Dante's Inferno Review
|Genre:||Hack & Slash Action|
|Release Date:||Febraury 5th, 2010 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
"Through me is the way into the woeful city; through me is the way into eternal woe; through me is the way among the lost people. The supreme Wisdom and the primal Love made me. Before me were no things created, unless eternal, and I eternal last. Leave every hope, ye who enter!"
While the idea of basing a game on a 14th century Italian poem may not occur to all of us, the developers of Dante's Inferno have done a pretty reasonable job of transferring the feel of Dante Alighieri's descent into hell into game form, even if the depth of Dante's great story has been rendered entirely in cartoon-style cut-scenes.
Our hero, Dante, has messed up. As a soldier in the Crusades he was called up to purify the 'heretics' who had the gumption to believe something other than Christianity -a simple task for a man like him - but he never bargained on Beatrice. Dante's lover, and a suspicious maiden to be sure, Beatrice made a deal with Lucifer - If Dante remained true to her on his mission the devil would bring him back alive, but if he got a little frisky with some slave girl the devil could have Beatrice's soul, forever.
And, as Dante couldn't keep it in his codpiece, he's left in a bit of a bind - enter Hell and rescue Beatrice, or face eternal damnation. Naturally, he chose option A. That's the basic premise to Dante's Inferno, and while it stands up pretty well on its own, two minutes of play is sure expose the game for what it is - a blatant and unforgiving clone of God of War.
The similarities are quite startling - Dante moves through epic environments, taking on titanic bosses, killing scores of snivelling enemies in disgusting ways and dousing the screen in buckets of claret - it's obvious what the game was trying to emulate. It's just a shame it falls short.
The game itself is pretty solid, if uninspiring. Like the poem it draws its inspiration from, Dante has to traverse the seven circles of Hell, each one of which is patterned to one of the deadly sins - wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony, as well as a little stop in 'Limbo' - and I don't mean the beach kind.
Now while wrath, greed, lust and gluttony are ripe to be turned into different types of enemy, with lust producing horribly distorted prostitutes (with stereotypically huge sexual organs) and gluttony barfing up diseased blobs of bile the game starts to fall down later when Dante enters the circles of sloth, pride and envy.
How do you turn sloth, pride and envy into enemies? The simple answer is - you don't, and this is where the game stops being an interesting alternative to the God of War series, and descends into its own personal hell. This is a shame as the first half of the game is good fun.
Dante carries out all the GoW traditions - bloody battles, check, massive environments, check, lava and high drops everywhere, check, but quite frankly the second half of the game is a major let down.
As the game goes on it seems Visceral Games decided to pad it out, turning the clever design and brutal action into what equates to a corridor shooter - little more than endless streams of enemies to be defeated on a series of floating platforms and similar rooms - repetitive and boring I'm afraid.
That said, the action itself is all very satisfying third-person hack and slashing, and while Dante can only wield a couple of weapons (one of which is a brutal scythe once wielded by Death himself), combo upgrades and magic keep things interesting and bloody for a while. A variety of special finishes makes the combat more fun and various quick-time-events make boss battles easier, if a little less fun.
The controls are quick and simple, though the auto lock-on for ranged attacks (which largely consists of throwing magic crosses at enemies) is a little dodgy. The climbing controls are also a little stunted, and I fell to my death more than once from unresponsive jumps.
The combat also suffers serious difficulty issues - certain enemies can be offed in their thousands, but the blade-armed unbaptised babies (you heard that correctly) can knock you down and keep attacking you as you lie prostrate on the floor.
The game also has a problem with combos - where as most games let you cancel a combo with a push of the 'block' button, Inferno forces Dante to finish every single move of the entire combo - leaving you open for attack constantly. As many combos as can be unlocked with the souls you collect, that unbreakable combo is a mistake that wrecks them all.
However, despite the repetitive nature of the action and the GoW-esque combat, graphically the game is quite a looker. The early environments are nicely rendered and simulate the descent into Hell in horrific imagery and high definition. The levels themselves are all fire and brimstone - grasping hands stick from every wall and screams overwhelm your ears - it's brilliantly done, as immersive as God of War and detailed as Bayonetta.
The later levels are a different story - It all becomes dull and repetitive, the action stilted and boring, the enemies repeated over and over - if only Visceral could have kept that momentum the game wouldn't just be a clone of GoW, it would be an alternative, and a decent one at that.
There's a lot to be said for Dante's Inferno. It starts well, the hero's journey into the darkness is choreographed perfectly, the action exciting (if familiar) and Dante himself nicely fleshed out through the cartoon cutscenes. It's just a shame all that promise peters to a halt halfway through, the epic nature of the early levels is soon replaced with repetitive enemies and predictable bosses. While it can stand on its own as a decent action hack-and-slasher, its disappointing downturn and lack of originality leave it vying with the might of Bayonetta and God of War, and that's a battle even Dante can't win.
- Great art design (early on)
- Great enemy design (early on)
- Compelling storyline
Not so good stuff
- Second half is a let down
- Lack of varied weapons
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