Video games based on other forms of media is nothing new. Whether it's movies, TV, or comics, if they're popular enough, they'll get a game. Books are a different story since books rarely translate well into a game. That didn't stop Visceral Games from taking one of the greatest piece of literature and make a game from it.
Dante's Inferno is based on a 14th century poem called the “Divine Comedy,” and is about the author Dante viewing what goes on in heaven, hell and purgatory. However the game varies in that Dante, while still the protagonist, is not a poet but rather a knight that fought in the Third Crusade. While fighting in the Crusades, Dante is stabbed in the back and seemingly dies. However, instead of going willingly, Dante meets Death and decides to kick his ass, taking Death's scythe in the process. Returning home, Dante finds his lover, Beatrice, dead. Seeing her dragged to Hell, Dante follows, guided by famed Roman poet Virgil, in order to retrieve his love, and find out why such an innocent soul is the focus of Lucifer himself.
You control Dante in a third person view using the tried-and-true method of one button for weak attack, one button for strong attack, and using the combination of the two to create devastating combos. Dante has two weapons to use on enemies: Death's scythe's and Beatrice's cross. The scythe is fairly long and moves more like a whip than a scythe. His second weapon, the cross, is a projectile that shoots out multiple crosses in a that spread out wider the farther they travel. This weapon makes taking down multiple enemies from a distance fairly easy while also racking up big combos. By constantly attacking, Dante will begin to increase his Redemption bar which can be used when full to increase Dante's attack power. Magic will also become available to Dante at points within the game that are all about doing some more damage to enemies.
Similar to other games, killing enemies will release a soul that can be used as currency to upgrade weapons and abilities. But there's more to it than just sucking up souls. In keeping with the Heaven/Hell motif, Dante has a leveling system involving being holy or unholy. Holy/Unholy xp can be gained in two ways. First, when an enemy is low on health, Dante can finish them off, but you must choose if you punish or absolve the enemy. Punishing the enemy will have Dante brutally kill the enemy and give you unholy xp. Absolving enemies will have Dante brutally kill the enemy and give you holy xp. Yup that's right, all the brutality is still there, just a matter of which you prefer to level up. The other way is by when you meet with shades. Pulled from the poem itself, shades are the souls of people that have committed various sins on Earth, and you will decide if they are punished for their sin resulting in a painful looking executing or absolving them leaving them to float to heaven.
Once you have the souls and the right holy/unholy level, then you'll have access to multiple power-ups for Dante. If you're unholy, you're powers will focus on improving your scythes attacks and magic spells that are considered to be on the unholy side. By going holy, you can improve the cross attack and the holy spells you learn. In the most basic sense, unholy is heavy on offense while holy is about defense. You're not confined to just being one or the other as the game will allow you to pick from either side as long as you have the souls and the holy/unholy level for it.
Rounding out the improvements available for Dante are relics. Making your way through the game, relics are found by killing bosses, these devil dog looking things, and Virgil. Each relic offers some sort of benefit for Dante including increase in souls from enemies, better defense, and increase in holy/unholy xp. In the beginning, Dante will only have two slots available for relics, but more can be unlocked through the holy/unholy abilities.
One thing that Dante's Inferno does really well is capturing the look of hell. I mean it, there are times when I took a moment to reflect on my own religious beliefs after seeing the utter abomination of the fire and brimstone of the underworld. Each area has an incredible amount of detail including the bodies that make up the walls as they twist in agony. If you've read the poem, or read wikipedia like I did, you'll read about the detail Dante went into to describe the different circles of hell, and the developers made sure to capture the image of hell as told by Dante.
All the characters in the game are voiced exceptionally well. In some moments they go a little overboard, but they're all more than adequate to tell this divine tale. A small yet very noticeable detail is the voices of the tormented souls as you proceed through the circles of hell. As each circle represents a certain sin, the voices will change appropriately. This especially becomes strangely arousing in the circle of Lust where the voices sound similar to that of a porno with all the moaning.
Of course, the score is filled with chorus singing in Latin in accordance with the atmosphere of the game. At points in the game, the music will send chills up your spine as you can feel the weight of the holy quest upon you.
So with good gameplay, great presentation, and compelling story, you may wonder why this game is being panned by critics and gamers alike. Well first off, the amount of game for your buck is incredibly low. Completing the game your first time through will take around 8 hours. After that, there's not much to do unless you want to get more achievements/trophies. DLC will be key to keep this game truly worth a damn, but they're not available right away meaning that in a month the game will be truly worth the money.
Then, as everyone has discussed, Dante's Inferno is heavy on the God of War similarities. The combos, the magic, and even the way you destroy fountains is just like how Kratos opens chests in God of War. Again, I don't think this game should be condemned for it, but it's a reminder of how uninspiring the gameplay is. While it works well, there's not that thing that makes the gameplay special. Everything else in the game helps brings that excitement into the mix yet as a whole, the game is dragged down by the unexciting gameplay which is a shame. In the end, I think EA simply missed the mark here by releasing the game without all the DLC which would have given the game one major strike against it, rather than two.