The work of Dante Alighieri, his epic poem, The Divine Comedy has seen many adaptations and loosely based story re-workings over the years. None however, have ever really tried to accurately portray the raw and offensive nature of Hell in a video game.
Visceral Games have pushed the boundaries of both the classic literature as well as its mature rating. While there are definitely additional action elements added for a bit of game-specific drive, the heart and focus of Dante’s Inferno is without a doubt its horrifying depiction of the underworld, doing great justice to the text.
Visceral have exercised some poetic licence in their approach to the story driving Dante’s Inferno.
Dante (originally a poet in the literature) is seen in the game as a Knight during the time of the Third Crusade. His beloved, Beatrice, is murdered and her heaven-bound soul is shackled by Lucifer. His intention – to wed Beatrice and attempt another take over of the Throne of God.
In his pursuit to free her soul, Dante must venture through the 9 Circles of Hell, encountering all of Hell’s minions and his own dark past.
Dante’s Inferno makes the absolute best of its subject matter. The game play is focused around the darkest and most abhorrent locations imaginable. You will venture deep into enormous flaming chasms, burning people fall from the sky like rain and are impaled on piles of bones and protruding spears. Charred hands reach out from the tarry River Styx, trying to grab a hold of you as you shimmy overhead. You command a monstrous beast through the fractured City of Dis, burning its corpse-constructed foundations to the ground. Walk along the River Phlegethon, as damned souls wail eternally, scalded and tormented, awash in boiling blood.
The Abominable Sands…
This isn’t a game for the kids.
It’s a game that’s gone nowhere a game has ever gone before – and it lets you play around in Hell. Without a doubt, it’s one of the coolest and most graphic recreations of Hell that you have ever seen.
The controls themselves are solid. Square and Triangle activate your Death’s Scythe attacks, light and heavy attacks respectively. There is a significant combo system and available move list, unlockable as you progress through the game and earn more XP. Death’s Scythe qualifies as your ‘Unholy’ side. Conversely, you have your ‘Holy’ side, the power of your Cross. Controlled by the Circle button you then have another set of moves and combos available. Both weapon sets have their own unique application. The Scythe is useful for shorter range, melee style attacks – the Cross better suited to long-range and air targets. The Cross for instance is required to ‘break’ certain enemies before they can be defeated. Sometimes it’s ineffective and the Scythe is required.
Once I started upgrading the cross however, I was finding far less use for the Scythe on the normal difficulty setting. Coupled with a Relic that essentially prevents your Cross attacks from being blocked – and it became incredibly powerful. Almost too powerful. Not so much of a complaint, but more of a balance issue – one probably rectified on later difficulty levels.
Certain enemies also have the option of being ‘Judged’. Once you whittle away their health significantly, R2 prompts you to find their soul guilty or innocent, this is your ‘Punish’ or ‘Absolve’ finisher. These finishers give a large boost in souls received from slaying enemies.
The upgrade system is divided into the two sides and includes everything from combos to block effectiveness and health/mana upgrades specific to each weapon. You also have Relics, collected throughout the world simply by finding the right shrine or listening to Virgil’s discussions. There are 20+ to be found and up to 4 can be used at a time, so finding the right combination is both rewarding and functional. L1 controls your various Magics. ‘Righteous Path’ for example is a bash attack which leaves very little in its wake after use. Magic falls into the general Holy vs. Unholy styles again and have defensive and offensive applications.
Scattered throughout Hell are 30 pieces of Silver (Judas coins) and 3 Beatrice Stones (used to upgrade your Cross). These form the ‘Collectibles’ of Dante’s Inferno and contribute to bonus souls redeemable as upgrade. You also encounter Shades, doomed souls that can be Punished or Absolved for their sins and offer additional bonuses.
The cutscenes are gorgeous.. In an evil, Hellish sorta way
So it’s a thorough platform of tools and has all the usual hallmarks of a good hack & slash title that encourages additional play-throughs (all of your upgrade progress can be carried over to new runs) and promotes exploration of your Hellish surroundings.