I’m not the most literate of people and must admit, Dante Alighieri’s 14th century poem about one man’s trip to hell is not part of my bedtime reading. I know of those who do appreciate The Divine Comedy (book, not the band) and there was surge of mixed feelings when EA announced a game, Dante’s Inferno, based on the classic tale. The general consensus once in-game footage was revealed leaned heavily towards the feeling that Visceral Games had made a God of War clone. After having some hands on time with the game, I wholeheartedly agree.
The story has been tweaked making Dante a battling Crusader who begins the carnage by hacking up his enemies in the middle east. This part of the game is playable and takes place after a gorgeous CG cut-scene that sadly turns into a poorly animated cartoon. That’s not meant to be such a belittling statement but after seeing some outstanding graphics morph into a violent Saturday morning kids show, I was left rather confused. Back to the action though and after a great deal of button mashing, Dante is stabbed in the back resulting in his death only to be met by the Grim Reaper himself. What does a mighty warrior do in such a situation? That’s right, he beats the crap out of Death. It’s the first boss fight though more like a miniboss since some of the end of level beasties get very large indeed. Fighting is quite a basic pattern watching game with Dante hacking up the Reaper then blocking his attacks and repeating this process. Much like GoW, the whole thing ends with a large symbol representing a button hovering around Death’s head prompting its pressing to finish him off. Job done.
Hooray, another outstanding cut-scene now plays showing Dante return home to find his house in a bit of a state and his love, Beatrice, dead in the back garden – a death resulting from Dante’s naughtiness. But wait, Bea’s boobs are showing, that kinda makes it a little better right? Wrong. The reveal does seem a tad unnecessary but to their credit, Visceral have kept proportions accurate and can’t really be blamed if teenagers will chant “Hehehe, boobies”. After such a shock, a few of hell’s minions rise from the ground to battle Dante as he tries to deal with what he had just seen. He does it very well, easily disposing of said demons with another bought of button mashing. I must add that Dante is now using Death’s scythe as a weapon after winning it from the early boss battle. To be honest, I didn’t feel like it was massively different from Dante’s previous weapon but extra moves and combos can be unlocked as the game progresses so maybe this will help.
The actions continues as the once Crusader journeys to hell to save his lady love’s soul with even more and increasingly grotesque enemies trying to stop him. The demo (found on the US PSN) is long enough to give a good impression of what’s to come – great graphics, interesting levels and huge threatening foes. But all the time I was playing, I couldn’t help but think this has all been done before. Nothing feels new or even evolved from previous hack and slash titles with Dante easily being replaced by Kratos or even the Dante of Devil May Cry fame. Combat felt as intricate as the player allows it to be with button mashing working just as well as tactical combat. I’ve no doubt that later in the game things get considerably harder where simple mashing will no longer suffice but wonder how long that will last. Unlike Bayonetta, Dante’s Inferno doesn’t offer the eccentricity that you get from learning other button combinations. Yes the bloodshed looks all the more impressive if you do, but nothing that hasn’t really been covered in existing hack and slash adventures.
Don’t be too put off however as there was still a fair amount of fun found in the gameplay and the visuals are a pleasure to see – all apart from the cartoon segments. I just felt like there could have been something else, something new or progressive for the genre and the fact that it’s so loosely based on The Divine Comedy doesn’t do neither game or book any real justice.