Forget everything you already know about Dante’s Inferno. Forget the frequently questionable ad campaign. Forget the comparisons. Forget that there is some big title just around the corner. Forget the differences from its literary “counterpart”. Forget it all. Either way, go to Hell.
There is no getting over the fact that Dante’s Inferno is going to polarize gamers: I think everyone knows that going into it. What I mean by that is you will either coin it as a clone of a game I refuse to mention in this review, or, you will forget all of that, take it for what it is worth, and actually enjoy the hell out of it (pun intended).
It truly amazes me how many people have already made up their mind on this game. Be it from the demo, the ad campaign, or just the unnatural love for others of its kind. Is there anything wrong with that? That depends. Do you do yourself a disservice by judging a book by its cover? Perhaps.
Dante – not a poet, but a warrior – has lost his one true love, Beatrice, who’s soul was taken by the devil. Due to his indulgences in life’s sweet, evil temptations, Dante is given the opportunity to delve into the nine circles of hell – Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery. Taking on Satan himself in his own twisted backyard is no easy task. But for Beatrice, anything is possible.
The combat in Dante’s Inferno is something that many are already familiar with. Wielding just Death’s scythe, Dante has the initial ability to do a sweeping strike – or light attack – as well as a top-down strike – or heavy attack. As with the offensive attacks, you will also find the commonly used defensive attacks in block, using the trigger button, and dodge, using the right analog stick. Sound familiar?
Customization can be found through spending the one currency available to you: souls. However, “leveling” in this game has been given a unique spin with two different talent trees (holy/unholy). With the power to either absolve or punish your enemies, holy or unholy points are given to you depending on your choice, which allows new talents to open up in each tree (a total of seven levels in each tree). Essentially this allows you to become either good or evil, which helps in the replay value department.
This two-tiered leveling system provides just the right amount of depth and customization to warrant replayability. My second playthrough has proved to be just as enjoyable since I am able to carry my progression from my first completion into my second. And I promise, you will need these extra moves to progress in the higher difficulties.
Along with the skill improvements provided by the two trees, you will also find relics hidden throughout the game. With 31 possible relics to find, two (or a possible third through an upgrade) equipment slots to fill, and the ability to level each relic through use, these relics give passive abilities that provide yet another element of customization and replayability.
For example, “Antony’s Standard” is a relic that increases the rate at which redemption energy is stored (Lvl 1: 10%, Lvl 2: 20%, Lvl 3: 30%) – which is an ability to go into a “hyper” mode by pressing RB + LB when enough energy is obtained.
Through the use of the many options available to you in talent trees and relics, Dante’s Inferno provides a great amount of balance for a majority of the game, while still maintaining the right amount of challenge. However, some of the boss fights feel a tad unbalanced, which takes away from the experience. But once you get over the hurdle, the unique feeling of accomplishment that action games provide shines bright. Should you be a less stubborn person than I, the game in no way punishes you for bumping the difficulty down (achievements or otherwise).
Throughout each of the nine levels of hell, you will find yourself pitted against an overwhelming amount of enemies in extremely well designed levels. The progression through Hell and the transition between combat scenarios felt extremely seamless. However, at times the game bogs itself down with its lackluster puzzle elements.
While I appreciated many of the unique puzzle elements in Dante’s Inferno, it was the repeated use of move block here, hit switch A, and then hit switch B that really slowed the game down and took itself away from the high tension action moments.
Another interesting turn taken in the game is the arena style mission objective areas towards the end of the game. In my opinion, this was the biggest letdown because it forced you to complete arbitrary tasks, such as killing five enemies in the air, in order to progress. It felt like the only reason why it was there was to provide some semblance of unique gameplay. Nonetheless, it was still challenging and fun.
Fighting your way through a very visually pleasing take on Hell runs at a smooth 60 frames per second from start to finish. The level of immersion in a game such as Bayonetta, while still staying visually pleasing, is missed in Dante’s Inferno, however. This is primarily due to the very few finishing move animations available to you.
Immersion is something that is extremely important in any game – be it story, combat, etc. While Dante’s Inferno’s combat is engaging, I never felt immersed in this Hell laid out in front of me. The story is something that should not, in any way shape or form, be taken as seriously as the game seems to think it has to be. The fact that Visceral Games felt the need to flaunt so much graphic content in your face is not in any way warranted or necessary. Instead, it is extremely distasteful. But again, don’t take it seriously, and it won’t bother you.
Look… it is time to be blunt. I’ll break my promise of mentioning the one game I said I refused to mention: God of War 3. The reason? The game isn’t out yet! However, it still deserves to be mentioned, and not simply due to the fact that elements in its trilogy have a lot of similarities to Dante’s Inferno (which I don’t feel to be a bad thing), but instead the fact that its release is right around the corner.
Dante’s Inferno isn’t for everyone. If you own both a Playstation 3 and an Xbox 360, there are alternatives in games such as Bayonetta, Darksiders, and God of War 3. The former two are better games than Dante’s Inferno, no doubt about that, and the latter is yet to be seen. But if you own just an Xbox 360, you can’t go wrong with Dante’s Inferno.
Combat is everything in an action game. And while Dante’s Inferno lacks innovation, the action genre has had the opportunity to flesh itself out, find what really works, and, most importantly, find what is fun. The way I look at it, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If the sound of that rubs you the wrong way, this game may not be for you. But for those that are open-minded, want to enjoy themselves immensely while feeling challenged without being looked down on – like some eastern style action games – than this game is definitely worth your time.
The environments and level design are very pleasing. Inferno runs without a hitch at 60 frames per second, which isn't too common these days.
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While Dante's Inferno doesn't provide anything new, the combat and leveling system are quite enjoyable.
The soundtrack and voice acting are average at best, but combat sound effects and environment sounds are fantastic with a surround sound system.
Promising DLC aside, it is roughly an 8 hour game with definite potential for a second playthrough to enjoy the rest of the holy and/or unholy tree as well as unlock relics you may have missed.
Dante's Inferno is undoubtedly just another action game that doesn't stand out among its peers. While short, every minute of it is enjoyable and challenging, and it succeeds in being a quality addition to the long list of western style action games.