Gamers can now go to Hell with Dante Inferno, Visceral Games and Electronic Arts ; action-based take on the Divine Comedy. But is it worth the trip? Find out in our review.
Dante's Inferno Review
Should you raise some hell with this action game?
by Jeff Haynes
February 3, 2010
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When planning a videogame, classical literature isn't the first source material that comes to mind. For centuries, the Western concept of the afterlife has been framed by Dante's The Divine Comedy, which terrified and enraptured people with its journey through the lands of the dead. After all, wandering through bleak environments and simply talking to suffering people doesn't sound like engaging videogame material. Then Visceral Games and Electronic Arts came along, adding an action premise and some poetic license to create the game, Dante's Inferno. While it is a visually striking tour of Hell itself, the gameplay feels derivative, like a weaker version of God of War. This repetitive quality, combined with significantly flawed combat, keeps the game from being a truly great experience.
At its core, the story of Dante's Inferno is about a man's fight to save the woman he loves. Dante is a young crusader who becomes disenchanted with war and returns to his fiancée Beatrice in Florence. When he arrives, he finds his house destroyed and Beatrice lying dead outside. Even worse, as he approaches, Lucifer appears and steals away her soul, dragging her screaming into the depths of Hell. Dante chases them through the circles of Hell, trying to save his love before she is lost forever. He faces his own sins and mistakes before a final showdown with the fallen angel.
Check out our Video Review here.
As you might expect, this isn't exactly a faithful interpretation of the literary masterpiece, but the pursuit of Beatrice drives the action of the game forward and presents a goal for the player to hack, blast and carve a path through hell for. The story is told creatively, with a mixture of in-game cutscenes, CG movies for dramatic plot points, and animated sequences, primarily for the demonstration of personal sins. This approach is unique and mostly effective, although there are moments when the shift from CG or animated scenes to in-game scenes can be too abrupt and jarring.
Now, any game with levels based around the sins found in the Divine Comedy is likely to have its mature moments. Dante's Inferno literally pushes the Mature rating to its most extreme point, as you'll pass scenes of souls being tortured, loads of violence, and plenty of male and female nudity from level to level. Obviously, this is not a game for kids, but much of what you see is appropriate for a game that tries to explore the extreme nature of Hell and its punishments. At times, you do feel sorry for the people and creatures trapped there. On the other hand, there are times when the game seems to include things just for shock value – like monsters that project human genitalia as a ranged attack.
Prepare to hack and slash through some twisted creatures.
Combat is a key component of any action game, and Dante's Inferno is no different. Dante primarily uses his scythe to hack through demons and other malevolent creatures that get in his way. He can also wield the power of the cross as a ranged attack to keep monsters at a distance. When you destroy a beast, you acquire its soul. If you're thinking it sounds like God of War, you're not too far off. In fact, if you've played any one of Kratos' adventures, you'll be able to pick up and play through the Inferno with no problems.
The game gives soul collection a new twist with the holy and unholy meter. When attacking an enemy, you can perform a finishing move that lets you "judge" a creature. Perform a Punishment by destroying them with your scythe and you'll earn Unholy points. Absolve their spirit by blasting them with your cross and you'll earn Holy points. Collecting points helps you to gain levels and purchase new attacks and abilities. As a result, you can customize your Dante's skills based on how you like to play and get additional boosts by collecting relics. These are holy and unholy relics that provide unique bonuses like regenerative magic, increased damage, or evasion enhancement
Dante's Inferno Review
Should you raise some hell with this action game?
by Jeff Haynes
February 3, 2010
Submit Tweet Share +1 Share
You will also have the opportunity to punish or absolve historical figures, like Pontius Pilate, who were damned to hell for their sins in life. You can earn Holy or Unholy points based on what you do to these characters, but you'll get much bigger benefits by saving them. Choosing to absolve a historical figure starts up a mini-game where their "sins" float towards one of four icons on a cross. By timing your button presses with the icons, you can purge their transgressions and receive many more souls than if you punish them. Think of it like "Hungry Hungry Sin-Eating Hippos," if you will. Even stranger, you can add special stones to your cross which will "auto-absolve" the damned, but automatic absolution doesn't earn as many souls as actually playing the mini-game.
With so many options, the combat system seems incredibly deep, and it does allow you to come up with creative ways to chain together attacks to destroy your enemies, especially when you start mixing cross and scythe attacks together. Unfortunately, at least 70 percent of your enemies can be eliminated with a single button press. When you finally get around to fighting stronger foes, you can kill most of them off with a simple combination of basic attacks. You never really need to use those complex button sequences for new attacks that you buy with your souls. Overall, you'll still enjoy the combat, and the game is still fun to fight through. This is especially true when you're slashing your way through the more unique demons on each circle and discovering some of their "specialized" attacks. But it is possible to button mash your way through fights, especially once you acquire magic to restore your health and relics that regenerate your magic.
If the challenge sequences were included earlier, this would've been an awesome action game.
The game does eventually send you into some very specialized attack situations, but these feel radically out of place. Near the end of Dante's Inferno, you'll have to go through 10 separate challenges, each of which requires different battle tactics and a greater use of combinations than ever before. It would've been awesome to include these tests in each level; for example, add a new challenge to the Gluttony level by making Dante's health constantly drain because the level is so disgusting. But cramming the challenges into the ending stages of the game only highlights how shallow some of the earlier combat is. When you also realize that you can get interrupted during hits and still pull off a combo without losing a step, it's clear the battle system needs some improvement.
Of course, there's more to the game than simple hack-and-slash. Dante's Inferno comes packed with a solid amount of platforming as you climb walls of the damned, push boxes around, or solve puzzles to access new levels. For the most part, these are solid, well-designed breaks from fighting through tons of demons. The one exception is a poorly designed Escher-like puzzle in the middle of the Gluttony level. After waddling through large segments of entrails, you suddenly have to move through a clean white room with strange mirrored doors that place you on the ceilings and the walls. This puzzle feels like it was taken from a completely different game.
Each circle has a unique take on the sins and punishments of the damned.
The visual style of Dante's Inferno sets it apart from other games with its vivid and mature depiction of Hell. Inferno manages to sharply bring to "unlife" Wayne Barlow's disturbing vision of the circles of hell and the creatures that reside there. Each circle has a unique and memorable style, from the substantial amounts of sexual imagery in the Lust level to the circle of Greed, which looks like a gold foundry. The visuals are striking and run at a solid 60 frames per second, with slowdown only for dramatic effect on powerful attacks. However, many levels have an oppressive color palette of browns, reds, and grays, which gets old after a few levels.
You are at the mercy of a fixed camera, but once it's loaded, Dante's Inferno streams the entire game seamlessly, which is an impressive feat. Ambient sound is strong as well, from the lamenting cries of the damned to the screams of the creatures as they are killed. The soundtrack is notable, thanks to the orchestral score and choral presentation. The delivery of some lines can be hit or miss, but for the most part, the voice acting is solid.
Once you've defeated the game, you can replay it in Resurrection mode, which allows you to carry over your skills and acquired souls to a new game on a higher difficulty level or to take your skills into an timed endurance mode called Gates of Hell. PS3 owners can purchase the Divine Edition, which offers a few bonus items: a digital version of the poem, a game soundtrack, and some behind the scenes videos. There's also a voucher for downloadable content, such as a new costume, relic and prequel level, which will come out sometime in March. If you have a burning desire to own everything related to Dante, the PS3 version is the way to go. But for the average player, you're not really missing out anything if you get the 360 version.
Dantes Inferno takes a bold, visually impressive take on a literary classic and adds in an intriguing action focus to create a different kind of action title. Unfortunately, some derivative combat sequences and a shallow combo system prevent the title from becoming a truly great experience. The ending is obviously setting up a full-fledged series, but Dantes Inferno suffers from unoriginal gameplay features that action fans have seen before, which keeps it from making its true mark.
IGN Ratings for Dante's Inferno (PS3)
out of 10
Click here for ratings guide
Impressive depictions of Hell, its denizens and an action take on the story are held back by some over the top M-rated content that only seems to be there for shock value.
The creatures are striking, and running at 60 fps is great. The fixed camera can be limiting, as can the hard jumps between story formats and overwhelming browns or reds in levels.
The soundtrack is quite good across the board, and while some lines sound weak, the ambient noise and sound effects are effective.
The deceptively simple combat controls and out of place challenges makes it derivative instead of a unique action experience that hasn’t been seen before.
Apart from the Gates of Hell, there isn’t much that will make players want to go back through this adventure until the promised DLC is released.
(out of 10, not an average)
Video Game Rewind: Dante’s Inferno
Benny Bedlam 2 years ago 0 Comments
Dante’s Inferno isn’t an extremely old video game, but I would like to talk about it for Video Game Rewind and let other gamers know about this game before we switch to the next generation. Dante’s Inferno was released in 2010 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It was developed by Visceral Games and was published by Electronic Arts. The game is based on Inferno which is the first canticle of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. As a fan of Italian literature especially that of Alighieri’s, I was excited about this game. I know Inferno like the back of my hand. What was more exciting than seeing two of my favorite passions combined in one medium?
If you are a fan of Alighieri’s work or an avid reader in general, you will enjoy playing Dante’s Inferno despite of it’s technical flaws. It’s a worthy interpretation of Inferno that has it’s own spin to it while still remaining true to the spirit of the epic poem.
Abandon all hope ye who enter here
I’ll let you know right now that the video game doesn’t follow the narrative of the epic poem 100% and that’s a good thing. If the game followed the original story, then it wouldn’t feel much like a game. In the poem, we are following Dante’s personal journey into hell and the only enemies that he has to face is his own demons. The game has this story about Dante trying to save his lover Beatrice from Lucifer. Truthfully, Beatrice Portinari is indeed his muse and inspiration for most of Divine Comedy and La Vita Nuova but they were never lovers. Dante Alighieri merely saw her by the Arno river in Florence and was so enchanted by her. Sometimes ardent literary buffs are angered by changes like this various interpretations, but Visceral does it in a way that doesn’t change how Dante beautifully and creatively described hell in his poem.
The video game featured all the nine circles of Inferno but I was extremely impressed by how they managed to include the subsections of some circles as well. I managed to speak to someone who was involved in the video game art concept of Dante’s Inferno and it was clear that Visceral had a lot of talented artists working on this game. The character and level designs are vivid. It was as if it knows how I pictured Inferno in my head as I was reading the poem. I felt like the team behind this game either read the text or was well-informed about it.
My friends tell me that the gameplay is quite similar to God of War games. I’ve never played any of those games, but I guess that’s a good thing. In this game, your weapon is a scythe. One of the nice parts of the game that I enjoyed was the ability to absolve and punish souls in Inferno. You can do this after knocking down random foes and it can net you either white or red orbs. White corresponds to holy while red is to unholy. These two categories are the two power/skill trees in the game. If I’m not mistaken, the powers look quite the same with the exception of the red or white glow during your power moves. However, the part about this I really enjoyed the most was when you encountered historical and literary figures mentioned in Dante’s epic poem. You have the choice whether to absolve or punish the likes of Pontius Pilate, a prominent figure in Jesus’ crucifixion, and Orpheus who is a character in Greek mythology.
Praise aside, the graphics in this game aren’t that amazing and the game can get tiresome with the repetitive hack and slash. I can understand why reviewers would usually give this game just a seven. If I had no idea what Dante’s Inferno was all about, then I would probably call this an okay or good game. However, I’m giving this game nine out of ten mostly because it is a solid interpretation that was enjoyable to play through. I really appreciate the substantial level of detail and writing the team put into this video game.
Visceral said that there was no plans for a sequel. A sad thing to hear considering the game ended in a cliffhanger that provided a teaser resembling the beginnings of Dante’s next canticle Purgatorio. However, word on the grapevine is there might be a sequel after all. If there is one, it’s most likely a next-generation title and seeing Purgatorio and Paradiso on a PS4 or Xbox One is something I’m definitely looking forward to.
By Ellie Gibson
By Ellie Gibson Published 03/02/2010 Version tested Xbox 360
Basing your game on a 14th century poem set in Hell has certain advantages. For starters, you don't have to pay copyright fees or worry about the author of the source material complaining you've bastardised his work. In fact you don't have to worry about anyone complaining as only 27 people in the world have bothered to read the thing, and half of them are lying.
But there are risks too. You can't employ many of the most popular action-adventure staples such as guns, cars, aliens, Nazis, wisecracking sidekicks and love interests with buttocks like two basketballs in a pillowcase. You're limited by the types of enemies you can create and the environments they can inhabit. As is the case with any game set in Hell, you risk ending up with one big lava level.
So what's a developer to do? Why, find another game with no guns, cars or aliens and rip it off, or so it would seem in the case of Dante's Inferno. In fact, this game has so many similarities to a certain other series it's hard to believe it wasn't originally called Dante's Infernof War.
True, you don't play as a muscular bloke in a loincloth who sports a pair of big blades and some swirly red body art. You play as a muscular bloke in chainmail who sports a single big blade and some cross-shaped red body art. You can jump and press other face buttons to perform light and heavy attacks. There are various combos to learn and new ones to unlock as the game progresses, along with magic attacks. Levels mainly involve hacking Hell's minions into little bits but are punctuated with set-pieces, simple puzzles, boss battles and quick-time events.
True, you're not out to avenge the death of your beloved family; you're out to rescue the soul of your beloved Beatrice. She bet the devil that Dante wouldn't betray her while out on one of his Crusades, and lost. So now, as Dante, you must battle through the nine circles of Hell - lust, greed, heresy, Ikea on a bank holiday Monday etc. - in a bid to get her back.
Not to be confused with Kanye's Inferno, in which the outspoken rapper falls asleep while holding a lit cigarette.
Guiding you on this journey is the poet Virgil, who uses the same technology employed by Princess Leia to appear as a ribbly blue hologram. He provides basic exposition at regular intervals and if you want to know more about what's going on, pressing R1 encourages him to explain further. All of Virgil's lines are suitably grave and sound like they were written in the 14th century. They were, in fact; his dialogue was lifted directly from the titular poem.
Unfortunately the rest of the script wasn't. It's packed with clichés and colloquialisms, and much of the voice acting is so naff that even the decent lines sound rubbish. Take the game's opening scene, in which you must battle none other than Death himself. This is less exciting than it sounds, partly because Death fights with all the speed and power of a sleepy kitten. But also because he spouts things like, "You dare to defy me, mortal?" in an American accent.
Or Dante's Cove, the gay horror soap opera starring Babylon 5's Tracy Scoggins. True story.
As you prepare to stove his head in for the final time he confirms himself as an utter weed by begging, "No, wait - please!" It doesn't feel like you're defeating the terrifying spectre of grim mortality so much as a baddie out of Thundercats.
Bosses do get harder to defeat as the game goes on, but not by much, and their dialogue doesn't improve. A few levels on from the Death episode you end up fighting a giant blue woman. It seems more likely her dialogue was cut and pasted from the Big Book of Videogame Clichés than Dante's epic poem. Highlights include: "You have given up the keys to the kingdom - and for what? The tits of a slave girl!"
Tits abound in Dante's Inferno, and not just in the script. The giant blue woman has giant blue tits, complete with independently animated nipples. At one point the nipples burst open and out comes an army of evil babies with scythes for arms. They crawl across the woman's breasts and she uses a giant blue hand to scoop them up and fling them at Dante. Freud would have not so much had a field day as a four-day music festival with six stages and sponsorship by O2.
Beatrice will use any excuse to get her tits out, such as being killed, being dead or being sad that Dante condemned her by fondling someone else's tits (which we get to see too, obviously). In a couple of instances only one of her breasts is shown, which is presumably meant to make you think you're looking at art rather than an excuse to whack in another tit. To balance things out, there are a few enemies who sport huge thorny penises - but they're actually women, as you can tell by their massive tits.
Before everyone starts calling me a mad old feminist lesbian (which I may become if I have to look at many more huge thorny penises), I'm not saying tits should be banned from videogames. Especially not 18-rated ones like Dante's Inferno. I do understand lots of people like tits (though I wonder how many of them really go from six to midnight when the tits are computer-generated, blue and spurting scythe-wielding babies).
I'm saying their use here feels silly, gratuitous and anomalous. It's as if EA hauled in a 14-year-old boy as a consultant and this was his best idea. The tits are not offensive, they're just daft, and not in keeping with the impression of artistic gravitas the game is attempting to generate.
There's a similar problem with the cut-scenes. These are a mixture of Bayeux tapestry-style animated tableaux and simple 2D cartoons, which are excellent, and traditional CGI scenes, which often aren't. They're full of silly dialogue, naff designs, over-the-top special effects and poor lip-synching. Dante's Inferno keeps trying to be a work of art but then panicking and remembering it's a videogame, and ending up a pretty generic one as a result.
At least many of the environments are impressive, particularly early on. The designers have made excellent use of the fire and brimstone at their disposal. There are some great grotesque details, like the doors you open stabbing the demons attached to them. There are lakes of molten gold and rivers of boiling blood, complete with dozens of drowning souls. There are plenty of sheer drops, towering columns and gaping chasms, all of which help create to the sensation that you are indeed on a vertical descent.
The best magic attack is Lust Storm, which is accompanied by orgasmic moans and should really be called the Je T'aime Moi Non Plus Combo.
While in a typical action-adventure you mind find yourself climbing walls covered with vines, here you scale boney cages behind which lost souls weep and wail. There's an awful lot of weeping and wailing throughout Dante's Inferno, not to mention regular bouts of dramatic choral howling. The gothic visuals, grisly death animations and harrowing audio effects combine to create an environment which is a pretty horrid and depressing place to be, appropriately.
The problem is you can't really take it all in due to the game's fixed camera. It works well enough from a practical point of view - the angles switch seamlessly and you're never left fighting enemies you can't see. But you can't use the right stick to look around, no matter how spectacular the scene. This is frustrating and makes the game feel dated, particularly if you're used to having such freedoms in games like Uncharted and Assassin's Creed.
The other issue is that as the game progresses, it all starts to look a bit samey. Stabbing demons to open doors is a novelty at first; 19 doors later it's become a time-consuming interruption, and you can't help wishing they'd just put a switch in. All the weeping and wailing gets a bit much and the choral howling begins to repeat itself. Those environmental details begin to crop up too often - once you've rappelled down one wall of suppurating fire-breathing rectums, you've rappelled down them all.
The repetition really kicks in during the last few levels. The penultimate circle is simply a series of arenas in which you must complete a series of boring challenges - defeat all the enemies, defeat all the enemies without using magic, defeat all the enemies except this time there's more of them, and so on. Every arena looks pretty much the same and all the enemies have featured in previous levels. You might think this is training preparation for the epic, hardcore final circle - but without wishing to spoil anything, you might be disappointed.
The combat also starts to feel repetitive as the game goes on, despite the presence of a character progression system. As you defeat enemies you absorb their souls. These can then be used to buy new Holy and Unholy moves via a ninetiestastic talent tree. All of the moves have silly names like Soul Stabber and Abominable Slam, suggesting they've been inspired by the works of Stone Cold Steve Austin rather than Dante Aligheri. All of them can be ignored completely in favour of mashing away at the buttons.
You can earn extra souls by spearing enemies with your scythe, then choosing whether to Absolve them (by hammering one button) or Punish them (by pressing another). During this process any nearby minions of Hell who were in the middle of attacking you will stand back politely, as though waiting their turn for the hummus spoon at a buffet. It only takes an extra second or two but by the time you're several levels and a few hundred enemies in, it seems a lot easier to forget the spear business altogether and just hack everyone up.
Throughout the game you'll come across the souls of historical figures condemned to Hell for horrendous crimes, and once again you can choose to Absolve or Punish them. Just like in real life, being bad is more fun - pick Punish and you get to watch Dante scythe the poor unfortunate in the face. Pick Absolve and you must play a mind-numbing mini-game which involves hitting the various face buttons as icons pass through them. It's like a rubbish rhythm-action game, except there isn't any music. The reward for taking the holier path is extra Souls to buy more moves with, but the mini-game is so dull I'd pay actual pound coins not to play it again.
The few puzzles in the game are no more inspired. They all involve pulling switches and/or pushing crates (sorry, Mr Scriptwriter, but a crate is still a crate even if you call it a "slider"). Some aren't really puzzles at all. In one area, faced with three moving platforms, a pair of switches and two time delays, I spent ages trying to think laterally - only to discover the solution was just to run really fast. The answer to another puzzle, where a switch had descended into the floor, turned out to be killing all the enemies to make it magically reappear.
Will there be a sequel? Dante wrote two more poems and EA spent millions on this game. You do the "math".
So yes, you can add Dull Puzzles to the list of things which make Dante's Inferno worth avoiding - a list which already includes Repetitive Level Design, Daft Cut-Scenes and Generally Feeling Like It Was Made About Five Years Ago. Not to mention the fact it is physically impossible for anyone in the world to look at this game for more than 30 seconds without going, "Oh, it's like God of War."
But that fact is this game's saving grace. Let's not forget that the God of War titles are great, and in aping them so closely Dante's Inferno has ended up with some redeeming features. Punching, slicing, chopping and hacking your way through hordes of horned enemies is fundamentally enjoyable. The suitably gory animations make it rewarding, regardless of whether you're button-mashing or bothering to pull off the proper combos.
Also, there are some entertaining set-pieces and great visuals. Plenty of inspiration has been taken from the source material and this vision of Hell is at times truly grisly, atmospheric and harrowing. With that in mind, it's almost possible to ignore how depressing it is that even when you're in the darkest, fieriest bowels of Hell, surrounded by the agonised screaming of a thousand tormented souls, you still have to push a crate to open a door.
But you can't ignore the fact this is a God of War clone at its core, and many of the ideas here feel tired, familiar and dated. Nor can you ignore the fact that God of War III is nearly here. If it's a toss-up between that game and this one, as it probably will be for PS3 fans, you're best off waiting to see how Kratos' next adventure turns out.
All the same, Dante's Inferno is worth considering if you're a diehard hack-and-slasher fan who loves blood, gore, fire, brimstone, layered but simplistic combat systems and tits. This is more than one big lava level and it's not a terrible game. It's just not an original one, and it's arrived a little too late.
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