(Review written by Fatmond, all credit goes to him.)
From the opening graphics with the EA/Visceral logo sweeping along your screen, accompanied by the dark, imposing orchestra, to the end of the final, stunning cutscene, ‘Dante’s Inferno’ is very finely crafted game. There will be comparisons to ‘God of War’ but considering Xbox users may not have a chance to play that, this is a welcome addition to the 360 catalogue.
Based on Dante Alighieri’s book ‘The Inferno’, part of his epic work ‘The Divine Comedy’, we find ourselves taking the authors in-game namesake on his journey through Hell, in search of his beloved Beatrice.
The levels are beautifully realised and the twisting, groaning denizens of the underworld are accordingly gruesome, especially the “Unbaptised”, the giant boss battles providing the biggest and most epic moments, in particular, Minos and Cerberus. There is a good feeling of scale to the whole affair, from travelling along on Charon’s back to the the constant feeling of decent that is present in the platforming sections, used to traverse the circles, to approaching the city of Dis as Dante reels off his final monologue, are all very grand. I did often get the feeling though that I was missing out on a lot of the surroundings because of the fixed camera, this was a shame because a great deal of craft has gone into sculpting the levels and all too often I found myself unable to take a closer look.
The sound design is done beautifully, hits and collisions sound nice and meaty and you can almost feel the bones cracking as you tear deamons in half. Music too has been scored with no little skill, setting the tone perfectly, ebbing and flowing along at the same pace as the action, leading to a nice, coherant experience.
Textures, particle effects and lighting are all superb, the coloured lighting in particular is excellent. Each circle of Hell (up until the final 10 circles which are very samey and easily the most uninspiring portion of the game) has a distinct look and feel although I often felt they were far too short, Lust and Gluttony in particular could’ve gone on for a lot longer. It was nice though to see that they had adapted ideas from famous artworks, themselves based on ‘Inferno’, which lent a kind of credence to the whole thing.
The story is interesting and unfolds at a good pace although ultimately far too quickly. Flashbacks and cutscenes are fairly regular and go a long way to creating an intriguing narrative, each time telling a little more about Dante’s past or current situation in a variety of ways. The standard cutscenes do little more than utilizing the in-game graphics, these make up the bulk of the storytelling. There are four higher quality pieces of animation, spread evenly throughout the game which are just incredible, stuff to rival the best CGI work from Hollywood and wouldn’t look out of place in any blockbuster. It was the flashbacks though, in the form of the animated tapestries sewn onto Dante’s body, that are the nicest touch, imagine early Japanese Manga if it had been made by Arabians on acid! Fittingly bloody and extremely original, they bind Dante’s tale and ultimately his fate.
The combat for the most part is good although it would’ve been nice to have a few more chainable and complex combos. The collectible and upgradable Relics and upgrade tree help keep it fresh and give a feeling of customisation. Gameplay is helped a number of times throughout the game via the ‘Beast-Rider’ sections, I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who’s not yet played it but you’ll recognise them when they come along and should be suitably impressed, possibly a touch under used for my taste but I can also see why they wouldn’t to overdo it. There is unfortunately a very heavy emphasis on quick-time events throughout the game but luckily they’re accompanied by some decent character animations so they never feel like too much of a chore.
This is not a perfect game, by any means. The same problems as with any fixed camera, third person platformer come into play every now and then, perspective and bad camera angles often made jumps and platforming considerably more frustrating than they should’ve been and on occasion made it unclear where Dante should be heading, checkpoints are not implemented very well either, making some of these sections quite frustrating. The puzzles, on the whole, are pretty lame, far too easy and uninspired, coupled with a combination of the previous two complaints they can lead to cheap deaths which seem to serve only to address the biggest problem with ‘Dante’s’, the fact that it’s just far too short, a play through on the normal difficulty setting can be done without much trouble in around 6 hours and with no achievements for completing the game on harder difficulties, there’s little incentive for doing it again. Also, although this game is very heavily influenced by the source material, fans of the literature may feel that more could have been done to keep it truer to Dante Alighieri’s original work.
It is the way that all the good elements combine however, along with the obviously excellent source material, the Developers spin on the tale and the technical aspects I’ve mentioned that lead to this being a most absorbing and enjoyable game and the good points far outweigh the bad. If it wasn’t for some poor camera sections of platforming, dull puzzles and being too short an experience, Visceral could well have had a classic on their hands with ‘Dante’s Inferno’. As it stands however it’s still a very solid game and well worth playing.