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Anyone who has read Dante’s classic knows that the book is a horrifying read, a story of a journey through the nine layers of hell and witnessing the eternal punishment of those unfortunate enough to be there. In 2010, Visceral Games, the studio behind the acclaimed Dead Space series, decided to take a shot at Dante’s masterpiece. While artistically interesting, the game just didn’t deliver. Oh, and God of War called them. It wants its EVERYTHING back. (Warning: Content may be too intense for younger readers)
In Dante’s Inferno, the titular character (that IS a pun, more on that later) is a soldier in the Third Crusade. After a jailbreak, Dante battles against Saracens until one of them stabs him, literally, in the back. After the Grim Reaper judges him to Hell, Dante destroys him with his own scythe and begins on a journey to right the wrongs of his life, sin by inglorious sin. You know, the logical thing to do. He travels back to his home to find his father and fiance have been slaughtered, and they too have been condemned to the Abyss. Dante, with the help of Virgil, his guide, descends into Hell to save his betrothed.
That cross is sewn into Dante’s skin. Did they not have tattoos in 1191?
Yes, it’s an M-Rated version of Super Mario Bros, but it has some good hooks. Specifically, the artistic design of each of the nine layers is impressive. All the influences are there: the unending winds of Lust, the boiling blood of Violence, and the frigid wastes of Treachery are all beautifully imagined in a grim, gritty and gothicly inspired sort of way, though I don’t recall Limbo being so grim and intimidating the last time I read it. And Dante is a well written character considering his change of vocation. Even as you discover his sins and the evil he has done, his desire to see things right keeps you from feeling too negatively toward him. He is portrayed as human enough to make mistakes.
But this game has committed its share of sins, and they will pay for each of them.
One of the few occasions Beatrice has clothes
The virtuous pagans. The game took a lot of pages from God of War’s playbook. Combat, quicktime events, boss fights, item collection and spells are just a few of the copied concepts. They hold up well, but lack of innovation in any of those fields holds it back
The carnal malefactors. Considering this is one of the layers, some nudity makes sense, but they take literally EVERY opportunity to show breasts. Even Dante’s nipples are out the ENTRIRE GAME. It’s not even artistic. And yes, artistic nudity exists. Seriously, I swear it does… dammit. Basically, it felt like nudity just for nudity’s sake.
The solitary self-indulgent. I don’t think I’m the only one who hates those “search for twenty of these items” quests in games. This one has shades, items, coins and stones to find. If I need a walkthrough to find things, it’s less fun.
And these are the EASY enemies…
The aviricious and miserly. This game was sixty American dollars on release. I cleared it in less than six hours. The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.
The wrathful. Half of the cutscenes look like a comic book, two or three are impressive, and the rest use in-game models! Why didn’t they put more into the cutscenes?! *HULK RAGE*
The heretics. Marketing included a fake Christian protest, inspired a conflict with professional nannies (See the Bad Nanny achievement) and bastardized the character of Beatrice from the book. Artistic licence only goes so far, and that last one hurt the most.
Seriously, don’t let your kids play this
Violent against the neighbor, against the self, and against God and nature. Actually, this one is fine. It’s kind of the point of the game, you’re destroying demons and devils, and both sides of the Crusades are represented equally.
Guilty of deliberate, knowing evil. Moral choice systems have been big since Bioware broke out (KOTOR, Mass Effect). Having such a system and not having it affect to story at all makes such a system a huge letdown.
The Traitors. Visceral Studios built a good reputation with Dead Space, an impressive standard for the company. This game does not measure up to the standard it set for quality.
King Minos, Judge of the Damned
Concept: Take God of War and alter it to conform to The Inferno.
Story: A interesting take on the classic, but not strong enough to replace the original. A morality system is implemented, but doesn’t affect the storyline in the least.
Gameplay: Plenty of combat moves, two upgrade trees and interesting enemies. Suffers from only one weapon and no incentive to follow one over the other.
Graphics: Captures the gory, explicit details of the book in a big way. All the circles are there in their glory (or something like that)
Sound: A well composed soundtrack conveys grandeur and hopelessness in an interesting marriage. Voice acting isn’t top notch, but nothing less than good.
Fun Factor: This kind of beat-em-up is a load of fun for a while, but repetative quicktime fights and recycled enemies are uninspired.
Replay: For all the upgrades, you have to play through at least twice, and the arena mode give a little more life to this one, but the story is the same both times.
Lucifer in the Ninth Layer
It’s not as bad as you think. The story is pretty good, the art direction is incredible and the game is fun to play. For the first playthrough, anyway. It’s very derivative of other games in the genre, and there isn’t enough freshness to warrant more than a rental, though at this point you may as well buy it as it came out two years ago. Still, there are better games out there, so unless you’re looking to fill out a Saturday, pick something else.
Dante’s Inferno is Rated M for Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity and Sexual Content. If you haven’t read the book, make sure you get the annoted version. It’s a great read. And if you have kids, don’t let them play this one. Seriously, this game is M for good reason.
Any other Hellworthy trespasses we missed? Drop a comment and tell us about it!