Dante’s Inferno, the game, is about a crusader called Dante who goes on a mission into hell to save Beatrice, the woman he loves. After being fatally wounded far from home, Dante is saved only after winning a fight to the death with… um, Death – but in the process learns he is damned to hell for his behaviour in the war. Desperate to atone, he arrives home only to find Lucifer dragging Beatrice into Hell.
Sure enough, he follows them into Limbo and beyond, wreaking hell in his wake… sigh.
That’s the story of Dante’s Inferno and the game sticks to it like a smear of something unpleasant, really only making a few lamely introduced token gestures to acknowledge the source, Inferno, the first part of Dante Aligheri's poem The Divine Comedy. But we’re not going to talk about the plot yet – we’ll save that for the climax.
I kick arse for The Lord!
Functionally, the rumours and previews are true; Dante’s Inferno is basically just God of War with a Christian rather than Grecian spin and with a lot less polish and a lot more quicktime events. Or points where the gameplay dips as low as “Press X to not die,” to strip away the jargon and call them what they really are.
Dante’s Inferno is a hack-and-slash first and foremost, and it includes all the hallmarks of the genre, from being able to magically suspend yourself in the air for long periods by hammering the attack buttons, to the usual gated arenas and big boss fights, but at times it actually almost crosses into a different genre. There are so many quicktime events in the game that Dante’s Inferno is occasionally a full-on interactive movie, and it’s odd that despite the setting, that’s the only truly frightening thing about it.
Well, that and the monster you face in Lust; a giant demon which spews malformed babies from her gaping, hungry nipples. Ew.
Quicktime events (QTEs) aren’t always totally bad; handled in the right way they can be exciting, tense and fair - it’s only when they are introduced briefly, suddenly and lazily that they are a real problem. The fact that Dante’s Inferno is of the latter type is one part of the problem, but it furthers the issue by making most of them utterly needless. It’s not just a case of weakening the boss and then running through a QTE to kill him – you’ll need to do a QTE every time you want to heal, restore mana divine energy, open a door, finish a mini-boss or absolve an enemy. Every couple of steps, in other words.
This calls for some divine intervention!
Let’s be blunt; the QTEs alone are enough of a reason to loathe Dante’s Inferno. It doesn’t matter how much you love the genre normally, the fact that you have to hammer B twenty times just to open a bloody door is enough to destroy any enjoyment you might otherwise scavenge from the imperfectly balanced fighting system.
Well, to be fair, the fighting system isn’t that bad when you look at it just in terms of combos and timing. Strip away the incredibly predictable arsenal and jargon (literally, imagine how a big company would design a ‘badass’ Christian soldier and that’s pretty much the extent of the innovation) and the core is pretty functional. Dante’s Inferno obviously borrows a lot from its peers, with simple combo upgrades unlocking as you go and the attacks split into fast, heavy, ranged and magic variations, but it all works pretty well regardless.
‘Pretty well’ isn’t the same as ‘well’ though and it’s odd that some of the most powerful and effective combos in the game are the first to unlock. The Level 2 Holy Barrage attack is basically powerful against everything from low-level Luddites right through to Lucifer, for example. Combine that with the fact that Dante’s Inferno is timed to compete directly with the grossly superior Bayonetta and you can pretty much see the direction this review is heading in. Hint: Not to Heaven.