There was a time when EA wouldn't even have blood in their games, now they have mutated babies with knives for arms who crawl out of talking nipples on a giant Cleopatra you can impale on a scythe (nicked from Death himself, no less). Dante's Inferno is a mature game in every sense of the word and I am flabbergasted it made it through our censors, unscathed and messed up as all hell.
That's an interesting segue though, because I guess if we're looking at games in this country on a contextual basis for over-the-top violence, sex etc, when in the classification process, Dante's Inferno has free reign to present to you whatever it feels like and get away with it. Its very foundation is
hell, and with a whopping nine circles to conquer and all kinds of sins to draw upon, well you can pretty much work out just how full-on the game can get.
But that's another interesting point, while it's all well and good to hear about mutated babies attacking you, nothing can actually prepare you for the reality of facing them, and then doing away with them (to be fair I've Absolved every one of them so far), or anything else in the game for that matter. There's some incredible imagination manifested throughout the Dante's affair, and though it's abundantly clear the guys at Visceral Games are massive God of War fans, they have taken their influence a step further, expanding on the premise and utilising their source material to its absolute fullest.
So for anyone wondering, yes there is a game in here, and yes it's pretty damn fun to play. Looking past all the gob-smacking moments, Dante's Inferno serves up a heady action-packed adventure game with plenty of combat, an awesome variety of enemies, some cool puzzles and a great skill-tree and magic system all mixed pleasantly with a bit of platforming. If you're not a fan of quicktime events (QTE) you're going to struggle, but looking past that the only really new thing here is just how ahead the game is in the maturity department, so it's not overly daunting to play and should have you hacking and tearing asunder in no time.
If you're unfamiliar with the story of Inferno, it's based on a famous poem by Dante Alighieri called the Divine Comedy. It was written in the fourteenth century and follows Dante's descent into the nine circles of hell, accompanied by fellow poet Virgil. The poem is written in the first-person, narrated by Dante himself and follows his description of hell; pointing out its myriad ironic and oft literal punishments for the damned.
The game is based on the part one of the Divine Comedy, but takes poetic liberties with the story (pun intended). Instead of being a poet, our Dante (that is, videogame Dante) is a knight of the Third Crusade. While in Acre, Dante's stabbed in the back, but his pure strength of will allows him a fight with Death himself. This literally happens some two minutes into the game, and is an excellent precursor to the epic stuff ahead. Seriously, the first boss is Death - that's just fucking cool.
Once he's beaten, Dante is awarded with Death's scythe and heads home to his beloved Beatrice (also no part of the original poem). Upon finding her though, he sees that she has been slain. Having Death's scythe appears to have its advantages though, and so Dante follows after her; apparently a reward for Lucifer himself for a transgression on Dante's part (though this isn't fully revealed until a little later in the game) - thus your journey to retrieve the love of your life begins.
Aside from the addition of Beatrice and the transformation of Dante from poet to warrior, the game is actually incredibly close to its source material. Virgil is still lingering about in ghost form, filling you in on the surroundings, while Alighieri's words are transformed into vivid imagery - all as disgusting, fearsome and horrific as you would expect.
Like the God of War games, movement is pretty straight-forward, and the game presents you with fixed camera positions and sweeps. The right thumb stick then is applied to evade, and while it's nice having evade button (better positioned as RB in Darksiders in my opinon) I would have preferred a more straight-up third-person game where I have complete control of the camera, if only to sweep around and get the best look at the environments and vistas which are incredibly impressive. Art-direction throughout is incredible, with some of the most impressive set-pieces I've ever seen in an action game.
As you would expect, Dante's description of the nine circles has allowed for Visceral Games to really let their imaginations run wild. Despite being locked into their cinematic camera-view, I still found myself jaw-dropped at most of what I saw, while hell's minions and denizens are equally full-on. Cleopatra will gross you out, Marc Antony have you running scared and Cerberus, the worm guardian of Gluttony, shitting yourself. And that's without giving away some of the more insane beings you'll come across.
Almost every enemy you come across can be eviscerated in one of two ways: Punished or Absolved; each of which will reward you with XP in Unholy or Holy, respectively. There are two skill trees based on both Unholy and Holy you can move through, and you merely spend XP on your chosen tree. You can mix it up and choose to level them both up the same (highly recommended), or either Holy or Unholy singularly. The choice is yours. There's also a Magic system, where magic is earned after major bass battles. You can then assign magic to a corresponding button and utilise it at any time, provided your Mana bar has enough magic in it. Dante will also collect relics along the way, which can then be donned (some require certain levels of either Holy or Unholy) and act as perks that upgrade themselves as well. You'll gain a lot of these, but can only have two on at any one time, so it's recommended you experiment.
While overall the cosmetic side of the game is unique and engrossing, the gameplay side is marginally uninspired. It does everything right given the pedigree, but we've been there and done that. What's worrying about this is the nature of repetition because of it, which in turn leads to frustration. A lot of the bosses are cheap, and take multiple attempts to take down, while certain bottlenecks, or locked areas with waves of enemies will need to be repeated from the first spawn if you die, no matter how close you are to the end of the wave. And if you play it on the hardest setting (a harder one unlocks if you beat it), you can definitely expect to be walking away both ashamed and frustrated.
Still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't compelled to finish the game, if only to see how messed up it gets at the end (I'm close, and so far it's very cool in terms of imagination) - it all just depends on your patience and ability to utilise combos and attacks in creative and tactical ways. Either way, for the shock value, and imagination alone, I highly suggest at least checking this out - it's visually unique, if nothing else.