OK, we know it’s only February, but we’re already predicting that Dante’s Inferno is going to be one of the games of 2010. This uber-violent hack -n’ slash epic is one of the most addictive titles we’ve set thumbs on in months, and after Assassin’s Creed 2, Dragon Age Origins and Modern Warfare 2, that’s really saying something.
EA’s development team obviously spent more than a few hours with Sony’s God Of War series (State’s favourite games ever, by the way), and the result is a game that owes a massive debt to the adventures of Kratos – which in our opinion is a good thing. Based very loosely on the Inferno part of Dante Alighieri’s 14th century masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, the game sees the player descending through the nine circles of Hell in a bid to free his love, Beatrice, from Lucifer and his minions.
The Dante of the game, however, is very different from the Florentine poet of antiquity: he’s a pretty buff holy warrior, who returns from Richard the Lionheart’s crusades to find his family massacred and the love of his life trapped in Hell, and all because our hero couldn’t keep his sins in his pants. Vowing to save his soulmate from the depths of the afterlife, Dante cheats Death and thus begins his descent through a nightmarish Hell, which is rendered in deliciously grotesque detail – those of a gentle disposition would be advised to steer well clear of these rivers of blood, truly horrific beasts and gore-spattered levels.
Equipped with Death’s scythe for close combat and a host of fiery crucifixes for ranged attacks (as well as garnering magical abilities en route), our anti-hero traverses vast cities of the dead, deserts of destruction and caverns of creatures almost too horrible for words. Indeed, the monster design here is second to none, from the grossly obese Gluttons to the truly disturbing blade-wielding Unblessed Infants. Perhaps the most memorable scenes, however, involve Dante taking control of one of the enormous beasties and stamping, crushing and incinerating his foes from the back of the giant demon. There are also some pretty impressive boss fights, some of which involve members of Dante’s own family, en route to the final showdown with Lucifer himself.
Along the way, you also get to meet various former living luminaries like Pontius Pilate, Orpheus and Helen of Troy, who you can choose to punish or absolve of their sins. The choices you make dictate whether you progress in the holy or unholy arts, each of which comes with distinct upgrades, which you can purchase in exchange for the souls you amass by destroying the demonic hordes.
The gameplay is mostly of the hack and slash variety, with a modicum of puzzle solving and platforming thrown in – although more of his would have been welcome. Another minor quibble is the fact that the inability to alter the camera angle does make some of the platforming action a little awkward.
The game looks amazing, with some of the finest locations and character models ever created (like a living, breathing Hieronymous Bosch painting), and the sound quality is suitably disquieting (especially the pleas from those souls trapped inside the various cages you have to use as climbing frames). A little more effort on the puzzle-solving and it would have been near perfect, but as it stands, Dante’s Inferno has more than enough going on to keep you awake at night… for multiple reasons.