God of War rip off? Homage? Beater? Let's see.
Dante's Inferno is (loosely) based on the epic poem written by Dante Alighieri in the late 1400's.
In the original story, the protagonist was a lost traveler who upon finding a path, begins a journey that will take him through Hell, Heaven and Purgatory, the story chronicles his travels with the poet meeting various dignitaries and damned souls, discussing their past and working towards his way home with every step through the nine circles.
This is the point where the game takes a major bite of the artistic license pie, in this version Dante is a crusader and sinner, he returns home from the crusades to find his father dead and his beloved Beatrice lay dying. As Dante approaches, her soul leaves her body and departs for Heaven.
At that point, Lucifer appears, takes her soul and drags her towards Hell for an after-life of torment brought on by the sins of the fallen crusader. Dante gives chase, meets the angel Virgil, enters Hell and thus the story starts.
For any of you who have played God Of War, you'll be used to the game style, it plays in very much the same way, with combo attacks being played out with a mixture of the square and triangle buttons, ranged attacks are handled by the circle and jumping with the x.
Killing enemies is a little different to GoW though, in Dante's Inferno killing a hell-spawn passes on that creatures soul, these souls (much like the red orbs) are used to upgrade your skills.
This is where the first real difference comes in, as you progress through the game you can level up two distinct paths, either holy, or unholy.
Holy skills are leveled by showing mercy to the denizens of Hell, Unholy by dishing out punishment, both have their strengths and weaknesses and the player must choose which path they wish to take. Once you have reached the desired level, you can then purchase upgrades for your skills with the souls that you have claimed. Unholy levels are specifically for combat with the main weapon (Death's Scythe) and generally unlock combos and special attacks, Holy deal more with the ranged attacks, magic and health upgrades.
Combo attacks themselves merge together effortlessly and with a little practice, the player can easily pull off combos of over 200 hits, once damaged a lot of the larger enemies (and bosses) require a short quick time event that allows the player to punish or absolve the creature, this usually resorts to the now standard push this button a lot.
Regarding quick time events, the game has a fair few of them, these include every time you open a door, or visit a health/mana/soul fountain. Thankfully, as you progress through the game, there are items that can be collected that can avoid a large section of these button mashing horrors.
There is one way to describe the graphics for this game; Stunning.
The levels are well drawn out and suitably gruesome, the character animations are fluid and polished and there are nice little touches all over the place that show that the dev team really put a lot of work into the finishing touches.
Bosses are HUGE and look incredible, one of the early bosses is Cleopatra, a giant half naked woman, there are signs however that her body has succumbed to the ravishes of the circle of Lust,
for example her nipples appear inverted, during the fight with her however you discover that they have been replaced with extra mouths, these mouths can spit out the unbaptized babies that charge at you ensuring that Dante is held up for a few vital seconds and allowing Lucifer to take away his love.
Another nice touch graphically is the climbable walls; instead of the usual cracked wall or rope mesh, the walls in hell are full of damned souls. While that may not sound like much, each of these souls is animated and appears to be writhing in agony, some even scream out as you reach past them, this strange little attention to detail is one of my personal favorite moments in the game and just shows that the whole product was well thought out from beginning to end.
The final point i'll say in the graphics section is how well the in game camera works, I must admit
there were a couple of moments where I would have liked to have some form of control over the fixed camera but at other times it allows for some jaw dropping visuals, walking up to the city of Dis on the back of a giant demon, the camera pans back and a voice-over starts, I honestly thought that the game had switched to a cutscene and I put the controller down for a few seconds, it was then that I noticed the giant had stopped moving, continuing on the camera pans back even further, showing the player the full scale of the level and just how small Dante appears in comparison, it is pure eye-candy but is no less effective for it.
The same level of detail put into the graphics, has also been put into the sound effects, voice acting and background music, the voice acting is easily some of the best I've heard on this generation of consoles and works very well with the characters, having said that though the voice of Virgil, Dante's guide and advisor can get a little annoying as a result of the amount of echo they seem to have put on the actor.
The background music is suitably gothic and epic, it complements the level design well and does not blast out so loud as to make it impossible to hear what's going on in the game.
The other sounds used in the game also work well, demons grunt, the damned scream, women moan (especially in the lust circle) and generally everything seems to have a place for it.
The usual cast of trophies can be found here, they range from kill so many of one creature to perform a 666 hit combo, sadly there are also a couple in there for the dreaded item collections (of which there are technically 4) which while extending gameplay, feel more like a grind than an achievement.
Sadly, no game is perfect, Dante's Inferno comes very close for this particular genre, but it does have it's issues.
The camera while well done can sometimes get in the way, meaning that Dante will occasionally miss his footing and plunge down to his death, these moments are few and far between but they are still there.
Quick Time Events, too many of them, while some of them are executed incredibly well, for every good QTE, there is a button mash to open the door or fountain that takes the whole game one step backwards.
Level design. . . yeah I know what I said above, you're probably now thinking "But Gin, you said it was so well done, wtf are you talking about?" towards the later levels one whole circle is made up of a section of challenges, 10 to be exact that must be completed in order to progress, they range from "get a x-hit combo" to "Stay in the air for 8 seconds" they really take away some of the flow of the game and generally give the impression that the developers having done so well with the other levels, simply ran out of ideas and threw this together. It's not game-breaking but it's still an issue.
Finally the biggest downside for this game is in the length, the story mode itself can be completed in around 7 hours or so, while this doesn't mean the entire game is finished as there are various collectibles and challenges that can be done, it still gives the impression that while well planned, the levels were too short.
It's a sign of a good game that leaves the player wanting more, Dante's Inferno does just that with the excellent story, stunning visuals and epic soundtrack, however in this case, the reason the player may want more is that there just isn't enough of the original content to be considered a full game, for the cost of a new game the player should be able to expect a fair amount of game time straight out of the box, sadly this title just doesn't deliver it. This is a real shame as Visceral games have done an exceptional job in translating the original works and providing a vision of Hell that surpasses any other to date, Dante's Inferno does allow the player to start over with the skills learnt from the first playthrough but this is just a cheap tactic to add longevity to a short title.
There is an extra content pack coming out for this title in March which will add a multi-player arena, with one player controlling Dante and the other the Angel St. Lucia, this is also planned to allow for user generated content in the form of enemy waves and challenges.
A great game with great visuals and a fantastic story, Which should have scored higher, but ultimately let down by the relatively short levels.