Ever since I saw Dante's Inferno at E3 2009 I've been incredibly excited for it. Heck I'd even go so far as to say that I was more excited for it than I was for God of War III. Dante appeared to be on a quest of personal redemption as well as to recover his lost love, Beatrice. In comparison Kratos is on a trip to destroy all of the Greek gods in some form of celestial temper tantrum. Comparing the two isn't even close in my mind - Dante's Inferno was where the real storytelling was at. Gameplay wise It looked like Dante was cribbing it a bit close but not so close that it would be a huge issue.
Boy what surprises the new year can bring with it.
It's not that Dante's Inferno is a bad game really. The problem is that it just doesn't do anything to really impress. As a matter of fact it does a number of things that make it hard to take the game too seriously which is a serious problem when you have a game with a serious narrative like this. Part of the problem is that the game sets the bar really high early on while also managing to never live up to this promise.
Within the first thirty minutes of the game you know everything you need to know to play the game. Dante uses a scythe he tears away from Death itself to fight his way through Hell to get his lost love, Beatrice, back from Lucifer. As you play through the game more of Dante's backstory is revealed via the use of some animated cutscenes of dubious quality. These are presented as being part of the tapestry that Dante has sown to his skin in a rather silly character design decision.
The game controls like most other action adventure titles, even down to the right analog stick being used for evasions, with the only difference being your ranged attack. Where most games have a spell for your ranged attack, limiting how often you can use it, the developers didn't bother with that here. As such Dante can use his holy cross attack as much as he wants and, since it's very powerful to begin with, it's very possible to clear the game by simply spamming the cross attack over and over.
This isn't helped by the fact that enemies are, by and large, really easy to defeat. Only the bosses pose any real threat with even the most powerful enemies being defeated easily with simple combat. Using one of the many magic spells, cross or counter attacks only makes it yet easier. But instead of enemies actually, ya know, dying they take a ridiculous amount of damage. A run through that takes you nine hours on normal will actually mean most of your time is spent hitting enemies over and over. But switch over to easy and watch as enemies deal little to no damage, your magic uses up less mana and you're basically overpowered. Even on the hardest difficulty, Infernal, enemies don't pose much of a threat (ie. No new attacks or abilities), just taking more damage to dispatch.
Sadly much of your time is spent either dealing with these enemies or platforming over bottomless pits. The few real puzzles in this game are more a matter of moving something or moving something in a timed manner. There's nothing here that challenges your intellect being more in line with the original Soul Reaver than Darksiders so you'll be moving boxes a short distance or pulling levers instead of more complicated puzzles.
As you start playing the game the player can see how pained Dante is by what's going on and how desperate he is to help his love. But as time goes on the story reveals more of the mans personal tragedies as well as his failings that lead to his current predicament. It's all very interesting but the plot sort of loses its way near the end, managing to make less and less sense until it finally culminates in several, nonsensical, plot twists that do nothing to add to the game. You'll know them when you come across them but it's spoiling nothing to say that the Beatrice situation is resolved in a flat out terrible manner.
Much like the story, the game starts off very promising. Fighting your way into Hell and through the first layer, Limbo, feels like a powerful experience. There's just so much going on that the mood is really set with plenty of unique enemies coming after you, culminating in a cool, but somewhat easy, fight against the judge of the dead, King Minos. But the later levels lack all of this - recycling enemies so that you see Greed demons in Fraud and Lust demons... everywhere, fairly generic platforming and uninteresting, but overly hard, boss fights. This culminates in a two-fold slap in the face: the infamous Fraud layer that consists of ten challenge rooms connected by minor platforming trips which are just terrible and the last layer of Treachery which is just a bridge of ice that falls apart as you walk slowly across to the final boss fight.
While it's a good looking game that doesn't really help the games issues. The graphical quality follows the rest of the games downward curve, going from really interesting visuals to somewhat generic with rehashed enemies. Dante's Inferno seems to try using over-sexualization and gore to cover it some of its shortcomings, especially with its absolute adoration for the Temptress demons but it doesn't do anything for the game. By the time you complete the Lust layer, watching the boss' giant boobs wiggle all over the place, you won't really be paying attention anymore. It's just too over the top to take seriously.
Dante's Inferno would be a much better game if it had spent a bit more time in development. The last half of the game isn't very imaginative, the final two levels are just terrible, enemies are reused far too often and it really feels like there should have been two endings (one for each alignment). As it stands you get a game that averages about eight hours to complete the first time, less on subsequent playthroughs, and at least a good hour and a half is spent with what feel like filler. It's frankly not worth the money and while future DLC might sound promising it doesn't justify the games price tag.