Two of the truly great forms of entertainment media we have available to ourselves are literature and video games. Up to this point, few attempts have been made to meld the two forms into one, but this is what Visceral Games attempted to do with Dante's Inferno. Sadly, they fail horrendously in almost every aspect of crafting an experience anywhere near as deep what Dante Alighieri crafted in his masterpiece The Divine Comedies.
Reading the first of three parts of The Divine Comedies will give the reader an emotional, thought-provoking journey which follows the author in his fictitious adventure through Hell, experiencing all the turmoil such a place is thought to exhibit. Whereas, this video game follows Dante through a series of boss fights with the intent to save his lover, Beatrice, from Lucifer, whom she has fallen under the influence of.
Dante's Inferno starts during the Third Crusade, with Dante being stabbed in the back, whence Death comes for his soul. Dante is told by Death that he will be sent to Hell for his sins, however Dante will not accept this fate because the Bishop told the soldiers of the Crusade that their sins would be absolved for taking part in the war. Fighting Death, Dante acquires Death's scythe and uses it to defeat him. From here, he makes his way home to find his wife and father killed. Here, he witnesses Lucifer drag the soul of his wife, Beatrice, to Hell. Dante then embarks on a journey to save her.
Dante's adventure encompasses exactly what is wrong with Inferno. This is not how is happens in the source material, and his reasons for wanting to save Beatrice are selfish and ungodly, whereas in The Divine Comedies, Dante's journey is often interpreted as an allegory where he becomes closer to God after being saved from thoughts of suicide by Virgil. Everything Dante is doing in the game can only possibly push him further from God. I am not saying the game should have followed the source material word for word, yet there is no reason for even having such great literature as the backdrop, except to profit off of the notoriety of the work. None of the themes of The Divine Comedy are present in this game, only the idea that Hell is bad and the setting of the literature.
Dante enters Hell to save his lover Beatrice from the hands of Lucifer. It seems, however, that his motives are not wholly encompassed by his pure love of this woman, but in fact the jealousy brought about by Lucifer taking Beatrice away from him and fondling her in front of him. Also, Dante feels that he still deserves Beatrice even though he cheated on her with a whore in one of the cities he traveled to for the Crusade. Instead of wanting to save Beatrice as an act of selfless love, Dante is more worried about his jealousy and wanting something that he wrongfully views as his.
Not all the criticism of the game need be leveled at the incorporation of the source material neither. The gameplay mechanics of Dante's Inferno are forgettable as well. Dante will literally follow one path, and only one path, all the way through the game with no deviation except into a nook or cranny here. It is so pathetic to find the 'hidden' loot nearly in plain sight. One of the odd mechanics instituted into the game by the developers is hiding things with the camera. What I mean is, the camera is locked on the character and cannot be manually controlled, so the developers like to hide things using this in mind, in places that the camera would not normally see unless you tread just slightly more to the right or left of the beaten path. Instead of coming up with something clever to award players looking out for loot, Visceral Games actually used their crappy camera to obscure collectibles.
When you are not viewing the little amount of the world the developers let you see in this game, you will be fighting the creatures of Hell, which provides at least some redeeming hope to this game. There are many types of creatures in this game, or at least there appeared to be for the first three hours, and then they were recycled (sometimes with armor!) for the rest of the game after each model is introduced.One of the first creatures fought in the game are the usual minions which do not put up a much of a fight. The minions are found throughout the game, but traveling deeper into Hell introduces a new type of minion, one that dashes to and fro, but is still as weak. In one level of Hell, babies with cutting edges as hands become enemies. Yes babies in Hell, and unbaptized babies at that! The thing is, they are introduced in the Limbo stage of the game, yet pop up throughout the rest of the game, unchanged. Why? Hell if I know, but Inferno has very few enemy types. This is a big drawback in this game. Individual character models are quite unique, but there could have been so many more types of enemies if the developers would have used any imagination. Even the enemy designs they have are sometimes used too little. Large, worm-like creatures make an appearance in one section of the game, but are largely unused for the rest of it.
Battling the creatures of Hell is hardly a fun experience, either. One of the ways to attack enemies is not well implemented at all. Near the beginning of the game, a Christian cross is received from Beatrice before Dante leaves for the Crusade. Used as a range weapon, the cross 'shoots' Holiness, damaging enemies. For the most part, the cross is effectively useless, nor is it used often. Enemies are never far enough away to string together combos, so its use is relegated to taking down flying enemies or softening up far away enemies until they move closer. In most cases, the player is fighting hordes of enemies, where cross attacks are useless because the player will be hit by an enemy before they can get off a substantial combo, so it becomes better in these cases to mash attack buttons that use the scythe.
Fighting enemies with the scythe yanked from Death is somewhat more satisfying, yet it is not implemented well into the game either. There are two standard attacks: light and heavy. Unlike most games, there is no way to meld light and heavy attacks into a combination. One can partake in a string of light attacks followed by heavy attacks, but there is no way to combine them. Inferno handles combo attacks poorly, and in a hack and slash such that Inferno is, this is unacceptable.
Dante's Inferno gets little use out of the timeless source material it is very loosely based on. There is nothing here for anyone looking for a story, neither is the main component of the game, the combat, really up to any decent standard. Dante's Inferno really fails in all ways. Almost any other hack and slash action game is more worthy than this game, which should be avoided at all costs.
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