Gloomy new hack-and-slash action game Dante’s Inferno meticulously reinterprets its influential source material: With perfect reverence, it replicates every nuance, every glorious note, from Sony’s God of War.
Oh, and there’s also some plot stuff in there based on some poem by a dead Italian guy.
The story line of Electronic Arts’ latest PlayStation 3 (reviewed) and Xbox 360 game comes from Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. At first blush, it might seem silly to create an action game around a 14th-century epic poem. But developer Visceral Games embraces the conceit wholeheartedly, executing the entire affair without even blinking.
Dante’s Inferno, released Tuesday, is Alighieri’s singular vision of hell, transformed for the Doom generation. Sorry, literature nerds, but it works. If only the gameplay weren’t so utterly derivative.
Dante, the one in the game, is no poet. Instead, he’s a war-ravaged crusader with serious post-traumatic stress disorder. But he has his domestic side, too. In fact, the game opens with him sewing a tapestry. Into his flesh.
Once he’s embroidered his taut, bare chest with a homemade superhero emblem, Dante sets out on a quest for salvation that will lead him through the nine circles of hell.
You see, Dante has a lot to make up for. In a series of rough and bloody animated sequences, we witness each and every sin he committed while fighting the not-so-good fight in the Holy Land. Yeah, the guy deserves his damnation. But his girlfriend, Beatrice, gets a raw deal and is dragged to hell on a technicality. So Dante does what any videogame hero would do — he takes the fight to the devil.
And so begins a long, arduous crawl south of heaven. Dante, armed with an oversize scythe pulled from the Grim Reaper’s cold, dead hands, descends through a series of trials, tests and boss battles.
Throughout, the game clings with near-religious adherence to its sacred text. No, not La Divina Commedia, the Book of Jaffe. Just like God of War, Dante’s Inferno is a series of locked-room battles against waves of monsters, spaced out with a few puzzles, climbing sequences and fights against screen-filling monstrosities.
Dante handles much the same as God of War badass Kratos. He’s like a dumbed-down translation of the heroes of baroque Japanese brawlers like Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry. There’s no crime in making smash-and-slash action more accessible and less like homework, but Dante doesn’t seem to have a single innovative trick up his sleeve. The two-tiered system of upgrades, equippable relics that boost abilities, and customizable spell powers all work well, but the game never floats a single original idea.
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