Dante's Inferno Review (Xbox360)

If anything is guaranteed to cause a stir, it's when a game adds in what we like to call the 'shock factor'. For some games, it revolves around creating a heart-pumping and teeth-clenching experience, much like Dead Space. For others it's throwing a plot twist so 'wtf?' that it literally stuns you, a la Final Fantasy 7. For Dante's Inferno, the 'shock factor' is taking one of history's most graphical poems and bringing it to life in full glory. In the words of our omnipotent Managing Editor, Dante's Inferno's 'shock factor' can be summed up by the following sentence - "It's bloody nuts. Tits everywhere."

This is a purely combat orientated hack n slash blood fest – with the action revolving around two key areas: the Scythe (Unholy) and the Cross (Holy). The former is a formidable meele weapon you take from Death right at the beginning of the game, whilst the latter promotes more magic based and ranged combat techniques. Players level up by either earning punishment or absolution points, which power's up only one of the trees. In theory, this means that a player can specialise in just one tree, but a wise player will make sure to keep a relative balance between the two. You can also collect items and other nick-knacks that grant you access to other special powers or bonuses that lie outside of the core Holy/Unholy skill tree.

Death, the beginning of the end of the beginning
The cross is a fairly decent weapon, when used properly

In all honesty though, the Absolution/Punishment concept seems like a bit of a gimmick – you can punish or absolve almost any enemy, but the point gain is so low that it rarely makes much of a difference, and actually breaks the flow of the game as you have to effectively 'pause' just to complete the action. The bigger point gains for either tree come when you run into the the 'important figures' scattered throughout each level. These people have no purpose except to lie there and await discovery by the hero, so you can then summarily dish out judgement upon them. A bit presumptuous on behalf of Dante, as the whole endeavour, aside from rescuing your beloved, is just one big testament to your own sins. You remember what Jesus said, right?

On a technical level however, Dante's Inferno is solid. The early levels are a bit button-mashy due to the fact that you don't have many combos, but as you unlock more, the game acquires a certain finesse to it that's actually quite challenging. You've seen it before though - whether you compare it to God of War or Spartan: Total Warrior, you've definitely seen the game before. This familiarity works in its favour however; it's not trying to be different, or trying to pretend it's something else, it knows it's similar to games like God of War, and it makes sure it compensates for it through story and artistic style.

Speaking of artistic style... it's a little bit crazy. As we mentioned in the Preview last year, in a game where the first thing you see is the main character sewing a cloth cross to his chest, you know things are going to be interesting to say the least. Based on the classic poem, Dante's Inferno tries to recreate all of the nine circles of hell, as well as flesh out the underlying story behind the tale. Through the various interviews the developers have given, for us as well as others, you get the idea that they tried to take the varying 'themes' of the circles to pretty high degree. Babies with knives for hands, a giant naked Cleopatra... you get an underlying feeling that the game is very over the top.

As is typical of the genre, the bosses require a certain 'formula' to be defeated, one which you must figure out.
As you travel through the different circles, the environments get more 'themed'.

Much like horror films exist to intentionally scare the crap out of you, this game intentionally wants to push the limits of the hell circles, as depicted in the poem. It's edgy and gruesome, like God of War just without the bad-assery, however the more light hearted or younger gamers might be made uncomfortable with the style.

Dante's Inferno isn't amazing, but it's a decent enough game. Solid and un-assuming, it's different enough to warrant the purchase, especially for 360 owners who wouldn't necessarily have access to the likes of God of War. It doesn't try to pretend that it's different, it just takes an already workable formula and applies it a classic and conceptually rich piece of literature. With some truly great stories existing in videogames at the moment, the pressure is on for developers to keep up to the standard expected by gamers – perhaps delving into the past isn't such a bad idea after all.

Top Game Moment: Some of the more creative 'final' blows are so OTT that they're kind of amusing to watch.

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