Dante's Inferno

Game Description: Dante’s Inferno is an epic single player, third-person action adventure game inspired by "Inferno", part one of Dante Alighieri’s classic Italian poem, "The Divine Comedy." Featuring nonstop action rendered at 60 frames-per-second, signature and upgradable weapons, attack combos and mana-fueled spells and the choice of punishing or absolving the souls of defeated enemies, it is a classic Medieval tale of the eternal conflict with sin and the resulting horrors of hell, adapted for a new generation and a new medium.

Dante's Inferno Review

Sinnerman

Dante's Inferno Screenshot

HIGH Pinning hordes of demons down under a merciless barrage of incandescent crucifixes.

LOW Slogging through the repetitious "trials" of Fraud.

WTF A draw between the giant flaming anuses of Gluttony and Lucifer's huge, physics enabled penis.

Immediately after EA revealed Dante's Inferno, a mighty lamentation arose from the internet. A video game based on Dante Aligheri's famous epic? The poet himself replaced with a scythe-wielding crusader? The considered observation of Hell's myriad torments replaced with wanton violence? Perverting Aligheri's work was a sin; brazenly cribbing its presentation from God of War—a work far more regarded in gamer circles—was beyond redemption.

After this narrative took root it became nearly impossible to find an audience willing to evaluate the game on its own terms. Everyone already knew what they thought of it; what was the point of actually playing it? It was in this atmosphere that my initial indifference gave way to nagging curiosity. Like the ripe fruit of the tree of knowledge, its forbidden quality proved an irresistible temptation.

My expectations for Dante's Inferno were incredibly low going in. I confess that as the launch date drew closer I found myself buying into the anti-hype. By the time I had gotten my hands on it, I wasn't hoping for much more than a few chuckles (or groans) from the over-the-top "interpretation" of the Inferno.

Visceral's cavalier attitude towards the offensive goes beyond the artistic liberties taken with the source material. Some noteworthy bonuses include infanticide, implied rape, and sexualized violence. That the whole affair is played completely straight might be cause for alarm, but the situations were presented here with such hamfisted density that they collapse into self-parody. Conversations with Virgil hint at a more thoughtful tone, but the intermittent philosophy is tightly restricted to those exchanges. A journey through Hell is fertile with potential for great storytelling (just ask Aligheri), and while it's hardly surprising that an action game opted for the low road, it's still disappointing.

Dante's  Inferno Screenshot

The developers weren't satisfied squandering away only narrative potential; the action contents itself at being close enough to God of War to be recognizable without going much further. Anyone acquainted with that series will feel immediately comfortable here, as both games revolve around stylish, violent combos against legions of hopelessly outmatched foes. Dante's Inferno even shares the affinity for QTEs, with on-screen button prompts allowing Dante to finish off the minions of Hell in impossibly spectacular ways (or die trying). At times the two games felt so similar that it conjured up images of the Visceral team tracing over specific bits of code for their "new" game.

Attempts to deviate from the God of War paradigm have problems of their own. Dante has access to two imaginatively named skill trees, holy and unholy. The act of punishing and absolving the myriad denizens of Hell adds points to their respective trees. Perhaps appropriately, the game nudges players toward the holy tree by granting tons of bonus experience for successful absolution and those skills are predictably much more effective at annihilating demons than their unholy counterparts. This culminates in one set of skills being both easily accessible and incredibly useful, while the other is merely flashy. Visceral makes some small attempts to remedy this by giving some enemies resistance to holy attacks, but wearing kevlar in front of a gunship doesn't usually amount to much.

By the midpoint of the adventure, anything resembling a challenge had vanished, and the game switched focus to how utterly Dante could obliterate all comers. Hell's finest were reduced to misshapen, howling basketballs, mercilessly dribbled before evaporating into clouds of blood and ash. It was then that an insidious realization that had been snaking its way through my consciousness finally became too powerful to deny. I was enjoying Dante's Inferno. Blasting enemies around the vistas of Hell with the power of Christ Almighty was an experience that only became more delightful as Dante's powers increased. Of course the six hour completion time ensured that I wouldn't get too carried away with all that fun-having business.

For once gamers can honestly believe the hype. Dante's Inferno lives down to expectations in spectacular fashion. Setting aside the tasteless storytelling, there's (derivative) entertainment to be had here, but what's there is short-lived with no replay value to speak of. Being not entirely terrible might meet with success in the slow months of summer, but Dante's Inferno is up against some stiff competition, some of which are luminaries in the very genre from which it draws so much influence. Without much more than a unique amorality to call its own, Visceral's latest seems bound for a special kind of Hell: the bargain-bin. Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the PS3. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to single-player mode (completed 1 time).

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, and sexual content, and received a rating of M for Mature. The ESRB ain't kiddin' here folks. Keep your kids far away from this one.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: There are no significant auditory cues. All important information is clearly displayed onscreen. Hard of hearing gamers should have no problems.

Dante's Inferno Second Opinion

Hellishly Good

Dante's Inferno Screenshot

HIGH Demolishing hordes of demons with righteous holy light.

LOW Trying to figure out how to stay airborne for eight seconds.

WTF Why is there no second, darker ending for playing the evil side?

In his main review, Trent mentions that it was nearly impossible to read anything about Dante's Inferno without seeing lamentations of it straying from the source material—and when people weren't upset about its connection to the literary classic, there was much eye-rolling about how much of the structure was (or wasn't) taken from God of War. If there was ever a case of the deck being stacked against a game before it released, this was certainly it. I wish I could say that I was immune to this wave of downward chatter, but in all honesty I was just as dubious of the title as anyone else. Now that I've actually taken the time to play through the game in its entirety, my opinion of it has greatly increased.

Tackling the biggest question first—its treatment of the source material—I certainly admit that I was skeptical of Vicarious appropriating Aligheri's historic work for a game, but after having seen the way it was used, I think it was done very smartly.  

To me, inspiration can be drawn from any source, so for the developers to cite The Inferno as their muse is certainly as acceptable as anything else once the initial shock wears off. However, since the game was at no time advertised as a faithful translation of the original work, the real question is whether or not the game holds up on its own. For me, it certainly does.

While Trent didn't seem to have much appreciation for the narrative or the storytelling, I actually found Dante's personal failings and his quest to rescue Beatrice more than satisfactory. In fact, it was quite interesting to me for the developers to paint the main character as such an evil-hearted man. This unconventional choice definitely made the path to ultimate redemption much more satisfying than the traditional "white hat hero saves the day" and kept true to the overarching themes espoused by the religious setting.

In addition, I thought that Visceral did an excellent job of bringing Hell to life. Rather than being an endless string of fiery pits and brimstone, each section representing a particular sin has its own visual style and elements. Every area was certainly distinct, yet there were enough ties between them to keep the world feeling cohesively convincing. I would definitely disagree with Trent when he suggests that the game takes the low road; after all, I would imagine a pit of eternal damnation to be a fairly horrific, nightmarish thing. If anything, I'd say the developers didn't go far enough.

In terms of gameplay, there's no question that Dante's Inferno draws much from God of War. Kratos and his grudge against the gods is a landmark series whose reach extends to every corner of the genre. However, while many were quick to write Visceral's work off as inherently inferior to the then-unreleased God of War III, after having played through both titles I can certainly say with confidence that the regretful, repentant crusader comes out on top.

If nothing else, Dante's Inferno knows exactly what it's trying to do and does it in very polished fashion. The mechanics of play are incredibly smooth, and the structure of play is well-designed and easy to understand. The division of abilities is interesting and lends strong incentive for a replay (playing evil increases the strength of the scythe, playing good empowers the crucifix), not to mention the fact that there's almost no dead space in the venture; no fat that needs trimming. The trip to the lowest circle of hell clocks in at a tight (and satisfying) six hours or so. This length feels perfect for a game so action-heavy, and anything more would be unwelcome repetition.

In contrast, I found God of War III to be nowhere near as satisfying thanks to a serious lack of inspiration, and an incredibly flat feeling to the adventure overall. It may have a similar running time, but it felt twice as long as it needed to be, and at no point did it ever reach the same fast-paced and constantly engaging level Visceral was able to achieve. While Kratos may have blazed the trail, Dante left the fatigued Spartan's third outing far behind.

While it's true that Dante's Inferno does not push the envelope in terms of innovation, there's something to be said for having a clear vision and realizing it in such a polished, eminently playable fashion. With a strong technical side for its base, the title is pushed over the top by the amount of attention paid towards bringing the setting to life and creating a main character that I found not only interesting, but one with whom I could empathize and adventure with despite having nearly nothing in common. I never would have expected it before playing, but descending into the darkest corners of Hell bringing the Lord's holy light was worthwhile in every way. Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 6.5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. No time was spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, and sexual content, and received a rating of M for Mature. The ESRB ain't kiddin' here folks. Keep your kids far away from this one. Under absolutely no circumstances is this one kid-friendly.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: There are no significant auditory cues during gameplay. All important information is clearly displayed onscreen, and all dialogue is subtitled. I found no barriers in the game that would be of concern to hearing-impaired players.

Dante's Inferno: The Dark Forest Review

Visceral's Own Aokigahara

Dante's Inferno: Dark Forest Screenshot

HIGH It's free!

LOW It's still not even worth the HD space it's written on.

WTF So Dante fought his fiercest foes before he even stepped foot into Hell?

After meh-ing through Dante's Inferno, I briefly entertained the idea of trading it in towards a game I might feel less embarrassed about having on my shelf. Keeping me from this was a little slip of paper that came in the case: a code promising free prologue DLC in the beginning of March. There was a pretty big gap between when Dante killed Death and arrived back home, and I imagine something must've gone down besides him taking up an interest in cross-stitching. Well it's March now, but this DLC doesn't do anything to fill that gap in.

This DLC covers Dante's journey home through a forest and...well there is no and. That's it. He's kind of half-heartedly pursuing the guy who will eventually murder his wife, but nothing really happens on that front either. After catching up to him, he lets him go because we have to have some kinda catalyst to get this plot rolling, right? Oops, spoilers.

The only thing this DLC accomplishes is ruining the decent gameplay that was the Inferno's only saving grace. While the main game became more fun as Dante escalated in power, The Dark Forest craps all over this by making all of the enemies way more durable than anything he encountered in Hell itself. All of the moves learned previously are immediately available, so it was a just a matter of spamming my most powerful attacks over and over (and over) until all creatures were dead and all things were broken.

There's nothing new to see, no new techniques to learn, no new enemies to fight, and no reason to download this, especially if your copy didn't come with the free code (360 owners, beware).

Normally I'd question the wisdom of releasing a bit of DLC (and it is a bit, only about 20 minutes long) that firmly establishes your game as inferior to pretty much anything else coming out this season, but I already spent a whole review questioning Visceral's wisdom. Now is the time for acceptance. If anything good came out of this DLC, it was that I can now pitch this game across the counter of my nearest game store while it's still worth something. Rating: 2.0 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via free download and reviewed on the PS3. Approximately 0.25 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 1 time).

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, and sexual content, and received a rating of M for Mature. The ESRB ain't kiddin' here folks. Keep your kids far away from this one.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: There are no significant auditory cues. All important information is clearly displayed onscreen. Hard of hearing gamers should have no problems.

The sincerest form of flattery

Dante's Inferno Art

I'm currently making my way through the end of Dante's Inferno on the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and I find myself enjoying the port much more than I thought I would. As a portable conversion of the PlayStation 3 (PS3) and 360 title, the PSP game impresses: There are audio problems in the CG sequences and some formerly playable sequences (none of them too important or sizable) have been changed to pre-rendered film, but on the whole it's about as detailed and playable a port of a full-sized, current-generation game as one could hope for. Is it as good as God of War: Chains of Olympus? No. But neither were the full-sized versions. And comparing Dante's Inferno's gameplay to the majesty of God of War I or II is even more fruitless.

So aside from an adept conversion, what's to like about Dante's Inferno? Quite simply, I have never played an action title so joyfully, deliberately, unabashedly derivative. You must be a fan of the God of War series to like this game, perhaps to even understand this game and where it's coming from.

In fact, I'd argue that Dante's Inferno is the first true piece of big budget video game fan fiction. And no, I'm not talking about the developers being fans of the game's poetic namesake. The Inferno by Dante Alighieri was a particularly allegorical piece of religious zealotry, and beautiful as some of the writing was, it was meant simply to reaffirm the Christian faith by providing detailed characterizations of the sort of "sins" strictly condemned by Catholic orthodoxy for the past 1,500 years.

While the game adaptation borrows the religious trappings, some of the poem's more iconic elements (namely Virgil and the nine circles of Hell), and it even quotes from the source during loading screens, there is very little of the fervently pro-Christian (and arguably racist, even in the unwitting sense) literature here. Instead, Dante's Inferno is a game about one's faith being shaken, although that description probably gives the loosely constructed narrative a little more credit than is due. Whereas the poem relished in piety and jeremiad, the game wears disgust and perversion on its sleeve in order to tell an even more straightforward tale of moral decrepitude. It wants you to feel as uneasy as you do exhilarated while playing, sort of like an interactive version of the film Caligula.

More to the point, Dante's Inferno is meant to evoke the feelings of being a pissed-off badass who recklessly swings around a gigantic blade. It's all about scale and spectacle, and it provides very little of the introspection necessary to make a truly substantial connection with the allegory and mythology on which it is based. Sound familiar?

Dante's Inferno  Art

Dante's Inferno is an unofficial sequel to Sony's God of War, a what-if scenario that casts Kratos as a pissed-off knight during the crusade. The similarities go far beyond the gameplay: Both properties feature heroes who have made some kind of family-damning mistake; both games are about revenge; both have the player facing off against mammoth, oft-naked, and naughty mythological figures; and both games are excessively gory.

These are carnivalesque, bawdy re-appropriations of myth in service to excitement and action. And if God of War is essentially interactive fan fiction that rewrites the myths of ancient Greece, then Dante's Inferno is fan fiction of a second order. It strips God of War down to its most essential gameplay, story, and aesthetic qualities and adds only the thinnest coat of new paint. This isn't merely influence, in the same way Fighter's History and several other clones were "influenced" by Street Fighter 2's success in the early '90s. Kratos and the re-imagined Dante (no longer a poet but rather a disillusioned former crusader) might as well exist in the same universe. It would certainly be an easier fit than Kratos' presence in Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny or the random crossovers in Capcom's Versus series. The only thing separating the two universes is the mythology on which they are based, even if the narrative threads remain largely the same.

Because Dante is derivative, it is incapable of achieving the same level of greatness as God of War, but I get the feeling that's not quite what Visceral was aiming for. Instead, it seems they made a game BY God of War fans FOR God of War fans, and I find it hard to imagine how those unaware of God of War could find Dante as concurrently fun, nonsensical, and self-effacing as I do. Visceral did not set out to make a particularly satirical or self-aware game, but they did make one that lets its Xerox flag fly. Sequences that in other games would require additional build-up or exposition are here just left to float aimlessly amidst a sea of God of War references (e.g., killing a big baddie from the inside), and certainly Visceral recognized early on that Dante could never compare favorably.

What it does instead is rely on Sony's mainstay for positive reinforcement. If you had fun with God of War, then some of your experiences with Dante's Inferno will most likely be helped, not hindered, by the overwhelming sense of familiarity. The game doesn't just hang onto God of War's coattails; it feasts upon them.

None of this could possibly work, however, unless Dante's Inferno was produced with ample polish and precision. It all feels that much more contrived for being a calculated exercise in imitation, but the calculation itself is generally on-target. I, for one, enjoy the creativity of the enemy designs and literal presentation of the poem's metaphors, even if the underlying product is anything but creative. And that, in a nutshell, pretty much says why I'm enjoying Dante as video game oxymoron: a creative copy. After all, I, too, am a big fan of God of War. I certainly understand where Visceral is coming from, even if they set the bar low.

The Horror Geek Presents: Dante's Inferno Teaser Trailer

Awhile back I posted some stories about a Hollywood bidding war that broke out for the movie rights to an unannounced videogame from Electronic Arts based on Dante’s The Divine Comedy. Well, at the SpikeTV Videogame Awards show the other night, EA finally confirmed that the game is indeed coming (it’ll be titled Dante’s Inferno) and they unveiled a teaser promo for the game as well.

There’s not much gameplay on display in the trailer (or really any for that matter…) but it’s still nice to see the game officially confirmed. No release date has been set yet, but it appears that the game is tentatively scheduled for release in 2009.

The Horror Geek presents: Dante's Inferno lands a writer

News of Electronic Arts' God of War-esque Dante’s Inferno first broke last year because a bidding war for the film rights to the unannounced game broke out before the title had even been officially unveiled. Film companies were so excited about the IP that they fought for the right to spend money developing it. Universal eventually emerged victorious and now they’ve hired a scribe to pen the cinematic adaptation of the forthcoming game.

Variety reported on Tuesday that Dan Harris will be handling the writing duties on the project, which finds a character fighting his way through the depths of Hell. A quick trip over to IMDB will show you that Harris wrote X2 and Superman Returns and that he's directing I, Lucifer. Whether or not that bodes well for Dante's Inferno is a matter of personal opinion…

Find more on The Horror Geek blog.

The Horror Geek presents E3 2009: Dante's Inferno trailer

E3 2009 madness continues, now with a new look at Electronic Arts' highly anticipated horror game, Dante’s Inferno.

The new trailer for the game (which is being developed by EA's Visceral Studios—which is the new name for EA's Redwood Shores Studios) will do little to dispel the whole "God of War in Hell" vibe that's come to surround the title, but gamers who feel that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery should still find much to like in this roughly two-and-a-half minute preview.

The trailer does a nice job of highlighting not only the game's story (which finds main character Dante charging into Hell to save his beloved Beatrice—who's been lured there by Lucifer himself) but also showcasing the fluid combat, what appears to be a gigantic boss, and highlighting how cool looking the videogame interpretation of the inferno truly is. That's an impressive set of accomplishments for 2:20 of screen time…

Dante's Inferno will make its debut on the Xbox 360, PS3, and the PSP in 2010.

Find more on The Horror Geek blog.

The Horror Geek presents: Dante's Inferno PSP bound

Dante's Inferno Screenshot

Kotaku is reporting that Electronic Arts' anticipated horror-themed God of War-clone Dante's Inferno is now headed to the PlayStation Portable as well as the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.

The title, which finds players guiding their character through a videogame version of the nine circles of Hell, sparked an intense Hollywood bidding war for the film rights before it was even officially announced. Early buzz for the actual game has been largely positive and it's one of numerous titles I'm actually looking forward to trying out in 2010.

So far, there are no details about how the portable version might differ from its bigger brothers, but EA is saying that it will release on the same day as the console titles. Cool news for those who don't have a PS3/Xbox 360/Gaming PC, but I'd have to wonder who would actually want to play it on the PSP if they had the option to play it on a television screen or PC monitor. I guess maybe people who have lives and occasionally leave their house, which disqualifies me completely.

Find more on The Horror Geek blog.

The Horror Geek presents: New Dante's Inferno teaser trailer emerges from the depths of Hell

Another teaser trailer—this time for a game instead of a movie.

This brand new clip for Electronic Arts' forthcoming "re-imagining" of Dante's Inferno debuted at Gamescom this week. I know most people only seem marginally excited for this game (which looks like a God of War clone and not nearly as spectacular as God of War III), but I'm still holding out hope. Maybe this new glimpse into what the game has in store for you will change some opinions.

Prepare to "go to Hell" on February 10th of next year.

Find more on The Horror Geek blog.

The Horror Geek presents: Dante's Inferno developer diary: Anger

Electronic Arts' been cool enough to share another new Developer Diary for their forthcoming action game Dante's Inferno. This one is entitled "Anger", and as you might have guessed, it's all about how Dante will bring the pain to Hell's minions.

I'll let the clip speak for itself, but the crew behind the game spends roughly five minutes talking about Dante's Death Scythe melee weapon, how they came to choose it over a more traditional sword, and the benefits of the Cross magic combat system. Interspersed with that is a lot of gameplay footage to whet your appetite.

In a somewhat unrelated note, kudos to whoever is responsible for making these clips. Unlike most game developer diaries, the director and designer for these ones have done a really nice job (come to think of it, they did a nice job on EA's Dead Space: Extraction clips as well) of making these things visually interesting through the use of backgrounds and lighting. It's nice to see clips where it isn't just some developer sitting in his office talking to the camera.

Back on topic, we'll all get our tickets punched for a journey into the bowels of Hell this coming February when Dante's Inferno debuts on the PS3, PSP, and Xbox 360.

Read more on The Horror Geek blog.

The Horror Geek presents: New Dante's Inferno demo and trailer

A double dose of Dante's Inferno news this morning that's sure to make gamers happy.

First up, news from Electronic Arts (courtesy of Kotaku) concerning the release date for the game's official demo. PS3 and Xbox 360 owners will be able to try out the first level of the title sometime next month. EA hasn't been more specific than that but you can at least sleep easy tonight knowing that you'll be guiding Dante through Hades sooner rather than later.

If that wasn't enough to satiate your need for all things Inferno, here's another developer diary on the game. This newest segment covers level six, better known as "Heresy". This new level finds Dante going deeper into Hell—and it's the first area in the game that really portrays a fire-and-brimstone Hell that many of us recognize from the Bible. One of the producers mentions that by this stage, we're "in Satan's backyard".

Dante's Inferno continues to impress me with each new diary they reveal (which means EA's marketing plan is working). We'll all get a chance to experience the finished product when it hits retailers everywhere on February 9th of next year.

Read more on The Horror Geek blog.

The Horror Geek presents: Electronic Arts sings you a Christmas Carol from Hell in this Dante's Inferno clip

Those crazy Electronic Arts marketing folks are at it again—because nothing says "holiday cheer" quite like a song about Hell and Lucifer sung to the tune of the "12 Days of Christmas".

The demo for Visceral Games' loose adaptation of Dante's classic story is already out for the PS3. The Xbox 360 demo hits tomorrow. Until then, mix this with the Nat King Cole at your holiday festivities and see how your guests react…