Needing very little help, the action-adventure hack-n-slash genre just got whole lot better because of EA’s Visceral Games adaptation of The Divine Comedy starring Dante himself in Dante’s Inferno. So far, action games are the rage this year with Darksiders and Bayonetta hitting first quarter. But if you’re looking for originality, consider Dante’s Inferno a great clone instead. Comparisons to Santa Monica Studios’ God of War have been made and with good reason. With that, controversy is not something new for this EA game. Heck, at E3 2009, EA themselves protested the creation of Dante’s Inferno and vowed to show us that hell isn’t all that great after all. Real smooth EA! In turn, this ended up being a self-promotion move for Dante’s Inferno in peeking gamers interests. Sure, DI is a copy and paste with a hellish skin overlay of Kratos and God of War, but don’t let that deter you from the great story and detailed visuals because this game is good, real good. Hell Awaits…
Poetic Justice. You begin playing as the protagonist, Dante Alighieri’. I avoid using the word “hero” since many aspects of the game would have disagreed with that title, so I’ll be Politically Correct for once. Set in a massive world known as H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks, you battle your way through the nine circles destroying tormented souls and passing judgment on many of the characters from The Divine Comedy. At the end of each circle, you’ll be confronted by that boss which take precise controls thanks to the games QTEs. Quick Time Events are the buttons pressed sequentially when the on-screen menu prompts you. All boss battles run you through QTEs and if you press an incorrect button you have to begin the button sequence again. Including the prologue you’ll slash your way through these nine circles in order; City of Acre (prologue), Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and finally Treachery.
Sew in your faith. Embedded into Dante’s chest is the Holy Cross which displays his allegiance to the Crusades which he battled in. His sins are depicted through 2D cartoon artwork similar to comic book style which then go to narrated cut-scenes. As the story continues, many of Dante’s corrupt history will be visited here and the turn of events that followed. The graphics here are well blended and show off the hidden talent behind the Visceral team’s artists.
Swing your stick. Within the first level of the game you’ll be greeted by none other than Death himself. Much like Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, this death wants your soul and has no regards for your past. Battling him and successfully killing Death will gain you your main weapon of choice, the scythe. Light attacks and heavy attacks can be performed with square and triangle respectively. Attacking the enemy is responsive but not as much feedback for bigger blows in comparison to weaker attacks. The secondary weapon Dante will be equipped with is the Holy Cross. I found myself spamming this form of attack since it did not require any magic nor did it restrict you in any way. So when in doubt, attack with the Holy Cross.
Kill or Kill Holy. There are two types of final attacks that can gain you Holy or Unholy experience points. When you choose “punish” the enemy is pummeled down to the ground in a fierce attack obliterating the body to a bloody mess thus gaining you Unholy Exp. If you choose to “absolve” the poor soul, Dante will press the Holy Cross to their body and send them to paradise (or heaven) to which you’ll gain Holy Exp. It’s a shame you’re not able to expand on your decisions. I would have loved to see “what if” situations for punishing or absolving certain characters. Although some trophies/achievements depend on your decision. Your max level will be level 7 on both the Holy and Unholy. Be sure to upgrade your skills as you reach the next level to ensure increases to both “health” and “mana” bars.
Look for Relics and Magic. As you progress, you’ll gather relics by absolving souls which can be used to enhance a weapons attack (Death Blade), prolong a hit combination window (Coins of Plutus) or increase a grab attack damage (Arrow of Paris). Not as easy as it sounds, since some relics require a minimum holy or unholy level before using. One relic I found particularly helpful was the Range of Farinata which broke fountains immediately instead of mashing the “O” button. Magic is not the strong suit of Dante’s Inferno especially since I found myself only using “magic” sparingly. But you can slot up to four, one for each button. Pressing L1 + O, X,  or ^ will activate the spell. To each his own, but your carpal tunnel will remind you it’s been awhile since you pressed a button repeatedly.
Massive Scale. Dante’s Inferno feels huge. The scale of the game is massive and you’ll feel the surroundings are done in proportions way larger than any game you’ve played. Yes, I know, God of War’s Atlas scene was massive but you’ll agree DI competes with GoW in this aspect. Hearing the cries of these tormented souls that make up the walls and ropes for climbing while hearing whispers of “Dante” in surround sound literally creeped me out.
– Captivating story
– Art renderings of the Nine Circles
– Risque scenes
– Similarities to God of War (attack combinations, QTEs)
– Short game (7-8 hrs to complete)
– Repetitive combat
Final Thought: Dante’s Inferno will push the envelope with blood, gore, sex and nudity. But today’s market can handle all the above as long as you package it with an “M” for Mature rating and classify it as a form of entertainment which it truly is. Understand that re-creation of games has been done for years and I say if another developer pulls it off, we, the player wins. Throughout the story you’ll cross paths with biblical figures from Pontius Pilate to Lucifer himself. Keep the kiddies away from him and look above the belt for those scenes, geeez! Lastly, for those who picked up the PS3 Divine Edition, you’ll be treated to know that come March there will be a DLC named Dark Forest and it’s the prequel that will hopefully shed some light on Dante’s life. Hold onto those codes. For those who would like to nibble on this appetizer that is Dante’s Inferno before the big meal ticket God of War III, this will be your last chance.