Dante’s Inferno Preview

dantes-inferno-game-box-artworkGame Preview: Dante’s Inferno
Release: February 9, 2010
Genre: Third-Person Action Adventure
Developer: Visceral Games
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Players: 1
MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M

Just yesterday, the demo for Dante’s Inferno was released on PSN for the PlayStation 3. Intrigued by all the hoopla surrounding the title, I downloaded the sizable 1 GB demo. Visceral Games is best known for the critically acclaimed Dead Space series, so their venture with Dante’s Inferno is raising quite a few eyebrows. Let’s get the white elephant out in the open because inevitable comparisons with God of War will surface. How can it not when the character, basic premise and game play mechanics are essentially the same? And most gaming circles will agree that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re going to imitate something, you might as well go for the best in its class. Ignore the fact that the game is butchering a classic work of art by Dante Alighieri and you’ll be fine.

Dante's Inferno

The demo starts right away with some visceral imagery (see what I did there?) of Dante stitching a Templar cross on his chest. Cue to background cutscenes detailing his venture during the Third Crusade featuring stylized animation. Within the space of a few minutes you’re hurled straight into the action, taking down enemy AI before transitioning back to another cutscene: your “death.” This is the first taste test of a mini boss fight: parry, dodge, block and slash. Defeat Death, discard your puny sword and gain a wicked scythe. While watching the CGI-animated cutscene, I thought: “Dude, I just defeated Death! I’m invincible!”

Which brings me to wonder how Visceral Games will be addressing Dante’s invincibility. I mean, once you kill Death, that’s it. You’ll never die since there isn’t any entity that can take away your soul, right? I realize that trying to apply logic in any of these games is a futile exercise and massive plot holes are to be expected. Ignore that little lapse and assume that you’ll still die anyway if your health bar is depleted. Moving on. Fast-forward to Dante’s triumphant return home to meet his beloved Beatrice. Like Gladiator, Dante has a Maximus moment of doom, seeing the defiled corpse of his love (If you don’t get the parallel, you need to get on that movie stat!). Beatrice’s soul is stolen away, much to Dante’s growing dismay (totally didn’t mean to rhyme). In a fit of vengeance, you pick up your holy cross (of moral judgment) and  get to wreak major havoc on demonic entities, loudly announcing your descent into the circles of Hell.

Before the Gates of Hell, you meet up with Virgil as a guiding light; at least Visceral Games kept that somewhat intact. Through Dante’s pleas, Virgil grants you powers, which throws a dynamic twist on game play. You fight one more mini boss riding atop a demonic beast, to take over said beast and utilize its strength to open the Gates of Hell. End demo.

Holy Powers, Batman!All comparisons aside, Dante’s Inferno has quite a few things going for it. The graphics run smoothly at 60 FPS, with little tearing during intense battles. The game play itself offers tight controls, easy to switch from scythe weaponry to spiritual magic. The combat runs fluidly, allowing you to string together a barrage of physical and magical attacks from both grounded and aerial assaults. There’s even a morality system in place; use your holy cross to either punish or absolve your assailants. While cutscenes switching from traditional animation to CGI may be a bit disconnected, it’s a refreshing change of pace. The level aesthetics are gorgeous, with very few rough edges, to offer an immersive environment. The game is fun, despite the sense of deja vu.

I am mindful that there is time for polish. 15 minutes is not enough time to have a character endear himself to the gamer. And there is always a feeling that you’ve played this game before. Try as I might to shake off that notion, I am always reminded that it’s a mish-mash of successful predecessors that got the game play right. I fear that it will be hard for some gamers to get over deja vu and become immersed in Dante’s Inferno. Beyond that, the story itself is disorienting, jumping to and fro across time that doesn’t give a clear introduction, but a hurried sense of wanting to get straight into the action. Even so, Dante’s Inferno knows exactly what it’s about: ass kicking. And it succeeds very well in that regard.

Jinkwell’s final say: Xbox 360 fans can now rejoice; Dante’s Inferno fills the missing God of War void. PS3 fans can also rejoice; Dante’s Inferno offers a brief respite before the God of War behemoth hits stores. As for PC fans, I understand your ambivalence.

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