For the last three days I have spend a solid amount of time tooling around in the depths of Hell, specifically Dante Alighieri’s version of Hell. Visceral Games (Dead Space) has adapted the first part of Dante’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy, into the Christian mythology equivalent of God of War. Adaptations are a tricky monster. On one hand you have the hardcore fans of the source material who will cry foul at the slightest change and on the other you have to consider that adapting something needs to work in the other medium. Stray to far from either and you risk ending up with a mess off a product and a large contingent of angry fans. Not surprisingly, Visceral decided that the hardcore fans of the epic poem were most likely not going buy the game anyway and changed core pieces of the original source to fit their medium.
In the game, Dante is no longer being a poet but rather a Christian Solider (I believe him to be a Templar but I never specifically heard them say as much) who defeats Death. And on his return home finds his wife, Beatrice, dead and follows her soul into the depths of Hell to rescue her from Satan. The core of the story though remains intact. Dante still is on a journey through the circles of Hell, Virgil is still his guide, and Dante still encounters all sorts of horrific imagery. While I can see why some literary types would be upset at the changes to the source material, lets face it the original material does not lend itself well to a game, yet this does.
Some will argue that there was no need to adapt Dante’s work into a video game and they would be correct. However there are a lot of things that do not need to be made, yet still are and some of those things actually don’t suck. Dante’s Inferno is one of those things. The game works on a variety of levels but specifically the most important one, its fun.
As I said earlier the game is basically the Christian mythology version of God of War. Yes it is a God of War clone but that does not make it a bad game. In fact one could argue (and some have) that following in the footsteps of such a good franchise can only mean god things for this game. They would be right, to an extent.
Dante controls very much like Kratos. In fact normal attacks, heavy attacks, and jumping are all mapped to the same buttons, so if you are familiar with God of War’s gameplay then you should feel right at home with Dante’s Inferno. Like God of War the basic gameplay centers around kill box action sequences, some rudimentary puzzle solving and adventurous platforming culminating in periodic boss battles that require gamers to put all their skills to use. Also like God of War there is an upgrade system where players can “purchase” new skills and upgrades. Overall Dante’s Inferno benefits a lot from its blatant clone approach but in turn it also suffers from some of the same problems that that series is known for including some awkward camera angles that will result in more than a few “cheap” deaths.
However you want to look at it Dante’s Inferno is a God of War clone. What sets it apart though is its setting. Dante’s version of Hell is a specially troubling place and Visceral has done a great job bringing the poem’s imagery to life in terrifying detail. Currently I have only worked through six of circles but each one so far has a distinct style to it and some of the imagery is flat out disturbing, in a good way. I can’t quite say that I have ever experienced a game as graphic as this. A lot has been made of the nudity in the game, and yes there is a gratuitous amount, however let me be clear when I say that it is entirely fitting for the game and its setting.
Surprisingly, at least to me, there is a solid amount of meat to this game. I figure by the time I am done with the game my gameplay clock will read about nine or ten hours but I will have easily have put in a solid five or more hours on top of that. So far the only complaint I have is that there seems to be a lack of polish that the God of War games have. Graphically the game doesn’t look quite as crisp, the enemies aren’t quite as interesting and while it is not a literal translation of Dante’s poem I can’t help but feel I know where I am headed next. Still this is just an impression piece and not my final review so things may change. Look for the review on Hooked Gamers in the next couple days.