Dante's source material might be bustling with allegory and medieval subtlety, but EA Visceral's take on Alighieri's opus is anything but vague - this is Hell as we've always wanted to see it and in the process of somewhat crudely translating the fourteenth century masterpiece into six buttons and an analog stick Dante's Inferno has successfully taken a swipe at Kratos and Bayonetta with a deft swing of Death's scythe. And for the most part, it has succeeded.
Hyperbole? Perhaps, but like Charon the ferryman, EA haven't held back with the game's undeniably compelling pacing and, after a slightly underwhelming prologue, Dante's first act quickly casts aside the reigns and doesn't let up until the game is done and dusted. And for that we're thankful - Dante's Inferno is a non-stop ride through the depraved and tortured depths of hell and we wouldn't want to linger any more than necessary.
This, then, is a bloody, repulsive videogame that although follows the book's chapter structure it's little more than a scan of the index and a margin note on some of the characters. Gone is much of the Christian reference and symbolism and in their place are nine distinct circles representing not so much the self-indulgent journey of the soul but instead a series of damned inhabitants, ghoulish beasts and bosses the sizes of mountains.
That's not to say Visceral have abandoned all respect for the daunting literature: Virgil still acts as a guide, the game is largely populated with the same sporadic hosts (such as Pontius Pilate and Filippo Argenti) and for the most part the various circles of Hell at the very least tie in with the concepts described so vividly in Alighieri's poem. Speaking of poetry, Dante is no longer a poet, shedding the rather unplayable occupation and instead donning the armour of a knight (with weaponry to match).
The game flows nicely enough for the most part, sporadically juxtaposed with a pace-halting puzzle, sadly, but otherwise the action is as consistent as the sense of scale in the delightfully detailed visuals as you make your way through the various stages. Each circle more deliberately powerful than the last, the game pulling you in with the promise of better power-ups and more impressive abilities, let alone the prospect of even more disgusting enemies to absolve or punish.
There are problems, though - the combat is repetitive ad nauseum, the morality choices hardly game affecting and, despite being a linear experience there's some odd signposting on occasion and exploration is limited, with little to find off the beaten path of worth. Dante's Inferno never quite reaches the apex of brilliance but I suspect that was never EA's intention - more to spoil Kratos's party and bin Platinum's bespectacled brawler before she got going.
So, whilst God Of War might have a little more muscle, and Bayonetta much more style, Dante's unholy mission and constant, unweilding toil give the game just enough distinctive qualities to warrant a purchase for fans of the genre. There's nothing terribly clever about the game, but it's a wickedly tasteless ride through the mind of a developer keen to escape the confines of the slow, claustrophobia of Dead Space. Not essential, but bloody good fun.
- Impressive sense of scale
- Morality level will give you at least two play-throughs
- Promise of future online co-op through DLC
- The puzzles spoil the pacing
- Combat is a little repetitive
- The fixed camera gameplay seems a little last-gen
It's all rather good fun - by encapsulating the jist of the storyline and throwing away anything that would have served as exposition (but retaining invented flashbacks to broaden the personalities and purpose) EA have created an incredibly desperate vision of Inferno whilst keeping one tongue firmly in their collective cheek. Yes, purists might not appreciate the changes made to the source (and Dante will be turning in his grave) but as a gamer I had a blast.