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Dante's Inferno

 

Dante's Inferno

ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: 3rd Person: Action
 
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Author:

Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Features

1 player
HDTV: 720p/1080i/1080p
Content Download

I got to see Dante's Inferno at last year’s E3. I, along with several of staffers, sat in on a demo at EA's booth with Visceral Games showing us the ropes. After sitting down and watching this demo the game became one of my most wanted after seeing it in action. The subject matter was one of the selling features for me. So now that the game is on shelves how did the final product turn out?

Graphics

Dante's Inferno is without a doubt a visually stunning game with great animation and cinematic cutscenes. Some levels seem to be a little bland meshing many reds browns and grays together into a bit of a mess, but in the end it actually fits the games theme quite well. Every portal has its own distinctive design, and the ongoing trend of each one seems to be a physical representation of the sins of man. And mark my words; this is definitely a mature rated game because of it. From the imagery of giant genitalia in the portal of Lust to the intestines in the portal of Gluttony, this is some seriously bizarre material. The devil really is in the details in this game, and as much fun playing this game provides, watching it is a lot of fun too. But in the end be prepared to watch a lot of mature themed gore here.

Hell is everything you would hope it to be. One look at the environments and you will see signs of torture and gory blood and guts everywhere. Turning or flipping switches and levers usually results in a gruesome death for some unfortunate person. Overall most areas offer up a pretty good level of detail. The best way to describe what you'll see is that it is like walking through Clive Barkers worst nightmare on a good day. Kudos goes to the developers as they have created such dark and intimidating environment for you to venture through.

The bosses are equally impressive, big and brutal. They animate very well considering how large they can be. You may just want to watch them a few times before trying to take them on given the work that went into them and how good the final product looks.

Another great point is the game's cutscenes. They are breathtakingly beautiful, especially the animation as I found it to be among the best that I have seen in some time. Stuff like the tiny hairs on Beatrice’s face when she is lying on the ground and how the sun lights them up, or the facial expression on Dante when he sews the cross on his chest, all of these things are pretty impressive.

Technically speaking the game also moves at a good pace with little or no signs of frame rate issues or clipping. If any issues do arise they tend to show up in the boss battles or areas of graphic heavy situations. These were not found that often and they are far from deal breakers here.

Sound

The audio in Dante's Inferno is quite good. From the voice acting to the sound effects, such as the subtle cries of pain from the damned or demons being slaughtered, you'll hear everything quite easily. The game is, of course, in Dolby Digital 5.1, which makes great use of the speakers. Everything is crisp and clear to ones ear and the deep booming of giant bosses will most definitely dust off your sub.

The musical score is also solid and it really sets the mood. The orchestral tunes really complement the visuals as they suck you further into the game. It manages to swell up at just the right time and it sounds epic when it is called for. Just like movies, the score really adds to the experience and makes you see the love and respect the developers had when creating this game.

Gameplay

Dante's Inferno focuses on delivering a 3rd person action game based on Alighieri's depiction of Hell. You assume the role of Dante, who descends into Hell after returning home to find his beloved Beatrice murdered, with Lucifer seducing her soul into the underworld. As Dante, you set out on a rescue mission to save Beatrice, but soon realize you are in Hell to face your own demons in an effort to ultimately redeem yourself.

The game starts with an epic battle and *Spoiler Alert* Dante being killed. The Grim-Reaper comes to claim him, but being Dante he refuses to go to Hell this way. In the ensuing fight Dante actually steals the Reapers scythe, and shoves him back into the hellhole he came from. Dante returns home to find that his father and wife have been killed, with his wife (Beatrice) being dragged into the depths of Hell. Dante decides that he will get his bride back. To do this he must travel through every portal described in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and I will tell you I never dreamed that Hell could be this much fun!

Having played games of similar ilk such as God of War, and most recently Darksiders, I really did not know what to expect from Dante's gameplay. Right off the hop I found the game moves more like God of War than any other game, with battles having various timed button sequences to pull off. Although I like this kind of play to start it did seem to get a little boring after awhile. I thought the novelty of doing such huge damaging blows was hurt by doing simple repetitive button mashing. That being said you do have the option to make battles somewhat stylish which can be adjusted with the upgrading system. This works by accumulating points when you either absolve or punish your enemies. This Judge Dread form of justice allows you to gain holy or unholy points. Holy points will get you upgrades for your cross while unholy points will get you upgrades for your scythe.

The game's real strength comes in the holy and unholy abilities and moves that you can unlock. As you kill enemies you earn souls which you can use to purchase abilities or moves. Unholy ones are more weapon hack and slash based whereas holy moves are based on using Divine Powers, like holy beams and crosses. When you grab an enemy and finish him off you can choose to either punish (just plain kill them) or absolve (kill them in a holy way). Both of these earn you points toward holy or unholy sides of things. The more you earn the more levels you unlock for each side allowing you more abilities to buy for each one. One play though of this game won’t unlock everything and it will most likely take you a few play throughs for any completionist to get everything.

There is more then just killing to be found in Dante's Inferno. I certainly liked the puzzles throughout the game as they added a bit more to the whole experience. It gives you a rest from the sometimes frenzied action while making sure that the game is not just a mindless gore fest. Overall the puzzles are not of the brain numbing variety, but some do manage to test your brain power. It is a good thing too as I think anything too difficult would begin to kill the pacing of the game. For example I loved the Escher puzzle area. It wasn't difficult and it did not take that much time at all, but the several dimensions it played on is immensely cool which adds a bit of diversity to the game overall.

Dante's Inferno isn't too long which kind of sucks. My total game time recorded was around seven hours on easy. You will find that the difficulty can make a difference too. To unlock all the moves and extras repeated playing is required, but the only difference is the difficulty so it may become quite boring over time. I played on the easiest to allow me to get through the game as quick as possible to comment on the whole thing. Unfortunately there are no online modes to play, but to be honest I am not sure of how it could have even been imlemented. Perhaps if the game was longer a co-op mode would have been cool. There is also the promise of future game downloads.

My one and only biggest gripe for Dante's Inferno is the fixed camera. The camera often decides it would rather be cinematic than helpful, which sometimes led me into silly mistakes such as falling into a pit or off a ledge I did not see. I love a little freedom with the camera in action games like this, and a static one is not my cup of tea. The camera in Darksiders for example lets you have a look at your surroundings, which helps not only to see the details but also allows you to soak in the work that goes into all the levels. For Dante's Inferno the static camera problem is also magnified by the small and mostly linear paths in which to move. This linear set-up really takes away your drive to explore and as a result makes you run through the levels like mad.

One other notable thing is the mature rating. Dante's Inferno is not for the kids in the house and I can't stress this enough. Given the gratuitous violence and gore, and the inclusion of nudity, this game is not intended for a young audience. At the risk of offending some gamers this game surprisingly shows a fair amount of nakedness of both genders. There were a couple of ‘whoa’ moments out of me as I saw huge male and female genitalia in plain sight. To be honest all the mature subject matter does suit the theme of the game; just take it with a grain of salt. In the end it really does help with the presentation of the game's story.


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