When it comes to console action games, three big titles basically ruled the roost: Devil May Cry, God of War and Ninja Gaiden. Recently, they’ve been challenged by the might of this young upstart called Bayonetta, which is a fantastic action game on every level, and not too long ago we had Batman: Arkham Asylum, which was also respectable in many ways, enough to get a sequel. The recently released Dante’s Inferno from EA is another attempt to reckon the might of the top dog action games, so let’s see how it fares.
The premise of the game is based loosely on a section of the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, and sees our hero, Dante, a veteran of the Crusades, returning to his home in Italy to find his fiancé murdered and in the hands of Satan. Desperate to save her soul, even at the cost of his own, Dante plunges headfirst into Hell to battle the devil’s most nightmarish servants. As in the epic poem, hell is comprised of nine levels, each one representing a different sin and each one inhabited by malicious and disgusting enemies matching that theme. For instance, the stock enemies of the Circle of Lust are naked women who are now cursed to wander the halls of Hell eternally seeking satisfaction. They also attack Dante with what appears to be a twelve foot long prehensile penis, just one of the many indications that this game is for older players only.
In terms of gameplay, Dante’s Inferno is slick and satisfying, even if it borrows most of its ideas from other action games, most notably God of War. Dante uses the Scythe of Death, a bony weapon he won after defeating the Grim Reaper himself, which allows him to deliver all kinds of combination attacks using the weak and heavy attack buttons. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Well, yes, it’s not very original, but it works. As Dante defeats enemies, he’ll acquire souls which he can use to buy new abilities and attacks. Hmmm… Where have we seen that before? Almost every action game, perhaps? So, yes, it’s another cliché, but what makes it interesting here is that every enemy can be dispatched in one of two ways: through punishment or absolution. By punishing his enemies, Dante earns Unholy souls, which can be used to buy Unholy abilities that mostly grant special attacks with brute force. By absolving his enemies’ sins and freeing them from Hell, he earns Holy souls, which can be used to buy Holy abilities: usually ranged attacks, counters and other defensive abilities.
Whether these borrowed ideas make the game less appealing or not depends on how particular you are about originality. Sure, it gets a few points deducted for being a little derivative, but there’s still a slick action game with decent graphics and a compelling story behind it – not to mention the undeniable appeal of the violence and adult content to the right crowd. You decide.