Games from the Bargain Bin: ‘Dante’s Inferno’


Dante’s Inferno was a much hyped game released in early 2010. With an extensive and big budget marketing campaign the game launched to reviews that called it decent, but not great, sending it from full to lowest price in less than two years. I did download and play the demo when it arrived on PSN and whilst fun, we were in the final stages of the God of War III countdown and a full priced knock-off didn’t seem like it was worth the price.

So is it worth the budget price tag? Almost.

Players familiar with Dante Alighieri’s poem ‘Inferno’ will need to make a few mental adjustments going in. Dante is no longer a poet taking a tour of hell, but a blood thirsty, shag hungry soldier in the Crusades who is slicing and dicing his way through the nine levels of the underworld in pursuit of his stolen love Beatrice. It makes sense from a gameplay perspective – battling with prose doesn’t work outside of Typing of the Dead – but it would make more sense to simply use the descriptive elements from ‘Inferno’ and change the name of the main character to something generic. With such a dramatic change to the character it would make more sense and give pretentious reviewers like me less to bitch about.

Putting aside the downright befuddling character shift, the design is something to behold. Easily the strongest selling point of the game each level of hell is faithfully recreated based on the descriptions given in the poem. Seeing the images brought to brutal life gives gamers some of the best visuals in recent gaming history. Although the animations are generally mediocre the detail and creativity is rich. Every corner you turn reveals a new torment that it’s difficult not to dwell on. The boss battles are equally freaky and imaginative, with Cleopatra representing lust being especially unnerving. It’s worth playing to game just to see how the next layer of sin is brought to life.

Except for one thing – the gameplay. Controls are stiff and awkward, with Dante’s actions being slow to respond. Even when you get a swing going it won’t be long before a quicker moving enemy launches an attack interrupting your moves. This isn’t helped by the size of the swarms that hit in waves. Even the lowest level of beast takes an excess of pummeling to bring to down and with the huge number that hit you at any given time, the job of carving through the armies of the damned using Death’s scythe quickly becomes a tiresome chore.

The awkward controls don’t help with the platforming sections either with the fixed camera and slow responses lead you to plenty of frustrating plummets into instant death canyons. For some downright idiotic reason the game designers felt it was suitable that every door and chest that you open (and there’s one every five minutes) requires you to quickly hammer a button for a few seconds to activate it. Essentially you stop the game every few minutes to engage in a pointless exercise that is unsatisfying and frustrating.

Perhaps the below-par gameplay could be pushed through in order to see every layer of the Inferno, but the character doesn’t give you much reason to see things through to the end either. They’ve turned one of the Western worlds most notable poets into a complete dick. As a Crusader Dante partakes in murdering prisoners under his care, slaughtering innocents and banging every slave girl he has the chance to in spite of the promise made to his true love Beatrice. He felt it was a-OK because he leader told him that their sins would absolved because they were doing God’s work and so Dante, upon reaching hell, has to face up to his sins.

"Sup."

 

How is this someone that we can sympathize with? He doesn’t have any personality beyond being determined to save the pure and innocent Beatrice (not so pure and innocent that she doesn’t refrain from gets her boobs out at every opportunity) and being a blood-gargling psychotic with a cross stitched into his torso for some unfathomable reason. Kratos was easier to get behind than this knob. All the more reason to have renamed him as not to associated him with the real life poet.

Although it is now at the price that it can be picked up with a spare twenty, the clunky gameplay and unlikeable lead character don’t provide enough motivation to push through all nine levels. As much as I enjoyed seeing the details of one of my favourite poems from the sickening, shocking life (so I’m a freak, sue me) the rest of the package is simply good enough to make it worth playing. Even though I wanted to see what the rest of hell looked like my enthusiasm puttered out around Greed and I switched back to ‘Arkham City’.

So is it worth the bargain price? Sadly, no. But don’t feel bad about snubbing it – it’s backed by EA who own more big budget franchises that they have any right to.