Devil May Cry used to be the King of the Hill in terms of button-mashing brawlers, then along came God of War and stole our hearts in a spray of Greek Tragedy themed violence and gore. Nothing has quite managed to topple Kratos' number one spot in the collective conscience of gamers across the world. The Ghost of Sparta still reigns supreme.
Now it's the turn of EA to bring another legend to life and I warn you now, if you love the Divine Comedy written by Dante Alighieri, then go no further, in fact. Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
Dante has transformed from a poet into a debauched, vicious and cruel Crusader who sleeps with the wrong woman, vows to his beloved that he'll be faithful and kills a whole lot of Saracens in the Holy Land just because a Canting Priest tells him that he'll be forgiven all of his sins. Dante pops his clogs after a fight and decides that he's going to beat down Death, steal his scythe and come back to life to go home.
On the way he stitches a tapestry-like cross into his chest, because he can. When he gets back home he discovers that his father is dead and has a brand new cross-shaped eye accessory and his beloved whom he cheated on has been run through by a sword. Her soul now belongs to a suave incarnation of the Devil and he decides to brave the Circles of Hell to get her back.
If you've played Devil May Cry or God of War then Dante's Inferno will feel similar, again, if you've spent a lot of time with God of War then Dante's Inferno will seem like a cheap carbon copy and probably with good reason. It checks all the buttons that drove Kratos' adventures but doesn't actually produce a very solid game at all except for the actual combat system. You're going to probably invest about 9 hours into Dante's Inferno all told and you have various button combinations to learn, Dante's main weapon is Death's scythe and it's not very interesting at all - I'm shocked that a developer could actually make that scythe as boring as it is.
You collect souls from slain enemies and the game has big boss fights that are sometimes multi-stage. You can guess right now as well, yes, just like God of War there are Quick Time Events in the game too. These souls can be used to upgrade Dante on the fly, shared between either Holy on Unholy power sets, the game boasts around 60 or so upgrades and that's its one saving grace right there.
You can punish or absolve enemies once you gain Beatrice's cross. Doing either gives you Unholy or Holy points and these build into levels, once you gain a level in one or the other you can spend points in that rank. It's simple and it can be done at any time allowing you to evolve your character to suit your play style. This is something I can actually commend the game for.
Apart from that it's a pretty vanilla take on God of War. You climb some walls of the damned, you swing on ropes, leap across chasms using Death's scythe as an impromptu grapple hook and dodge various death traps. You can save your game at the Beatrice statues and solving various puzzles along the way, finding hidden areas and talking to the shades of the dead will unlock relics that give Dante different powers depending on his Holy/Unholy status. These relics level up rather like the ones in Darksiders.
The game however falls short due to some terrible camera-angles and a few control issues. It doesn't feel as sharp as some of the other button-masher-brawler-adventures and it definitely hasn't got a sharp a feel as say Bayonetta control wise. It's good; it's just not really all that. Levelling up powers is fun, buying new abilities with souls is always good and some of the puzzles are excellent, it just didn't grab me as much as I hoped it would.
Oh yes and check the 'ride giant creature' button too, Dante can sometimes jump onto the backs of massive rat-like behemoths and use them to wreak destruction upon his enemies, a little like Kratos in the God of War 3 demo. Should I stop mentioning God of War any time soon?
Some bigger enemies need to be put down using a QTE (check God of War) and so on...
The absolution mini-game is a little jarring, dragging you out of the action to match button presses and catch the sins of the damned before you. In the end I just decided to punish everyone and let God sort them out.
Dante's Inferno is a mixed bag, the graphics are good enough and they look nice, however it's the visual design that smacks of a game that tries way too hard to push the OFFEND button. I'm no prude at all but when even I look at a game and shake my head sadly when I travel through the Circle of Hell known as Lust, you know you've done something pretty cliché. It's not even shocking or disturbing, it's just plain expected. I wasn't perturbed or grossed out, I spent most of my time saying things like, "Oh look a penis tower."
Oh look, here's some naked stuff...and so on. It didn't surprise me, not even when Lust with her mouths for nipples disgorged a plethora of malformed babies with curved metal blades for arms. I've watched Clive Barker's worst and best, this was nothing compared to that.
Gluttony checked a bunch of typical reactions from me as well. Now I know this is based on the Divine Comedy and that Hell is and I quote: not a nice place to take a vacation, so it's supposed to be a bit shocking. However the interior decorators based some of the designs on the original drawings and that's where I can give a thumbs up, albeit reluctantly.
Apart from my gripes, it is a nice looking game and the character design is pretty decent. Not sure I like Dante though; he's not really as gripping as the other Dante or even Kratos and found myself throwing him into fires and off ledges just because I despised him that much.
There's not much to complain about here, the animations are decent enough and they do exactly what they set out to do. The combat moves are visceral and Dante is pretty well animated, Death's scythe manages to change forms a couple of times and the best character by far is the Devil who is a 'dark' smoky figure that flows and moves around.
Decent enough, some problems now and then in combat when the enemies seemed to make some really stupid moves even on the harder difficulties.
Again, the physics seem to be ok in the game. Nothing spectacular is done with the engine so it's a case of; it does what it needs to do.
The audio for Dante's Inferno is good, it's packed with nice ambient special effects and there are some truly dodgy audio segments for Lust.
Suitably epic in scope and it matches the action and exploration well enough.
Dante is as I expected him to sound, the voice of a demanding warrior, full of menace and contempt for his situation. The voice work overall is pretty decent and the various roles are good enough, all except for the Devil who is suitably menacing and brilliantly acted. The script/dialogue is solid enough with a nod and homage to Dante's own written work hidden away in the various reams of dialogue.
That's to come in the DLC that's been planned for the game, watch this space...no seriously, watch it.
The problem is that we've played DMC and God of War to death, we know the cocky Dante and the surly Kratos, and we've flirted with the sultry Bayonetta and helped War overcome his trials in Darksiders. If Dante's Inferno had of been released previously perhaps a year or so ago it might have found a better niche in a genre that's already been dominated by some of the best. But the treatment of the source material's character, the design to shock and offend first and foremost, lack of connection to the main character and his situation make it just yet another button masher.