RETRO REVIEW – DANTE’S INFERNO

This review was initially posted back in 2010 on my old gaming blog, Kungaloosh. Since I’ve decided to close it down, I wanted to go back and pull off what few reviews I had up and re-post them here at Cheap Boss Attack so they weren’t lost forever in the abyss of the internet.

title

Played on: Xbox 360 and PS3
Played for: At least 30-35 hours, completing the game twice for the 360 and once for the PS3.

Dante’s Inferno is just as much a God of War clone as it is an inaccurate representation of The Divine Comedy, but Visceral Games re-imagining of Dante as a Knights Templar is as entertaining as it is blasphemous. After a failed assassination attempt by a hooded figure and then defeating Death himself, Dante finds his lover Beatrice slain and her spirit being taken to hell by Lucifer. As he battles through the 9 circles of hell to free her, the player comes to understand that Dante isn’t exactly the best person in the world and that, perhaps, this is all his fault. It’s an interesting take on classic literature, but does it have what it takes to stand out in a crowd or is Dante’s Inferno condemned to being just another clone?

Most fights end with a QTE to either punish or absolve for XP.
Most fights end with a QTE to either punish or absolve for XP.

As much as I hate to do it, I can’t help but compare Dante’s Inferno to God of War 3. The violent, cinematic action sequences, the combo-driven combat system, environmental puzzles, annoying as hell QTE’s and large scale boss battles that reward magic spells are present in both titles, but I have to admit that God of War 3 did it better. That’s not to say that Dante’s Inferno isn’t a good game, but I can see where the “clone” claims are coming from. I guess the most important question is how it differs from Kratos’ offering and if that’s enough to warrant the purchase.

The main difference is that Dante is merely a human and makes plenty of mistakes along the way, as shown on the red cross tapestry sewn to his chest and through various animated cutscenes. Aside from being poorly animated, cutscenes also suffer from some extreme pixellation issues no matter what your HD resolution is. While the story is definitely interesting, it’s unfortunate that the main storytelling element in the game has the ability to kill the immersion depending on how much you let the poor quality annoy you. Graphically, though, Dante’s Inferno offers some fantastic level design for the first half of the game which are equal parts entertaining and disturbing. From his initial visit to Limbo, to entering the Carnal Tower of Lust, descending further in to Gluttony and on to the River Styx, I was impressed with how each circle felt different from the last. Unfortunately the remaining circles seemed thrown together, especially Greed and the Ten Trials of the Malebolge, and even started to re-use enemies from previous levels that had no business being there.

Hand-drawn cutscenes are poorly animated and remain pixellated despite your HD resolution.
Hand-drawn cutscenes are poorly animated and remain pixellated despite your HD resolution.

Combat introduces the game’s “punish or absolve” system that can be used on the weaker and weakened enemies, prompting a QTE that rewards either Holy or Unholy experience gains. By raising his Holy and Unholy levels, Dante gains access to numerous abilities and upgrades that can be purchased using the in-game currency of souls, generally gained by defeating enemies. During the course of the game, Dante only has access to one melee weapon (Death’s scythe) and the ranged Holy Cross, but defeating boss monsters rewards him with various magic spells that freshen things up a bit. There are tons of Relics to find and equipping them offers a wide range of improvements, from increased XP gains and dealing more damage to more interesting perks like an increase in the amount of time given for your combo counter to drop—thus giving you the ability to chain the infamous 666-hit combo. Certain relics require a minimum Holy or Unholy level to equip, further forcing the “punish or absolve” system in combat.

With such an emphasis on finishing enemies off with the punish and absolve mini-game to earn XP, combat became a repetitive mess that only let you explore the combo-driven gameplay at the expense of not gaining abilities. You can only gain Holy and Unholy XP by punishing or absolving enemies and must gain levels in order to purchase upgrades. It’s a double edged sword that only lets you see what combat has to offer on a second or third playthrough when you no longer have to worry about the mini-games, and if that’s something you’re interested in there is a NG+ mode.

The final boss at the top of the Carnal Tower, Circle of Lust.
The final boss at the top of the Carnal Tower, Circle of Lust.

Platforming is hit or miss and becomes especially terrible in the latter half of the game. Aside from the usual “move this block and turn this lever” puzzles, there are plenty of opportunities to climb walls and swing on ropes to avoid spinning blades and fire hazards. It’s a cut and dry affair that only exists to hinder your progress for a few seconds before getting back to the combat and seems to get worse as the game goes on, but again, that could be due to the lack of interesting level designs in the last half of the game.

The voice acting is solid, especially Dante and Lucifer, but the soundtrack was an unexpected surprise. It’s an epic score that gave me something to enjoy while waiting for the game to pick up the pace at times, and I always appreciate when a developer realizes the importance of the music when setting the stage.

The Verdict – C-

Overall, Dante’s Inferno starts off as an enjoyable experience with a solid combat system and intriguing level design but eventually starts to feel like a completely different dev team showed up to finish the project, dropping the ball in the process. While it definitely feels like a clone, I enjoyed controlling Dante and connected more with his human personality. He’s a constant reminder of how we, as a species, make mistakes and live with them for the rest of our lives. It’s just unfortunate that the “punish or absolve” system feels forced and Visceral Games didn’t try to break new ground with puzzles and platforming. I enjoyed the experience enough to complete Dante’s Inferno three times—twice on the 360 and once on the PS3—and while the flaws are noticeable and frequent, I still saw spots of perfection in certain level designs and enjoyed the combat more with each playthrough. In the end, I can definitely agree that it’s a diet version of the more popular God of War series, but if you can get over the clunky platforming, forced QTE’s and the duller circles of hell, it’s worth checking out just to experience the portions of the game that are so well put together.

Cerberus from the Circle of Gluttony.
Cerberus from the Circle of Gluttony.
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