The idea of taking a literary and religious piece of art and making it into a video game doesn’t seem like it would shape up to something good or remotely playable. However EA and Visceral, the developers behind the ever popular Dead Space, have taken up the task of transforming Dante Aligiri’s Divine Comedy and delivering it to the masses in all its gruesome and terrifying glory. But as fate, or perhaps other powers that be, would have it, Dante’s Inferno isn’t the masterpiece we all hoped to see.
Highly publicized and touted in the developer diaries are the environments that Dante finds himself passing through. These are the same environments from the book itself and Visceral certainly lives up to its name sake. Stunning in both their brutality and scope, the Nine Rings of Hell certainly make the experience of visiting the halls of the damned worth it. Souls and their tortures are depicted with vivid detail and can make one cringe at certain viles that only Hell would contain. One thing that is missing however from these gruesome sights is the sense of scale. As a game that has been dubbed a “God of War clone” it tries to simulate the same sense of grandness, if there is any to be found in Hell, but falls short at the points where you are clearly meant to. The camera will try to mimic the well placed pans and photo ops but ultimately cuts short the spectacle of where you are to refocus on Dante. But given how much is actually going on in the environments the game manages to stay locked at 60 frames per second with no screen tearing.
The control scheme for the game is very simple and straight forward; it’s pretty much ripped right out of God of War. That is not to say that it’s a bad thing, God of War has an extremely solid combat system and Inferno adds features to the system to make it its own. Attacks from the scythe that move into attacks with the Holy Cross are smooth and keep the combo counter active. A minor annoyance however is the targeting system for the cross, there is none. When using the Cross you have to hope that the attack will hit the guy next to you and not spin Dante in the other direction to get himself killed. What it lacks in targeting it makes up for in spread, hitting a wide area to hopefully net your target. The combat tree is laid out in front of you and is very straight forward. As you gather souls from fallen enemies you can purchase different combat moves and stat upgrades. However you need to attain a certain level of either Holy or Unholy to buy the more powerful attacks and upgrades. You can do this by either absolving or punishing specific Shades or minions along the way. Playing through the game once, it is not possible to level both the Unholy and Holy paths completely. This can be a bit of a problem depending on your direction, so make sure you choose which way you want to go before you invest your skills on one side.
Throughout the game you will have the opportunity to find hidden relics and treasures. This adds more variety and style to how you play the game. They are also extremely useful in passing some of the more difficult areas so it is encouraged that you look high and low for these. They aren’t always the most obvious but they are never incredibly hard to find either. A mechanic within the game that quickly wore out its welcome was the constant need to hit the circle button. Visceral seems fascinated with the ability to rapidly press a single button for a short span of time and have the player repeat it several hundred times throughout the game. It becomes tedious and highly annoying as doors, absolve abilities, and health fountains all require you to pound the same button countless times. Dante’s dodge ability can become downright unreliable. Besides moving the right stick forward, moving the stick in any other direction will have Dante dashing in a general direction instead of a pinpoint place. This can be a hassle with limited fighting arenas and swarming baddies limiting the movement space. The level of difficulty offered to you in the beginning of the game is properly labeled. Playing the game on Hellish (hard) certainly seemed like more of a work of painful frustration than a tougher setting. Enemies do considerably more damage and seem to be impervious. Unless you are one of the diehard difficulty fans, it is recommended that Zealot (normal) be the level of your first play through. Also there is no trophy to properly justify trying the harder difficulties.
As you all know by now the story of Dante’s Inferno has Dante traveling through the Nine Circles of Hell to save his love, Beatrice. Inferno combines three different story telling techniques that never really mesh and ultimately create a jumpy, blocky story telling experience. One form, flashbacks, are told on the fabric of the Dante’s chest in the style of animated cartoons. The freedom and art style the developers used is praise worthy as it captures the elements of the game quite nicely. The second form, cinematics, fleshes out the surrounding environment in great detail. These scenes are stunning in that they capture the horrors around Dante with clarity. The final style, are the in-game cinematics. These are the conversation pieces of the story that make you realize that everything was more about bringing the environments to life rather than the characters. The story progresses at a satisfying clip with commentaries from Virgil, your ghostly guide, giving the next ring a little bit of context and substance for those unfamiliar with the story. Depending on who you are you will ultimately decide how interesting the story is. The religious background and setting of the story is certainly one of great interest to some and even scary for others. Inferno’s ending is much like that of the book which can be either a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it.
Dante’s Inferno is certainly a great game for those who are fans of the genre. Hack N’ Slash games have not been too prevalent in the gaming world so with the introduction of Dante’s Inferno, it’s a nice experience. For those who are looking for their next game to pick up, Dante’s Inferno should be taken into consideration. Visceral went out on a limb in applying their skills to an old piece of historical text but the risk was worth it. They managed to create a worthwhile story and keep the combat from becoming too tedious or overwhelming. Even though it has its rough spots Dante’s Inferno is certainly worth a look at. Dante’s Inferno gets a Worth a Buy.