Dante's Inferno Review

Lee Abrahams

I doubt there are many epic pieces of literature that have been successfully turned into games, certainly not good games at any rate. So there were a few quizzically raised eyebrows when a game based on the famous Dante Alighieri poem, Divine Comedy - specifically the Inferno chapter - was first announced. Not that the idea of descending down through the nine circles of hell was not a good one, just that it was something that might well be lost in translation. In recent times though EA have shown a surprising skill at nurturing new franchises, so hopefully they can keep up that trend. Plus, I think a game featuring oodles of violence, action and a wee bit of nudity is always likely to entertain.

When deadly babies attack.

Developed by Visceral Games, Dante's Inferno is a title that has gone on and off of people's radar ever since it was announced, mainly because while people had their interest piqued by the idea, the game looked like little more than a thousand other action titles. The release date has not helped either, thanks to titles like Bayonetta and Darksiders recently hitting the shelves and considering the quality already on show, it would take something awesome for this game to catch up.

The story is not a word for word representation of Inferno itself, rather more of a reimagining. You play the titular Dante, off on the Crusades and not exactly covering yourself in glory. You return home to find your beloved Beatice dead and dragged off to the depths of Hell. Not wanting to let a little thing like death get in your way, you then take off after her. It is only as the game progresses that you learn the full extent of Dante’s folly through some impeccably presented cutscenes. Not to mention the diabolical schemes of Lucifer himself begin to unravel before you. Along the way you also run into some former friends and family that have also fallen from grace who might help or hinder your progress.

The presentation is spot on and the whole pacing of the game is perfect thanks to the ongoing plot moments, and some stunning set-pieces. You have a trusty guide in the form of the ghostly Virgil, who provides you with information about the various circles of hell and their denizens. While the majority of the game is action packed with Dante fighting off the demon hordes using his trust scythe and holy cross, there are also a number of puzzles on offer. Sadly none of them are exactly taxing and usually involve moving blocks, pulling levers or swinging from ropes. Still, it does break up the action heavy side of things and provide you with a chance to use the old grey matter.

An unfair fight. YOU have a scythe.

Once in combat you can get stuck in with the scythe, which has a variety of combos attached to it both on the ground and in the air. You can also use it to grab enemies for massive damage, of even absolve them for an added bonus – more on that in a moment. If you like to keep things at a distance then the cross provides your ranged option, and is also amazingly handy for removing aerial threats too. As you progress you will amass souls which can be used to learn new combos, abilities, magic spells and enhance your energy and mana reserves. Here though you have a choice, as you can follow the scythe-dominant unholy path or the cross-heavy holy one depending on how you treat your enemies and the damned alike.

Do enough damage to your foes in a fight and you have the chance to finish them off in a unique way, usually via a short quick-time button pressing sequence. You can either absolve their sins for a holy bonus or brutally punish them for an unholy one. In this way you can earn experience to open up more moves in each skill tree. You will also come across damned souls on your travels and can free or condemn them in the same way for bigger rewards. You might also stumble across a number of relics that can be equipped to boost experience earned, weapon damage and pain resistance – most of which can also be leveled up as you go along. Your progression is fairly well managed and you never feel too strong or too weak to deal with the foes at hand, though it does make sense to stick to one skill path to completion if you want to make life easier on yourself

So far so good, as the game looks and feels the part. The storytelling is spot on and the game has suitable epic voice-acting to match. The graphics look amazing in places, but too many shades of brown in others, it is as if hell only has a limited colour palate and this can make the environments seem somewhat repetitive. At least you can rely on epic boss fights to liven things up every once in a while though. It should also be mentioned that due to the content, this is strictly one for the adults to enjoy.

While the game seems to tick all of the right boxes, it really does fall down in one key area – lasting appeal. You can pretty much breeze through the game in about seven or eight hours and by that point you will have seem everything (including the dark lord's wedding tackle for some reason – a strange choice that one). There is an unlockable arena that sees you battling waves of enemies, but that is also far too short to be much more than a distraction. While the game might be fun, it really does suffer from being criminally short making it hard to recommend a full retail purchase.

When all else fails, get cross.

Sadly the achievements are fairly bog standard too and you will get pretty much everything in one play. The real issue here is that you will have to start a new game, thankfully allowing you to carry over your weapons and stats, simply to finish off leveling up all of the skill trees. It is a grind and one that could have been avoided thanks to a few locations with respawning enemies. However, the developers saw fit to make it impossible to get limitless experience and souls in these areas, because if you stay in one location too long, the enemies will stop giving out rewards. Great thinking. There are a number of collectables to pick up, but they are at least helpful and provide rewards of souls and experience, not to mention some natty accessories. Other than that you can just play through the game and snag the rest.

This is a game that I would heartily recommend, but only as a rental otherwise you may feel hard done-by. At a measly seven hours the game is fun while it lasts, but will leave you hankering for more, which is a shame considering the superb story and narrative. Action fans will have seen it all before, but you can't help but have fun along the way. At least the game bodes well for a possible sequel as the basic framework is great.

Good voice work, with decent lip synching too for once, though the soundtrack gets lost along the way. At times the score blends with the game perfectly and then other times, it just seems to be drowned out by the action.

Decent, but the various levels of hell all have a sameness about them that is disappointing, though there are a number of impressive set pieces that make the game stand out. The animated cutscenes are superb too and bode well for the forthcoming film.

A fun blend of hack and slash action with a few not-very-taxing puzzles thrown in for good measure. Not original, but fun nonetheless.

The presentation, story and mood of this game are spot on and make for a compelling experience. While all of the elements have clearly been done before, it all hangs together very well indeed. The only downside is the brevity of it all.

A fairly bog standard list with little in the way of innovation, barring one semi-missable offering. You will be able to romp to the full one thousand in under ten hours and it could have been even less if they had not capped the souls you can gain from re-spawning enemies - misers.

This is a good game, make no mistake about it, but it suffers from being far too short and easy. After one playthrough you will have seen everything the game has to offer barring the arena mode, which itself, only lasts about an hour once you are leveled up to the max. There may very well be co-op on the way, but by then everyone will already be done with the game. This is ideal rental fodder mind you and well worth picking up on that basis..

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