Friday, 26 March 2010

Dante's Inferno

Visceral Games unleash Hell on Earth. But is it a piece of gaming heaven or should it be damned forever? The Wild Bore goes to Hell to find out.

Visceral Games, once called EA Redwood Shores, products are getting increasingly popular. Since starting out on the luke warm 007: Everything Or Nothing game on PS2, they suddenly burst out 3 years later with the highly anticipated Godfather game. It got mixed reviews but was generally well received as a parallel storyline to the first film and personally, I quite enjoyed it. After The Simpsons game (which wasn't too bad, but not great either) and an unsuccessful Godfather II game, Visceral got back on track with the release of the amazing Dead Space game. Since then, The Sims 3 (whatever) came out but their original content again made a mark, which is Dante's Inferno.

Loosely based on the first part of the Divine Comedy where Dante travels to Hell, Dante who is a Christian during the Crusades rather than an Italian poet, has sinned quite a bit while he's been fighting and his missus is paying the price for it as she is trapped in Hell with Satan. Basically, you go through the 9 Levels of Hell to get her back with a completely useless old blue ghost guy 'helping' you, or just annoying you.

One thing will come up immediately as you begin playing, it's completely ripped off God of War, which is probably why they were quick to get it in before God of War 3 was released a couple of weeks ago. Press buttons at the correct time to launch devastating moves, tap buttons to get doors open and so on and so forth. But the problem is when stealing a successful formula, you need to make it better and quite frankly this hasn't.

The gameplay is very smooth with upgradeable abilities, moves and what not, but it is very much of the same thing again ... and again. Which is fine if, like me, you like a bit of hack and slash, but near the end where you go through 9 different stages of just killing enemies with certain parameters (in the air, no magic etc.) you almost want to kill yourself with irritation. But the fighting is quite fun, so luckily it works. Other irritating things come up, such as puzzles that aren't quite 100% clear on what you have to do, and at one point it took me 15 minutes to find out that by jumping off a falling lift into a dark space, I'd survive rather than plummet to my death. Again. And again. Over and over. These minor irritations do add up.

You also don't really get the sense of Hell's geography, which might sound stupid, but I want to know how this is all laid out. You seem to wander through one level into the next and I'd feel more satisfied if it was thought about a lot more. There are some good points though, the graphics are pretty damn impressive. The CG cut-scenes look incredible, probably some of the best I've seen maybe, and the general concept art I thought was quite good, but seeing as it's Hell, it felt sometimes way too cartoony and obvious. Though trying to avoid being shat on in the Gluttony level was quite unique. Also taking advantage of the huge beasts is quite fun, but a little boring about the 4th time you do it, and when you're destroying a city it's so slow that you start pushing other buttons to see if you can hurry it up. You can't.

So graphics are pretty good, gameplay is good, the sound is great but what about the story? Seeing as it's based on what some people call the beginning of Italian literature as we know it, surely it cannot fail. Well, it kind of does. I enjoyed the story of seeing your sins, meeting your friends and parents trapped in Hell and the little anime sequences of his past (as if he cannot take his past mistakes as 'real') but I wanted something a bit darker and it still seemed a little like the inside of the cave in Disney's Aladdin rather than a true dark, sinister ugly Hell. It's what you would think a video game set in Hell would look like, so there's nothing that might really surprise you. The whole collecting souls and damning or saving them soon goes from a novelty to a chore and after a while you realise you're wasting time constantly doing it when you'd rather finish killing the enemies.

It's a good 7 or 8 hours worth of gameplay, so if you really wanted to you could bash it out in a day, or a weekend and there's enough to last but it won't be something you'll remember for ages. There's downloadable content, different difficulties etc. but you must have to have loved it if you want to come back to it. It worked as a good filler to quench the thirst of everyone who was waiting for God of War 3, well now that it's here, I'd say go do that instead and if you want a bit more, come see Dante in Hell. It won't rock your boat over, but it might cause some waves.

Rating: 6/10

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