Giant Bomb Review

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Dante's Inferno Review

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  • X360

That Dante's Inferno is almost proudly derivative of Sony's God of War series isn't inherently a bad thing, but its lack of unique accomplishments makes for a hollow experience.


 There's Hell to pay.
Between Darksiders and Dante's Inferno, there's been an awful lot of chatter in early 2010 about the relative virtues of originality in games. The proliferation of new, often very specific gameplay ideas is intrinsic to game development, but these are both games that are particularly unapologetic about where their inspiration comes from. Darksiders is a whole-cloth tribute to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time--and, by association, all of the main Zelda games released since--which applies a darker, bloodier motif to that very specific gameplay formula. Similarly, Dante's Inferno takes the God of War format and swaps out a brutal, heavy-metal take on Greek mythology with a brutal, heavy-metal take on the medieval vision of Hell.
 
The key difference here is that, while Darksiders delivered the Dark Zelda game that certain fans have been demanding of Nintendo, Dante's Inferno simply feels like an off-brand version of the game it's aping. It's not quite the Transmorphers: Fall of Man to God of War's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in terms of the quality of the experience, but it's hard to shake the sense that you've already played a better, more inspired version of this game.
 
Aside from its naked cribbing from God of War--which extends from the tone of the rage-driven narrative to the rage-and-combo-driven combat system--the other significant characteristic of Dante's Inferno is that it is very, very loosely based on an important piece of classic literature. Regardless of whether you hold The Divine Comedy in high regard or have never even heard of it before, rest assured, there's enough distance between the source and the game that it's kind of a moot point. Other than some character names and the occasional chunk of prose, the primary influence Alighieri's epic poem seems on the game is its savagely poetic depiction of Hell.
 
Here you travel through the nine circles of Hell as a character named Dante--a character whose connection to the Dante from The Divine Comedy doesn't seem to go very far beyond the namesake and the vintage. He's a Crusader burdened with his own considerable sins who seems to be fighting as much for his own redemption as he is the soul of his wife Beatrice, which belongs to an unnervingly well-endowed Lucifer. There's a lot of righteously indignant yelling on Dante's behalf, who, like Kratos, is a character all but defined by his disrespect for the rigid hierarchy of mythological realms, a trait that's pretty well galvanized when Dante beats the Grim Reaper (I guess to death?) at the start of the game and makes Death's scythe his own.
 
 Clearly, a good face-stabbing will clear up this problem.
And so, Dante works his way to the icy center of the Inferno through a grotesque menagerie of sinners and demons, each more damnable than the next. Perhaps it just speaks to how influential The Divine Comedy has been on the modern perception of Hell as a physical place, but a lot of Dante's Inferno looks generically hellish. The color palette modulates a bit as you progress, and there's some stylized 2D animation--seemingly inspired by Hellboy artist Mike Mignola--used to tie Dante's personal transgressions with the circle of Hell he's currently in, but mostly it's all fire and brimstone, writhing corpse piles, and a generally dungeonesque motif. Dante's Inferno also tries to play the part of provocateur, most apparently with some of its character designs. I can admire the imagination of the artists who conjured up some of this imagery, but having you fight unbaptized babies is clearly designed to shock, but the only thing that's really shocking about it is how calculated it all seems. 
 
As for the gameplay make-up, well, I don't mean to harp on this point, but it feels remarkably similar to God of War. I suppose I wouldn't feel so compelled to mention this point repeatedly if the specificity of it wasn't so startling. You've got light and heavy attacks you can string into combos, as well as a limited selection of magic attacks that often serve to enhance Dante's range of attack with his scythe. There's the occasional box-pushing/lever-pulling puzzle, and there are outsized boss fights and vicious, quick-time finishing moves, but I felt like I spent a disproportionate amount of the game squaring off with low-level enemies by the half-dozen, over and over again. It's all very sound mechanically, with Dante having a pretty substantial suite of attacks, and different enemies, as well as different combinations of enemies, requiring different tactics, but it can be wearying after a while.
 
 Yup, killing babies is messed up. Good job, Dante's Inferno!
This issue comes to a head near the end of the game, when you're subjected to a series of arena battles, each with its own unique win condition, and it's a section of the game that barely conceals its role as filler. Now Dante's Inferno is not an easy game, but my experience with these trials was particularly taxing, and I felt like I was being asked to perform in specific ways that the game simply hadn't prepared me for. Maybe my decision early on to pursue the evil end of the game's two-sided skill tree almost exclusively left me underdeveloped in some key ways, but whatever the reason, the negative impact this had on my experience was palpable.
 
Imitation is an open invitation for comparison, and while it's mostly competent from a technical perspective, it's all very rote. Since God of War is a PlayStation 3 exclusive, I suppose there's some merit to the way Dante's Inferno exposes this very specific style of character-based action game on the Xbox 360, but it's clearly an imitation, and I never got the sense that the game aspired to much beyond simple reproduction.
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Posted by luce

New Ryan 2 star animation!

Posted by Bennyishere

I am not surprised.

Posted by gosukiller

You actually got it out Ryan, you empty shell of a man! :D

Posted by Fluxxed

Is anyone surprised?

Posted by TadThuggish

Spotted the first problem with this review: Transmorphers is better than Michael Bay's Transformers.

Posted by Ishatawk

There's hell to pay for including the phrase "hell to pay" in this review.

Posted by rjayb89

BOOBS

Posted by Linkyshinks

 Bayonetta would torture attack this shit in disgust at it.

Posted by Gabriel

Sounds about right.

Posted by William

this game is garbage

Posted by supercubedude

Great review!

Posted by Cube

Why don't you review the PS3 version too?

Edited by Santar

Did you completely miss the point of the relics in the game?
As long as you equip some relics the challenges are actually pretty easy.

Posted by artofwar420

Nooo, don't fall asleep Ryan!

Online
Posted by Dany
@Cube: This review represents both consoles. Because of the lack of differences in the game, separate reviews like in Bayonetta would be kinda pointless.
Posted by The_Philosopher

I don't see why anyone would ever buy this game when you could just get Bayoneta, Darksiders, or God of War 3.

Posted by Apathylad

I had a feeling this was going to get 2 stars after Ryan's suffering through that challenge. Don't have any interest in Dante's Inferno either way, I'd sooner buy Bayonetta. In fact, I will buy Bayonetta eventually, but you know, money's limited.

Posted by jmrwacko

Wow, considering Ryan spent two weeks trying to beat one section of the game, you'd think that sort of motivation would have meant he had some appreciation for the game. I guess he's just a hard mother fucker that doesn't like being beat by crappy God of War rip-offs. Kudos to you, Ryan Davis.

Posted by Nettacki
@The_Philosopher said:
" I don't see why anyone would ever buy this game when you could just get Bayoneta, Darksiders, or God of War 3. "
Maybe for the more blatant shock value?
Posted by lemon360
@jmrwacko said:
" Wow, considering Ryan spent two weeks trying to beat one section of the game, you'd think that sort of motivation would have meant he had some appreciation for the game. I guess he's just a hard mother fucker that doesn't like being beat by crappy God of War rip-offs. Kudos to you, Ryan Davis. "
or he sucks
Posted by Skillface

I implore anyone interested in this game to play Bayonetta instead...
 
The combat in that game blows this one out of the water.

Posted by ApertureSilence
@TadThuggish said:
" Spotted the first problem with this review: Transmorphers is better than Michael Bay's Transformers. "
This.
Posted by Godlovesugly
@lemon360: Yeah he sucks at playing crappy rip offs I don't know how he'll live with himself.
Posted by swamplord666
@rjayb89: i believe the right pronounciation is "BEWBS"
Posted by Dany

A pickup should not be a combo extension and having that play in for final stage of the game, is just crazy.

Posted by mikenam

Bayonetta is so much better.  And this game is not worth 60 bucks or 50, maybe 15 though. 

Posted by Sharpshooter

I'm surprised he didn't mention the fact that the game is far too short, espically considering the amount of PR thats gone into telling us about the various levels of Hell. For example when I played it I spent what seemed like half an hour in Gluttony. It went drop in , boss fight, brief platform sequence, next level of hell. I can forgive the copied from God of War gameplay, but this entire game seemed far too short for the price that retaillers are asking for. 
Posted by Ghostiet
@Fluxxed said:
" Is anyone surprised? "

I was a bit.
Online
Posted by Nemesis

Can't really take this review seriously when he openly admitted that he just sucked at the game. That, plus the fact that Ryan is overly pessimistic about everything means you should take his reviews with a grain of salt.

Posted by BaconGames
@Nemesis said:
" Can't really take this review seriously when he openly admitted that he just sucked at the game. That, plus the fact that Ryan is overly pessimistic about everything means you should take his reviews with a grain of salt. "
That is EXACTLY what a reviewer should do, admit his faults and put his biases up front.  Outside of that one challenge, I highly doubt Ryan had any real trouble with the rest of the game.
 
I agree that Ryan can be a little more on the negative side (with Brad being the positive antithesis) but I feel like he was spot on in this case.  Dante's Inferno fails as something worth the asking price and conceptually unnecessary.  I am of the sentiment that this game should just never have existed in the first place (the marketing is goddamn proof of that) and even if you never played God of War, this game has issues.
 
I bet if the sequence at the end wasn't there, it would have gotten a 3 star rating.
Posted by Babble
@jmrwacko said:
" Wow, considering Ryan spent two weeks trying to beat one section of the game, you'd think that sort of motivation would have meant he had some appreciation for the game. I guess he's just a hard mother fucker that doesn't like being beat by crappy God of War rip-offs. Kudos to you, Ryan Davis. "
Gotta beat the game before you can review it.
Posted by Frenchie108

YAAAYYY he finally beat it lol

Posted by Pinkshley1

This game had a real been-there-done-that-only-better feeling

Posted by Bigrhyno
@Sharpshooter said:
" I'm surprised he didn't mention the fact that the game is far too short, espically considering the amount of PR thats gone into telling us about the various levels of Hell. For example when I played it I spent what seemed like half an hour in Gluttony. It went drop in , boss fight, brief platform sequence, next level of hell. I can forgive the copied from God of War gameplay, but this entire game seemed far too short for the price that retaillers are asking for.  "
It probably doesn't seem that short when you spend two weeks on a single section of the game.
Posted by supercubedude
@MurderByDeath said:
" @TadThuggish said:
" Spotted the first problem with this review: Transmorphers is better than Michael Bay's Transformers. "
This. "
This x 1000
Posted by RobotHamster
@supercubedude said:
" @MurderByDeath said:
" @TadThuggish said:
" Spotted the first problem with this review: Transmorphers is better than Michael Bay's Transformers. "
This. "
This x 1000 "
This x 1000000
Posted by RobotHamster
@Fluxxed said:
" Is anyone surprised? "
Yea, I thought it was going to get 1 star.
Posted by Jazz

its a shit game which shows no respect to either its supposed literary basis or gameplay mechanics. 

Posted by TheHT

damnit! i was off by one star. guess it's worse than it looks.

Posted by DystopiaX

ouch...burned. I was expecting this though. It's just not that good of a game. And God of War III comes out next month! Way to target release dates EA...lol

Posted by Blair

Fuck this game.
 
Thanks for the review though, Ryan.

Posted by KaosAngel

Well deserved.  Fuck this game to hell.  Shitty God of War clone.

Posted by Kombat

I expected three stars.  I think Ryan let the difficult time he had with the later portions of the game influence his opinion too much. 

Posted by Dudacles
@jmrwacko said:
" Wow, considering Ryan spent two weeks trying to beat one section of the game, you'd think that sort of motivation would have meant he had some appreciation for the game. I guess he's just a hard mother fucker that doesn't like being beat by crappy God of War rip-offs. Kudos to you, Ryan Davis. "
He has to. He cannot accurately review a game without having finished it, so he had to perservere.
Posted by paulosaurus
@Kombat said:
" I expected three stars.  I think Ryan let the difficult time he had with the later portions of the game influence his opinion too much.  "
Reviewers review games based on their own experience, not the experience that others had with it.  Everything about their experience is supposed to influence their opinion of a game.
Posted by majinace

I gotta say I completely disagree with this being rated a 2 star game... I think it deserves a 3 and had this game been priced around $40 I would even argue that it deserves a 4 star rating. Now keep in mind that I've never played any God of War game, but even if it is a direct copy in gameplay the setting is completely unique in comparison to any game I've ever seen and no one has ever tried to make any large section of the Divine Comedy into something tangible. 
I'd like to state again that truly the setting, atmosphere, and themes alone contribute to what I feel should be a 3 star rating.

Posted by Brackynews
@Bigrhyno said:
"It probably doesn't seem that short when you spend two weeks on a single checkpoint of the game. "
Fixed, but well said. ;)
Posted by Mezmero

Glad you managed to get through and write a HELL of a review Ryan.  I know it was a rough time for you to get through the end part and I admire you for being a professional and posting this regardless of the time that has passed since the game's release.  It's really kind of sad that this game ended up like this.  As someone who finished it I found the unique vision of hell to be kind of refreshing, but even that eventually became derivitive.  I will also say Dante's voice acting was pretty damn good and rivals that of Kratos himself.  I sent back the game after one playthrough on normal and I'd be hard pressed to find a way to give this game 3 stars.  If you wish to play the game at higher difficulties for a whopping ZERO extra achievment points, you're a bad person and you need to seek a mental evaluation.  But if you're a gameplayologist, you might've played a certain series that has executed this gameplay structure with a lot more polish and way more satisfaction.
Posted by Hailinel

This review is about what I expected it would be, but congratulations on actually finishing the game and thanks for writing this review, Ryan.

Online
Posted by TheYear20XX

Ryan Davis, you are a gentleman and a scholar for slogging through this for us. I doff my cap to you sir.

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