The Divine Comedy is truly a classic work of literature. The epitome of Italian writing according to most critics, writer Dante Alighieri told his tale in three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. The first section of this tale is the one most commonly referenced. Does this poem translate into a great action game and an amazingly well written and illustrated comic adaptation? Well… Read on. Welcome to Double Tap 2uesday.
Developed by Visceral Games, Dante’s Inferno was released on February 9th, 2010. The same day, an animated feature film detailing the games story in further depth was released. It seems like so long ago, but it was only earlier this year. I realized that this is because of the persistent ad campaign that heralded the arrival of what surely EA (the publisher) wanted to be the first game of a new franchise. Beginning May 2009 and continuing every month until the games release, EA pulled what could only be considered publicity stunts that were both brilliant as they were offensive representing each level of hell. One gimmick was to mailing wooden boxes to game reviewers that, once opened, would play annoying music until smashed open with an included hammer. The sin? Wrath. (check out AdFreak’s coverage for more details). The campaign culminated with an ad that debuted on Superbowl Sunday. More than likely ripping off taking a page from the Gears of War/Mad World commercial, this ad featured a classic Bill Withers song that contrasted the action.
I’ll go ahead and get this out of the way: Yes, the game is very reminiscent of God of War. When I picked up my controller, I automatically knew how to play. Having played every GoW game, it was like second nature. Moves I thought Dante should have had from the beginning, I found that I could purchase later on by way of upgrades. Crosses replaced arrows, a scythe replaced the blades and chains, “redemption mode” replaces “rage mode…” The list goes on and on. Even with all of the pieces in place that made God of War great, Dante’s Inferno felt strangely empty.
The controls, while familiar, were very loose. Often times, I felt like I wasn’t really in control of Dante during fights. When given the choice to condemn or absolve the residents of hell, choosing to send the soul to heaven results in a DDR mini-game. The fact that I have to use rhythm to send people to the man upstairs took me out of the experience every time as I was half tempted to dust off the dance pad. Moments like riding giant beasts were cheapened as they plodded across the screen so slowly I wondered if there was some way to skip it. Some game elements weren’t really clarified as well as they could have been. For instance, returning to ask spiritual guide Virgil several questions resulted in obtaining new items. Not realizing this until I neared the end of the game was very frustrating. Speaking of frustrating, any upgrades or rebalancing of items is instantly undone when Dante dies…and he dies often. This isn’t a result of enemies being overly crafty or creative, but just not being able to swing the scythe around quickly enough.
This brings me to Dante’s weapon of choice, the Grim Reaper’s scythe. It looks pretty awesome swinging this thing around at enemies. The only problem is, this is the worst way to kill bad guys. Standing at the polar opposite of the screen and hurling glowing cross after glowing cross is how I defeated almost every enemy in this game. I tried to use the scythe several times. I got a pretty good combo going, but all of a sudden someone would get a little too close and snatch me. I didn’t think this would happen to frequently using an eight-foot weapon, but I was sadly mistaken. From top to bottom, generic enemy to the boss, I cannot understand why using the character’s primary weapon had to be such an unenjoyable experience. In other words, I didn’t like it.
Throughout this game segment, you may have noticed I’m not really using any screenshots from the game itself. I assume some of you are reading this in your office at your desk, and I’d prefer not to be the cause of anyone losing a job or getting repremanded. You see, this game contains copious amounts of nudity as well. From the very moment Dante’s beloved Beatrice gets dragged to Hell by Lucifer himself, she just doesn’t have access to a blouse. In fact, the only time she’s ever clothed is in the commercial I posted above. Seriously. Lot’s of nudity. Don’t even get me started on the level dedicated to Hell’s “Lust” circle.
Published by Wildstorm, a six-issue mini series was released to tie into the game as well. So this would technically be “Dante’s Inferno: The Comic based on The Game based on The Book based on Religion.” If we’ve learned anything from the movie Multiplicity, it’s when you make a copy of a copy it loses clarity. I don’t really blame writer Christos Gage for the storytelling as his beats were predetermined long before his name even came up. I do however blame Diego Latorre’s artwork for being too distracting to enhance the story. Without prior knowledge of this story, it all came across as one big mess.
A passable game, Dante’s Inferno is not without it’s flaws. It’s also not without it’s charm for what it aspires to be. For a God of War clone, it comes dangerously close to the magic that game captured. On it’s own merits, it’s easily forgettable. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the comic. The combination of story and art utilized in the six issues was a huge mistake. If they released this mini-series to make people appreciate the game more then mission accomplished. If not, I’d rather just read the Divine Comedy and try to forget this whole mess ever happened.