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Despite what AC/DC's song might say, hell is definitely a place you don't want to be in. At least, if hell is anything close to the disgusting circles of EA's latest game Dante's Inferno. From the developers of Dead Space, a game noticeable for it's use of gore, it seemed like they couldn't make a game even more adult than Dead Space, but boy was I wrong. Blood, gore and even naked women are all present in Dante's Inferno, yet despite its adult exterior, it's a game anyone who can handle it's content will find to be quite satisfying.
Dante's Inferno is based on Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy. However, the game follows a different route with its story. You play as Dante, a crusader who returns home from fighting to find his wife, Beatrice, dead. However, it's discovered that Lucifer has her soul because Dante ''wasn't faithful'' to her and Dante is far from happy. After a fight with Death himself, and acquiring his scythe, you must travel through the nine circles of Hell to find your love and free her from the grip of Lucifer. The story is told through a mix of in-engine cutscenes, animated shorts and beautiful CG cutscenes, and it's relatively interesting, though it seems to take a back seat to the game most of the time, rather than blend in with it.
Dante's Inferno is a linear game, through and through. There are no alternate paths to speak of, aside from maybe some slight kinks in the path for hidden collectables. These come in the form of coins, which earn you more souls to upgrade Dante, as well as hidden relics to add bonus effects to Dante like more damage with certain weapons and shades of the Inferno, trapped people who you can either punish or absolve. There is also an unlockable Gates of Hell mode where you fight through 50 waves of different enemies before the time runs out. Aside from these bonuses, the meat on Dante's Inferno's bones is thin, with a meager campaign which will probably take you less than six hours to complete. The only real incentive to play through the game again is to fully upgrade Dante, with two distinct upgrade trees to fill up.
It's clear that Dante's Inferno borrows from other hack and slash games like God of War, and it's probably for the better that it does. You use light and heavy attacks to defeat waves of enemies as you progress through about ten or so sections in the game. It's hard to tell what a 'level' is in this game because of the added benefits of no loading times at all. Each kill nets you souls, which is currency to upgrade Dante. Rather than simple upgrades, it's split into two types Holy and Unholy. To unlock more upgrades, you have to increase your Holy/Unholy levels by either punishing or absolving enemies and the aforementioned shades. It's impossible to unlock both trees fully on one playthrough, so it's up to you which upgrade pool you'll dip your toe into.
You are equipped with two physical weapons. The main weapon is a scythe, a mix of sweeping and power which is effective against most foes. There is also a secondary cross which, while weak at first, becomes a powerful bonus when upgraded. It's a shame there isn't a bigger variety of weapons, but what here is pretty good. It's more focused because each enemy is weaker to certain attacks more than others. There are plenty of combos here, but there aren't as many flashier ones as the recent Bayonetta, though one which struck me as a good one was the move where you use your scythe to throw an enemy in the air and can attack them mid-air.
God of War is a fantastic game (and a Playstation exclusive sadly) so borrowing ideas from that game is great. Unfortunately, some warts have carried over from that series, and some new ones have developed too. The camera can be messy, mainly during the frustrating platforming sections because a static camera makes it painful to gauge distances. These can cause frustrating deaths, and this leads to another problem. If you find collectibles or upgrade and then die before another checkpoint, you will have to find those collectibles and upgrade again, meaning harder sections with collectibles are made all the more frustrating. The block pushing puzzles borrowed from Sony's classic also falter, with enemies thrown in to hinder one's progress, and the heavy quick time events are thwarted by poor screen placement and weird control commands.
The game also falters during the last couple of segments. One of the circles of Hell is a series of ten challenges, which is completely out of place and boring in the context of the rest of the game. Dante's gone through several painful and challenging circles of hell only to have to be tested in a series of challenges? No dice, plus the last level features a really slow puzzle where you must walk across ice without falling and death is frustrating. The ending also leaves something to be desired, it's far to abrupt to make sense and it is a cliffhanger, meaning there will hopefully be a Dante's Inferno 2 but with the current economic climate being so unpredictable who knows.
Dante's Inferno's strongest area is definitely its presentation. Technically, it's a nice looking game with a smooth sixty frames per second running constantly and good use of lighting and colours. But what makes the game stand out is its sick level and character designs. The nine circles of hell become more brutal as the game progresses, and disgusting enemies are introduced like lust demons that's female genitals jump out of their stomach and giant gluttony monsters who vomit to stun you. The sound compliments this, for example, as you climb 'demon walls' you'll hear the people damned in hell scream in pain and suffering. The dark music puts you on edge as you explore these dark and evil circles of Hell. The game also has extreme use of gore and nudity, with most cutscene containing the breasts of Dante's wife Beatrice. I thought it was all just a bit too much at times.
Is Dante's Inferno good, bad or ugly?
Dante's Inferno borrows ideas from other games like God of War and uses them to create a similar experience. While it uses many of the good elements of those games with a solid combat system built, it also borrows the weaker elements from those games with a poor camera which nearly destroys the platforming sections, bland block pushing puzzles and uneven difficulty. Even so, it has a different kind of atmosphere with the twisted and disgusting circles of Hell which will be hard to stomach for most people. If you can, however, you'll find solid, albeit derivative, action adventure. Just don't expect it to last forever, and it that's upsetting for you, you might want to wait until it becomes cheaper.
Dante's Inferno was released on February 5th for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and a PSP version will be released around Feb 26th. It is rated 18+ for strong bloody violence and sexualised nudity, and can be bought for £40.
Dante's Inferno is a third-person action game that follows the adventures of the eponymous Dante as he makes his way through Hell to rescue his beloved Beatrice who is trapped there. Apparently, it's based on an 11th century poem, but not being too big on 11th century poetry, I'll focus on what the game has to offer.
Dante's Inferno is heavily influenced by the God of War series of games, so much so in fact, that if you've played it, you've pretty much played this. There's so little in the way of innovation here that it's genuinely surprising. You start off with meagre hack-n-slash attacks and as you move through the different levels of Hell, your attacks and abilities will be upgraded. You carry a scythe and as a backup, have a variety of magical attacks with which to wage war on the enemies you face.
Demons are suitably... demonic, but there's not much in the way of variety. The enemies you face at the start of the game are more or less the same as the ones you face at the end, save for a few bits of extra armour. Little enemies can be killed and chucked around easily, and bigger enemies require you to wear them down before engaging a quick time event to finish them off. Bosses are good to fight, they are big and scary enough to provide a good challenge, while managing to avoid being too cheap.
However, bosses are pretty much the only part of the game that does avoid being cheap. So many times in the game do you think you've gotten the best of a certain area, while on your last pixel of health, only for the game to throw another legion of enemies at you. This is especially true of the final stages of the game, which act something like a gauntlet. It's the kind of game that you have to get killed and then learn what's coming before you actually face an enemy to get the best of it. This is also true of certain traps in the game that give you no warning that they are about to go off, and it's only because you've done the area already that you know they will. Stuff like this is hair-tearingly infuriating, and is not the mark of good game design or the way to properly challenge gamers, at least in my humble opinion.
Finally, although most bosses in the game avoid being too difficult or cheap, I personally found the final boss to be *insane* and rather embarassingly had to turn the difficulty down to stand a chance.
Overall, not really a bad game, but nothing it does is fresh, and it stops being fun, and becomes a chore about halfway through the game. If you're looking for a God Of War-alike, then Darksiders is a far, far better choice.