Dante’s Inferno is a 2010 game from Visceral Games that offers up a mixed bag of goodies. Well, goodies and..not so goodies. Being a button masher a la God of War, you play as the titular Dante, on his quest to traverse the levels of Hell to save the soul of his wife, Beatrice, after she lost the bet she made on your faithfulness during your time in the Crusade. So, basically, your holy horniness made your perky nippled wife donate her soul to Satan, and now that you’re home, you feel bad. Bad enough to destroy Hell to make amends! Also, boobs.
Your first taste of combat starts with your fight against Death. Yes, Death. Why not? You’ll be going to Hell soon, might as well metal up, tear Death in half, and take his awesome spine scythe. With weapon in hand, you begin your descent. With the vague help of a ghostly Virgil, you loosely follow the story of the Divine Comedies as you search for your woman. The levels themselves are beautiful. The colors are rich, the themes of each is consistent and, more importantly, make sense. While in the Lust level, expect vaginas. Just…everywhere. On mobs, on the walls, projectile vaginas, vaginas with claws. Then there are boobs with claws, and nipples that puke babies. It’s basically the game’s LSD phase. You even have to shoot balls at a giant electricity condom in order to mount the swirling purple dong within.
Even the hilarity of that description can’t detract from the beauty of how the game looks. In addition to the fresco of lady bits in the Lust level, you’ll jump over pools of molten gold in the Greed, dodge flung wads of shit in Gluttony, and do some platforming over the Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood. In addition to the looks, the sounds add another layer of immersion as you delve deeper and deeper. Expect to hear some sensual moaning while you parry a claw vagina. Keep your ears open for literal shits being taken through the paths of Gluttony. And, of course, the general cries of the damned follow you for your entire journey.
Despite the richness of the game’s looks, there are some clumsy drawbacks. The walls of Hell are often made of trapped people, who, for some reason, move as one, much like the crowds in the old Madden games. And towards the end, the level designs seem to be retooled, recolored versions of earlier levels. Still, these negatives are minor compared to the other visual highlights that are in abundance throughout.
Much like many a Miss America, looks alone can’t hide all flaws. Dante’s Inferno suffers from a jumpy story that feels like it tries to tell too much at times, and not enough at others. Don’t get me wrong, the premise-a combination of the Divine Comedies and some Roman mythology- is awesome. I love that stuff. But, in between hacking, slashing, crossing, and the graphic novel-esque cut scenes, you’ll try to follow a story that departs from the original in favor of some drama. If you pay attention, you can follow along just fine. But, in the end, none of the story really seems to matter. Should you feel bad about getting it on with that Saracen lady? Doesn’t matter. Should you be angry about your father trying to get freaky with your woman? Doesn’t matter. Actually, Dante’s Inferno offers you a two for one deal. You get both a button masher, and a modern reboot of an epic poem, that both operate independently of each other. And, for the most part, it works. Unlike other games, you don’t need to remember everything that happened earlier in order to progress with a shred of understanding. It’d be nice for the story to flow as one with the actual game play, but, well, we can’t always have our Hellacious cake and eat it too.
Besides the story, the game play while usually steady, can sometimes falter. While there’s not a lot of room for innovation for most hack n’ slash, Dante’s Inferno offers up a couple spins on the usual. In addition to the usual green and blue bars of your health and magic (mana, magika, what have you…), you’ll collect souls by killing the various mobs that you’ll encounter. These souls are used to unlock higher tier abilities and upgrades found in your unholy/ holy tree. Spend enough souls, and you’ll unlock more powerful combo attacks, larger health and magic pools, damage reductions, and so on. Additionally, you’ll choose to follow either the unholy or holy path (or a combination of the two) that will be based on your decision to damn or absolve the many named npc’s that are scattered across the levels of Hell. Like the story, these choices contribute little to your game play other than whether you’ll be using your scythe or your magical cross to do most of your damage. (More points in Unholy buffs up your scythe damage, more in holy increases your cross damage). There are some instances where more points in holy will benefit you, and vice versa for unholy, but there is never a situation where you won’t be able to continue if your cross isn’t pimped out enough.
Another fun bit are the various relics that you can find by killing the bosses or by performing exorcisms on a reluctant Hell Goat..thing.
These relics alter your abilities slightly, such as allowing your hit counter to have an extended window, or making your attacks generate magic if you’re running on empty. Also, some relics are only usable once you’ve reached a certain level of either holy or unholy, so there is a small reason to both plan and replay, but, again, the relics’ impact isn’t all that huge. Finally, like God of War, you’ll have magic abilities to supplement your standard scythe and cross routine. These abilities can be quite handy in some tricky situations, like a bubble of lust itself that damages any enemy that’s around you, or a giant golden cross that just kicks the piss out whoever you throw it at. These abilities use your magic, and the magic costs aren’t cheap, but they do hit hard and should be used at the best times.
The major detractor of Dante’s Inferno, however, is its lack of replayability. Sure, you can load your latest, Hell conquering iteration of Dante into a new game, complete with all unlocked relics, abilities, and levels of unholy and holy, but, there’s only one ending. It doesn’t change depending on who you damn and who you absolve. It can be fun retracing your steps and finally reaching the ledge where that hidden relic was chilling, but, after playing through it again, I felt myself wondering what the point was. I’d get some more trophies, maybe a little ego boost from going through on a higher difficulty, but those weren’t enough to pull me back for another round. If you like reaching 100% on games, Dante’s Inferno offers enough to keep it from feeling like another run of the mill grind session, but its just enough for completionists, and not enough for the rest.
Overall, Dante’s Inferno feels like a game that had a glorious conception with less than stellar planning. What could’ve been an engrossing, beautiful game emerged as a fairly beautiful, somewhat rough, run of the mill hack n’ slash that didn’t offer much that hadn’t been offered before. Its definitely fun, it looks great, and its story, while not integral to the gameplay, is interesting and full of historical and religious myths and legends. Since its a few years old, you’ll probably be able to pick it up for cheap if you’re feeling like buying it. Or, just rent it. You can probably beat it in an all night Hell diving session. I give it a solid C, noting that just a little more effort in the game play and replayability areas could’ve brought it up into God of War territory. Yeah right, maybe when Hell freezes over!
- Beautiful (in a graphic, disgusting, nightmarish way)
- Wonderful graphic cut scenes
- Great mocap/animations
- Smooth frame rate, even with a screen full of glows and particles
- Updated take on an original Epic
- Gripping flow and progression from level to level (at least until the final few)
- Clever boss battles
- Relics are a nice addition
- Essentially the Roman version of God of War (which isn’t necessarily a con)
- Levels and puzzles become repetitive towards the final 3 levels which;
- Makes the game feel short near the end
- Increasingly rushed ending (final level only has 2 mob encounters, a bridge, and then Satan)
- Lack of a true destructible environment
- Replay value is limited to trophy junkies and completionists. There aren’t any alternate endings based on which path you follow
Game play: 3/5
Overall: 3.8/5 C
And, for what some of you have been waiting for, the best beer to drink whilst playing Dante’s Inferno! That would be Stone Brewery’s Arrogant Bastard Ale. Like Dante’s Inferno, this ale has attitude, richness, and complexity, all in one. Dante is kind of a dick, and he encounters more than his fair share of dicks throughout the game, and, well, even the bottle itself of Arrogant Bastard makes fun of you. Like two peas in a pod! Unlike the game, this beer stays intense and potent from beginning to end.
This isn’t a beer you’ll want to chug. Pour this beer into a tulip glass or regular pint glass to open the flavors up while you play, and drink it slowly. Maybe take a drink each time you rack up a 666 hit combo. (Don’t do it every time you slash a demon fetus with your scythe. That’s too fast. And yes, this can and will totally happen in the game.)
Both the game and this beer aren’t for everyone. I know people who hate this beer as much as they hate the game, and the thought of subjecting themselves to both at the same time made them want to go down on Cleopatra. But, for those of us that enjoy the overactive taste of an IPA in disguise, and aren’t afraid to say they had fun while hunting for boobies through the depths of Hell, give this pairing a try. What’s the worst that can happen?