Essentially lifting the structure popularised by the God Of War franchise, Dante's Inferno combines elements of hack-and-slash, puzzle and platforming gameplay from a fixed camera perspective.
The game - adapted from the original poem - depicts the journey of Dante through the nine circles of Hell, in search of his love Beatrice, who was brutally murdered and taken by Satan. The game uses a mixture of CGI and animation to depict Dante's romp through Hell.
Dante's Inferno is a single-player game over with a campaign spanning roughly 7-hours.
With Wayne Barlowe - the artist behind a graphic adaptation of Dante's Inferno - on-board, Dante's Inferno's art direction is frequently stunning. Visceral's polygonal recreation of Hell is both startling and haunting — exactly as it should be. It's a morbid and depressing game visually that certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea. Still, that's exactly the way it should be.
Like Visceral's last title, Dead Space, Dante's Inferno is crammed with fantastic audio design. Sure, the voice acting can be iffy in places (Virgil, we're looking at you), but it's the atmosphere crafted through various backing sounds that really drive Inferno's twisted setting.
No matter how much Visceral throw on the screen, Dante's Inferno remains locked at 60 frames per second, a sterling achievement. In terms of visual fidelity, Dante's Inferno isn't always the best (it's perhaps more comparable to the HD remake of God Of War II); but the smooth frame-rate certainly helps make the combat extremely fluid.
As a God Of War-clone, Dante's Inferno has its fair share of bosses. They all revolve around simple combat patterns, making them fairly easy to dispatch, but are excellent visual set-pieces. The problem is, the majority of the bosses are front-loaded, making the first-half of the game far more interesting than the second-half.
God Of War has the magic combination of great puzzles, solid pacing and interesting level design - all of which culminate in a game that rarely lacks variety. In imitating Sony's franchise, Visceral have crafted a game that matches Sony's in terms of combat and scope, but completely lacks the pacing. Dante's Inferno starts well, with plenty of bosses, set-pieces and puzzles to keep the gameplay fresh. But it barely stutters over the finish-line, as the last third of the game devolves into sloppy combat sequence after the next. The level design never even comes close to Santa Monica's dizzying visions in the God Of War games, sticking with static combat arenas and dodgy platform sections.
You can say that every game copies another one, but Dante's Inferno is just shameless. It brings practically nothing new to the table. This is God Of War with new assets, but not quite as good. Nothing in Visceral's latest title feels original.
Flashback sequences in Inferno's narrative revert to animated cartoon segments that just don't fit in with the game's style at all.
Sure the framerate's rock solid, and the artistic vision is exemplary, but when your game barely looks a step-up from a remastered version of a Playstation 2 game, perhaps it's time you considered pushing the hardware just that little bit more? God Of War III looked lightyears ahead a year ago...
For a game that so consciously borrows from the God Of War franchise, Dante's Inferno has its pacing all wrong. It simply lacks the variety that makes Sony Santa Monica's franchise such a hit. The adequate mechanics and solid art direction may tide you over until March; but Dante sure ain't stealing Kratos' crown anytime soon.