Dante's Inferno


posted 2/26/2010 by Tina Amini
other articles by Tina Amini
One Page Platforms: PS3
A lot of controversy surrounds Visceral’s action-adventure title known as Dante’s Inferno. First, there’s the obvious criticism for the game taking liberties with the storyline of the original poem by Dante Alighieri. If you were wondering how valid this criticism is, the rumors are indeed true.

Visceral’s version of the Divine Comedy essentially uses the literary piece as the footnote for a video game that traverses the nine Circles of Hell. The basic premise is there: Dante travels through Hell encountering the manifestation of people’s sins in the afterlife while being led by Virgil. There are various references to characters that the original Dante met in his travels, as well as references to locations and sites like Acheron or the city of Dis. Even the bosses in each Circle of Hell represent a major character of the Divine Comedy.

In the third person perspective, you will play as Dante who led crusaders in a murderous rampage to conquer the disputed holy land under the orders of King Richard and a deranged Bishop. Said bishop convinces you that all your sins are absolved, even without confession, which leads you into a destructive path of murder, betrayal, and crazy-eyed animations in cut scenes. After a victorious confrontation with Death (which you can play in the demo version), Dante treks home to find his wife Beatrice and his father murdered. What’s worse, your own heinous sins have committed your wife’s soul to Lucifer’s possession. Thus begins your journey through the 9 Circles of Hell to rescue her soul.

Your back-story is revealed to you in graphic novelesque cut scenes reminiscent of Samurai Champloo (which turns out was a good guess on my behalf considering some of the creative team was involved in the anime show). They’re definitely pleasant to look at if you’re a fan of lush graphic art. They’re composed of constantly shifting and transforming images, my favorite of which is the Bishop’s face transforming into a devilish grin of an expression.

The plot that Visceral did formulate felt like a half effort. It could very well have been Mario rescuing Princess from Bowser. Even though the storyline attempts to connect you with Dante’s history, I didn’t feel any particular bond with him or care for Beatrice’s fate. I was playing to play, not for any other reason.

Dialogue didn’t help for the plot, either. A few lines from the Divine Comedy are thrown in for good measure – generally spoken by your guide, Virgil – but you’ll find good text otherwise remiss.

With such a descriptive text as the Divine Comedy to take cue from, I was disappointed that there wasn’t more feeling put into the game. This is specifically an issue when confronted with the torment that we’re meant to encounter along the way. Dante in the Divine Comedy found the torture and pain palpable, but I wasn’t moved by any of the allegedly tormenting scenes I came across. Disgusted by some, perhaps (wait for the Circle of Lust), but otherwise no emotions were passed.

This was more so disappointing considering that the graphics are fairly impressive. This holds true particularly in cut scenes, of course, breathing cinematic life into the otherwise adventurous gameplay. The detailing in imagery and creativity of how sins are represented in each Circle of Hell is definitely present, but the feeling of immersion in them is what’s lacking.

The other major accusation that has been floating around since the reveal of Dante’s Inferno is its unmistakable similarities to the God of War series. This is another truthful accusation, but there are two ways to take this fact.

One is resentment against the developers for creating a game that is “unoriginal”. The other perspective – and this holds water particularly for 360 owners – is that this is an opportunity to play a game that resembles in the best ways possible David Jaffe’s incredibly popular action-adventure series exclusive to the PlayStation consoles. The idea of playing the antihero and the gameplay formula do make it justifiable in calling Dante’s Inferno a “clone” of God of War. And although while playing the demo I was skeptical of how well Visceral could keep up as a clone, playing the game throughout turned me from skeptic to advocate.

While you might call the game a clone, you can’t accuse Visceral of not being able to deliver on an entertaining game. That much is still true in their latest development.

To put it shortly, gameplay is both diverse and fast-paced. In terms of fighting, Dante’s Inferno provides you with your weapon, a ranged attack, and magic. Your scythe, stolen as a trophy from your encounter with Death, can issue swift light attacks, or throw your enemies into the air in preparation for pummeling hard hits. The combination moves that you can buy with souls you collect in Hell switch up the flow of your fighting style.
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