Dante’s Inferno – 360 – Review

The purpose
of gaming is simple – have fun. Dante’s Inferno is fun, and give Visceral Games
props for the graphical vision, but there is little about the game that is fresh
– aside from the look, that is.

The gameplay
is very much a case of been there, done that. It’s much like God of War (and
more recently Darksiders) from the numerous, swarming enemies to the restorative
founts within levels to the button-mashing elements of finishing sequences. Plus
it’s linear and repetitive. The difficulty ramps up as the controlled
titular character is guided deeper into the levels of hell but the final
portions of the game are more an exercise in objective-based combat rather than
a satisfying culmination of everything that went on before.

For anyone
living under a rock, Inferno is the first part of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century
poem, otherwise referred to as the Divine Comedy. But while the story was a
progressive journey that reflected the mores of the era, and to a greater extent
the conventions of humanity in general, Visceral Games has boiled the story down
to a device to further the more pronounced focus of the game – the combat.

In the
game’s lore, while on the Crusade, Dante is absolved of sin by a bishop, but
therein lays a pointed shot at the church and its man-centered (not
God-centered) power. An assassin stabs Dante in the back and the literary icon
is approached by Death. Death claims Dante because of his sins, but Dante vows
to redeem himself and fights Death, winning and claiming Death’s scythe in the
process. It is on the way home to his beloved Beatrice that Dante is visited by
a vision and there is a fine line between what follows and what may well be that
vision. He arrives home to find Beatrice murdered and taken to hell because,
essentially, Dante failed to keep his promises to her during the Crusade.

Dante, of
course, feels compelled to follow and descends to battle through the nine levels
of hell to find and free Beatrice. He finds some advice in the ghostly apparition of the Roman poet Virgil. But Virgil is not
the only character of note in the game. One of the first souls Dante encounters,
with the ability to either punish or absolve the character of sin, is Pontius
Pilate. There is also Orpheus and Electra, among the early characters found
trapped in the upper levels of hell. The choice to punish or to use Beatrice’s
crucifix to absolve leads to the role-playing elements and skilling up special
attacks – relayed through the attack keys. The more souls collected (by
destroying the various creatures of hell), the more experience is gained and
that translates to levels and new attacks. As enemies are killed a redemption
meter fills up. Once full, unleashing the power gives a temporary
boost to Dante’s resistance and allows him to do more damage in his attacks. The
rest of the attacks are pretty standard. There is the dash move, a block, a
light attack and a heavy attack. Special moves require mana, which is metered in
the heads-up display at the top of the screen under Dante’s health meter.

Dante is not
alone at times in his journey. Using Death’s scythe, he is able to mount various
beasts of hell, kill the rider and use the beast against other servants. The
game also has minor puzzles to solve – nothing that is too involved, though. Skilling up
allows Dante to buy powers in two trees – Holy Powers and Unholy Powers. There
are collectibles and relics that can also be collected and accomplishments.

The vision
of the game is, at times, disturbing, and the cut scenes seem crisp one moment
and then slightly less so the next time around. The narrative can sometimes be
slightly overwhelmed by environmental sounds, but when heard it invokes elements
from the poem, and is nicely handled. The musical score is also well done.

Much has
been made of some elements of the game, like the level where the unbaptized
babies – with arms that are more like sickles – attack, and it is somewhat
uncomfortable but this game is rated M for a reason.

Regardless of
how well imagined the game is
, Dante’s Inferno lacks originality in the overall gameplay
scheme. It is a new skin on more recent hack ‘n slash-style RPGs. The eight or so hours it will take to hack through to the
final boss battle is repetitive. Sure the vistas are grand, but too often the
fighting takes place in confined spaces. And as the game progresses, the vision
that mortified and appalled at the start seems to lose its edge. What begins as
a frenetic march to save the soul of a woman loved is undercut by a
condition-based battle sequence toward the end where Dante must succeed in a
certain way to advance. The game might have been better served – instead of
using this ploy – to merely up the ante and create a setting that was pure hell
in the sheer numbers and pacing. Nothing says fun like cramped fingers at the
end of a level.

Inferno has vision, but lacks scope and that makes it an average experience.
That it departs significantly from the book is excusable; that it merely mimics
God of War, to some extent, is on par with a lot of titles jumping on that
bandwagon. This is a game that
could have been more, but it settles for average.

Scoring Details

for Dante’s Inferno

Gameplay: 7
Been there – done
that. Veterans of God of War will be familiar with the gameplay mechanics
of this title. The camera can get hung up a few times, but generally the game is

Graphics: 8 
The cut scenes
are crisp in one break and not quite so in the next. But the overall vision is
disturbing and props should be given for the artistic direction. Whether
appropriate or simply the stuff of nightmares better left not visited, the
game’s visual elements will garner a lot of attention.

Sound: 7.5
The musical score
is solid and the narrative is decent. There are times, though, when
environmental elements slightly obscured the narrative and Virgil’s comments.

Difficulty: Medium
There are four
difficulty settings to challenge even hardcore players.

Concept: 7 
The gameplay
elements are based on God of War, and the story itself is a loose telling of the
classic poem (with a lot of creative license in place).

Overall: 7
The game starts
out with a bang, with vision and a challenge, and then becomes more of the same,
over and over. The bosses get tougher, the objectives are more defined, but
aside from going back and trying again at a tougher difficulty level, once
through the game, there is not much reason to go back. Dante’s Inferno is fun,
but it is hardly a unique experience.