Game Review: Dante’s Inferno
Release: February 9, 2010
Developer: Visceral Games (EA Games)
Available Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Portable
ESRB Rating: M
This has been a long time coming. From the first stunt that EA Games pulled back in September until its Super Bowl commercial this month, Dante’s Inferno has spent its fair share of time in the spotlight; growing, building excitement, sparking curiosity, and swarming all over the media. One could even point out that Dante has had his fair share of spotlight right here on Platform Nation. But today a very important question gets answered: Is this game just another God of War clone, or is it able to stand on its own legs as a legitimate contender for “Game Of The Year?”
The game Dante’s Inferno is loosely based on “The Inferno”, which is the first part of “The Divine Comedy” written by Dante Alighieri in the fourteenth-century. You play as Dante, a warrior of the third-crusade. As you try to keep the peace in Acre you encounter Death, who claims you must be punished for all of your many sins; sins you thought you were absolved from by the priest who lead the charge of the crusades. Then to top it all off, the love of your life, Beatrice made a bet with the Devil and lost, so he took her away with him. Now you have to go get her in a very “Mario goes to save the Princess” kind of way.
As you descend into each of the nine circles of Hell, you must fight minions, solve puzzles, ride beasts, scythe-swing, and rope-shimmy your way through each of the landscapes. As you progress through your journey, you are hit with flashbacks and introductions to each of the circles by the poet Virgil. Think of him as that guy who would be hanging out at the beginning of each of the Pokémon gyms giving tips before your next battle.
Dante’s Inferno takes a page right out of inFAMOUS by introducing something known as the “Absolve/Punish” system. While you are fighting certain types of minions (or run into certain people) you are given the choice of Absolving (redeeming their soul) or Punishing (further damning their soul). The more of either one you do makes you are able to power up your scythe or your cross. (Trophy Hunter Alert: you will have to play through the game twice to complete each side of the tree.) Leveling these trees is also necessary to use some of the interchangeable relics you run into on your travels. There are quite a few things to keep your eye out for if you’re a gamer who likes collecting and looking for hidden things.
This game has some really great things going for it. First, kudos to the art team for taking such a vivid approach to this game set in the nine circles of Hell. They were able to successfully let the player get an idea of which circle they were in just by the surroundings. Whether by molten gold throughout during the Greed circle, or the digestive system apparent in the Gluttony circle; time was really taken in distinguishing each of the levels.
Some of the levels were able to have their own demons based on their locations, from the scantily-clad ladies of the lust circle (who were deformed in very “appropriate” body regions) to the very hungry gluttons. The audio is done decently, when you crank up the speakers, you can hear the screams, wails and moans of the many people suffering for their sins. The overall soundtrack also fits in very seamlessly. There isn’t a moment where you are wondering what made them choose this song, it just fits.
However, all was not paradise in this game. I was personally disappointed that the PS3 version output was only 720p. A game with this much artwork deserves to be displayed in all its stunning glory. I am not sure which of the consoles was designated as the “lead console,” but there were many times as I played through the game that the visual quality didn’t feel like a PlayStation 3 game. There were times where I felt the game had a very late PlayStation 2 life-cycle feel to it, hopefully that will be fixed for the “unofficially announced” sequel.
As you descend into each circle of Hell, a pattern seems to emerge: save, talk to Virgil, talk to Virgil again, have a flash back, travel down a path, get trapped by minions, have another flashback, fight the circle’s Boss, descend into next circle, repeat. The method of level travel may have been different every so often, but not enough to hide the pattern. Even the walls with the “trapped souls” look very identical, just in a different shade.
As you wander further into the circles of Hell, there’s another pattern that emerges during battle sequences: fight a “new” monster that is really difficult, now fight 3 of them, now fight 2 of them with monsters from previous levels. I was disappointed in the recycling of enemies. It was my understanding that when you were sent to a certain circle in the afterlife, that is where you remained. However, in this game as you went deeper, you started seeing a lot of the same old people.
There was one aspect of the game that belongs in “purgatory.” At first I wanted to condemn it as poor game design, but then I felt I understood its purpose. However, it was not a good enough purpose to find its way back to paradise. While you battle the “bosses” in each of the circles of the game, they don’t feel very “boss-like” in statute. Personally, they feel like a bigger minion with an actual health bar; nothing spectacular. It isn’t until you face HIM (not to be confused with this guy) that you feel some sort of largeness in the scale of battle. I was disappointed in this at first, and then something dawned on me: you’re in HELL, home of Lucifer himself. At no point and time should you wonder who’s running this show. It was in that moment it made sense. The other bosses are smaller on purpose so that when you reach that final battle, you know the end is in fact near.
After completing the main story, you unlock a few things, one of which is known as the “Gates of Hell” which is essentially a 50-round “tournament” (it’s really a gauntlet) of all the demons and minions you previously faced. They get to come back and give you a timed run for your life. At the end of each wave, you are given time bonuses for completion, Absolving/Punishing enemies, and achieving a flawless victory.
There were various movies documenting certain aspects of game creation. Also included in the PS3-Exclusive “Divine Edition” is access to the game’s soundtrack, behind-the-scene videos, and a digital copy of the actual “Dante’s Inferno” poem. My favorite video is entitled “Making the Baby” I recommend you check it out, it gives you a good idea of the amount of work put into this game.
The artwork supplied with the game is amazing. These include sketches and diagrams not previously released. I was even lucky enough to get a special portrait from the art team over at Visceral Games. I promised them I was going to post it one day, so here it is:
What you see above is a huge autographed portrait sent to me by the art team responsible for Dante’s Inferno. I keep making plans to hang it on my wall, but I keep getting side-tracked. Who knows, I might do a post describing when I finally hang this portrait.
Delano’s Final Say: I believe that the game was a decent attempt at the God of War “formula of success” while borrowing certain aspects from other games. However, I feel that with a dated graphics engine and frustratingly stale game play, it keeps Dante’s Inferno in a state of Limbo when it comes to making that first month purchase. With the promise of upcoming DLCs in the flavor of an additional prequel level and additional character skins; I think this game is worth a serious rent or a purchase after a price drop.
This PlayStation 3 Divine Edition was the game used for this review. Story mode completion was close to 20 hours. I beat the game on the Zealot setting, and I also played and beat the “Gates of Hell” challenge. I was able to obtain 70% of trophies in one play through.