Dante's Inferno review
The divine mediocrity
We all know the story by now - Dante's Inferno is God Of War that's based on a poem known as The Divine Comedy instead of being based on Greek Mythology. Now, I have read the poem, and it makes for a pretty good read. Visceral Games thought the same thing, and after having finished Dead Space, they decided to make a game based on the poem... and tweaking a few things so that gamers will find more enjoyment out of it. Unfortunately, it only suckered on God Of War purists - you know the sort, they find hack and slash games made after 2005 just to go "zomg God Of War ripoff!!!1" (because, you know, it's such a unique snowflake and totally not a rip off of damn near every other PS2 game). Oh, and me. But honestly, what suckered me in was what was written on paper, because when I actually played the game, good god, was it average or what? Outside of concept, the game was very run of the mill, and honestly, you're better off buying Bayonetta or Lords Of Shadow.
Story: The story is that Dante's girlfriend, Beatrice, is killed, and Lucifer is taking her soul down to the depths below, so Dante must follow them and rescue her. As he travels through the nine circles, flashbacks of the holy crusade that had occured before Beatrice's death show Dante as one hell of a sinner. Nearly every sin had been commited by him... it just goes to show that the most devout Christians are able to become the deadliest sinners. It's actually quite a good concept. Bayonetta and Darksiders had religious themes (like how angels aren't as "goodie goodie" as you'd think, or the apocalypse), but Dante's Inferno went the extra mile, and pretty much embelished religion, making it seem really scary... seriously, seeing how badly tortured the damned are would probably scare you straight! The only problem to be had (maybe aside from how shocking it could be, but that's really subjective) is how parts here and there are glossed over, not given adequate enough explanation... oh well, that's what anime adaptations were made for (and don't worry, this one is actually good... in case you thought the Dead Space anime was utter shit, like a normal human being would).
Gameplay: As a hack and slash game, Dante's Inferno offers a mix of combat, platforming and puzzles. The combat is okay, I guess. You can use quick attacks, strong attacks, and projectile attacks in the shape of crosses. Not to mention, blocking and grabbing. Plus when you weaken a slightly bigger enemy, you can grab them and initiate a small quick time event (either mash the B button or push the left sitck left and right stick right). Yeah, crosses aside, this plays a lot like God Of War did. As a means of seperating itself a little further, there's a levelling system that keeps track of two different levels - unholy levels, gained by punishing the damned and powers up your scythe with each level up, and holy levels, gained by absolving the damned and powers up your crosses. You only get the scythe and crosses, but given that you can purchase abilities with the souls you get from downed enemies and punished/absolved damned, at least the levelling system is different from God Of War. But yeah, if you hated God Of War, you'll hate this very quickly, and I advise you just stop reading this review and go about the rest of your day by... maybe reading one of my other reviews? Nah, but seriously, if God Of War didn't appeal to you, go do something else, because I just went through the highlight of this game. Otherwise, keep reading.
The puzzles in this game are utter shit. Most of them require you to push a block around, and rather than throw some curveballs at you, they decided to just make it take forever, which ends up feeling really tedious. Especially this one where you have to be quick about pushing a block onto a switch so you can progress before it dissolves... and you're mounted on a minotaur, making movement a lot more sluggish. For every other sort of puzzle (which aren't much better), there are about 3 or 4 block pushing puzzles around the corner. *bleep*, I thought this was supposed to be some God Of War clone, but doing these puzzles made me think of a more tedious version of latter day Zelda games! Filler at its finest.
But the game's biggest problem lies in its pacing. It comes in two distinct flavors - bosses, and designs. The first few bosses are a bit on the tricky side, but most of them were fun to pummel. Then you hit Cerberus (and don't worry, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this Cerberus was a worm - *bleep* you Disney for making me think it was always a dog), and honestly, if it's not the super deadly bite attack, it'll be the middle head being a prick that'll piss you off... and then the bosses afterwards end up feeling like pushovers! What the *bleep*!? It's like after a while, the designers' imaginations and willingness to give a shit went the way of the dinosaurs, as each battle ended up feeling like you were just beating up bigger enemies.
Pacing issues don't stop there. If it's not all over the place, it goes on the downhill slope, and that's the best way to describe the problem with the level designs... The designs of each circle of hell seem to get significantly worse and worse. It starts off rather well, with some sweet lightning based parts in the Lust circle. Then they seem to get shorter and slam together more fighting parts with fewer other parts, which makes sense as there's Anger and Violence. Then you get to the last two circles, with one consisting of rounds upon rounds of combat where you have to achieve certain results (get a 100 hit combo, don't get hit, etc etc), and the other being this really tedious "walking over thin ice" thing and then the last boss. The designers just got lazier and lazier as the game progressed, and as a result, the latter half felt like a huge chore to go through.
Controls: The controls are usually good. The combat is dynamic enough to accomodate to button mashers and more dexterious players, and you never have to memorize anything more complex than LT + X or XXXX. The platforming controls aren't the best in the world, but they work well enough to be functioning... most of the time. Sometimes, it feels like whenever I press A, he doesn't jump. It happens rarely, and typically, it's after attacking, but it's a pain in the ass when you feel like you should jump, but you just don't. Not much to really say beyond that for the controls.
Graphics: There are two distinct graphical styles - realistic, and cartoony. First, realistic. The reaslistic style looks pretty good during cutscenes, boasting some of the best graphics from a seventh generation console. Seriously, when I saw the first cutscene, I thought those were real people! Then again, I fell for that before with 300. You sneaky bastards! During gameplay, they look good as well, although the funnel in the Lust circle looks like something fit for the PS2 rather than the 360/PS3. Beyond that, the textures are mostly spot on and character models look impressive (if samey), making the graphics look pretty spot on. Then there's the cartoony graphics, which can be pretty colorful, but... I don't know. Something about the flashback animations just rub me the wrong way... Some of them feel jittery, or stiff, or just lazy, and it wouldn't be a problem if there weren't moments of truly impressive animation. Maybe I'm just getting too critical of animations put in just to give variety to the visual style?
Audio: Another thing I find quite impressive with the presentation is the voice acting. These are easily some of the best voices I have heard in a video game. Each of the actors portray the correct emotions at the exact levels to do justice to each scene and to the poem itself. Sure, Dante kind of sounds like he eats shit or has throat cancer, but after a couple of times that you hear his voice, you'll find yourself being impressed with his performance. The soundtrack isn't bad, either. It does have some strong semblance of ambiance, but it never has the strong impact or punch that God Of War or Lords Of Shadow do in their soundtracks.
Replay Value: As for wanting to replay this game, it depends. If you can accept and even tolerate the shitty later levels and Cerberus, there are always items to get that you may have missed. There's also the Gates Of Hell, which is basically fifty waves of enemies, but all you get is an achievement, plus it's easy as shit unless you're doing it on the very hard difficulty level (not that it'd matter, because there are no difficulty specific achievements). Then there's the Trials Of St Lucia, which allows you to create scenarios where the player has to defeat waves of enemies, either alone or with another person... the reason most reviews don't mention this is because this was more of an 11th hour decision to try and give this game some replay value. Honestly, if you're willing to pay for something that probably should've been included, then there's more incentive to keep going... although there's not much of a community, these days. Meh.
Overall: Dante's Inferno is incredibly mediocre. The combat is never all that exciting, the pacing is crap, the latter half is extremely lazily done at best, and the puzzles are pretty damn tedious. Really, it's just style > substance, and I don't really appreciate that when a game has such a good concept going for it. Sure, it has good graphics, great voice acting and a fine soundtrack, but mediocre gameplay really stops this game from being any good.
Replay Value: 4/10
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