a cross. The mini-game is a nice bit of fun away from the hack and slash action but it begs the question, why not include a mini-game for punishment? Another point to note is that the talent trees have tiers which are unlocked as Dante gains experience points. You would think that the higher the tree goes up the more powerful the abilities become but didn’t seem to be the case here. I was surprised to find the abilities available higher up such as an addition to the magic pool were tame and boring compared to some of the abilities found in the first few tiers.
Another good way to improve Dante as a combatant is to equip him with relics. Dante has three slots to hold relics which are found through out the game and they can improve Dante’s ability to fight in a number of ways with some absorbing a small percentage of incoming damage whereas others reduced the amount of magic consumed on attacks.
There are a decent number of differing opponents in the game to test Dante’s skill in combat with each requiring a different approach. Smaller enemies are just plain annoying as they take far too many hits to go down whilst larger enemies seem to take just the right amount of beating before an execution can ensue. For the most part enemies can be taken down with little fuss as long as Dante is agile on his feet dashing around to avoid attacks and striking at the right time. When the action gets a little hot Dante can activate a generic God mode called “redemption” which makes the crusaders attacks unblockable for a short period of time. The redemption bar is fuelled by attacks and does take a while to fill up, so it should be used wisely. The bosses in the game offer up slightly more of a challenge with special attacks and large health pools, the battles on show aren’t always spectacular but are mostly solid. The Lust and Lucifer encounters stand out with the latter bringing a some what epic end to the game, whilst the King Minos encounter is definitely one to miss.
To break up the combat puzzle sections are included but there is nothing revolutionary here. Some of the puzzles do need a bit of thought whilst others are gauntlets against time that have players rushing but never really have them puzzled, pardon the pun!
As a whole the gameplay is solid but never really pushes the envelope, there is definitely room to improve things here.
GRAPHICS: The art style in Dante’s is definitely adult oriented with a dark theme which is expected for a game that takes part in hell. There are nine circles of hell and as a “treat” we get nine flavours of more or less the same setting. There are some stand out settings like the gummy walls of gluttony but everything else seems to have been textured using a very dark grey brush.
Dante doesn’t do too much to brighten up the game and for a lead character he looks distinctly average, more should have been done to make the crusader stand out, all he does is add to the grey. Technically the graphics are average for this generation of consoles and no where near the beauty found in games like Unchcarted 2 and the upcoming God of War III. The pre-rendered cut-scenes offer a glimpse of what the game could have looked like but they soon disappear like Beatrice’s soul down into the circles of hell.
SOUND: The sound in the game is well presented and believable, it’s one area where the high production values are most evident.Voices match their characters well, with special mention going to John Vickery who produces a pretty good performance as Lucifer. Each descent further into hell is matched with fitting music to give scale to the world and make you feel like Dante is on an epic journey.
LONGEVITY: The game is pretty short clocking in at around 6-8 hours on an average playthrough which is roughly the standard for this type of game. EA are hoping to lengthen the life of the game with downloadable content which will offer co-op play and customisable challenge rooms. The DLC will keep fans of the game busy a little longer but only the most hardcore will find any true longevity from Dante’s Inferno.
VERDICT: Dante’s Inferno is a solid action game that tells an interesting story. The game never pushes the envelope in any respect and at times is bogged down with repetitiveness. That being said, the gameplay is solid enough and offers a decent overall experience which includes some enjoyable boss battles.
If you own a PS3 then Dante’s Inferno is a decent warm up for God of War III but for Xbox 360 owners this is as good as it gets, well for now anyway. Maybe it’s time to invest in one of those sleek black boxes?!