on February 9, 2010
Make no mistake, this game is pure guilty pleasure, hack and slash, dim the lights and camp out on the couch, eye candy goodness. It's LOOSELY based on the poem and isn't about to change your life in any profound way, unless you really love graphics and design work I guess. They basically use the structure of Hell that Dante established and build their own descent from there. The thing about their design that I am absolutely beside myself about is that they had Wayne Barlowe doing the concept. The man is amazing and has basically built his career out of conceptualizing Hell and you can find his books of Hell re-imagined on Amazon as well, which I highly recommend if you're a Dante (the actual poet) fanatic like myself.
His work here is amazing and the graphics are astounding. My only complaint, really, is that you can't actually angle the camera yourself. Which tends to become a bit of a nuisance at best when you're trying to admire the terrific landscape and at worst when you're trying to fight and your enemy moves out of sight. Having the camera adjust itself can really become a thorn in your side at times, but overall, it's an issue I'm willing to overlook in light of all I enjoy about the game. As they've stated multiple times on their production videos, they use a pretty high framerate (believe it's 60 fps) and it definitely shows. The flow is fantastically smooth and seamless. The animated clips are a bit on the cheese side, but the CGI cutsceens are pretty high quality. They also don't make the mistake, like a lot of current games do, of overburdening the game with these cutsceens. For me, they can become a major hindrance to the game's flow very quickly, as I like to play my games, not watch a glorified cartoon. Luckily, Dante does not suffer from this in the least.
The graphics and sound in this game are truly impressive, however. Honestly, the attention to detail is simply fantastic. The walls made of trapped sinners, Minos shouting out verdicts in the background as you approach, the screams of sinners, a man calls out for Ulysses in the bowels of Charon's boat, the detailed backgrounds such as a giant skull spitting out the corpses of the damned at the start. It's simply on a massive, grand scale and if you've ever read Dante and lived to see his Hell brought to the big screen... you will NOT be disappointed playing this video game. From the second I heard they had Barlowe I knew they were interested in the details and the audio and visuals couldn't be more captivating. The soundtrack, which is included with the PS3 version, is really quite great as well. Sets the moods perfectly and makes the whole experience engrossing and just a lot of fun... which is what games are supposed to be.
Gameplay / Controls are easy to learn and have a pretty good configuration. You upgrade your Scythe and Holy Cross talent trees to learn new combos and I'm very pleased with the ease of picking up these new combinations. Again, some games can really go overboard in this area, to the point where you basically have to pause and look up the combo sequence every time you want to execute it. None of that here and I'm exceedingly glad for it, because once they become too convoluted, it really hinders gameplay, flow and inevitably spoils my fun. Along with your two upgradeable trees, you have Magic talents, the ability to dodge, block and jump. While those might seem like minor options, recently playing Darksiders and having to be perfectly still to block, or else it DASHES you across the room, was a HUGE inconvenience and annoyance to me. As well, being able to jump, as silly as it seems, can break a game if it's not an option. I hate feeling restricted in my character's movement and after playing a no-jumping-allowed Demon's Souls (one of PS3's BEST games hands down) for more hours than I wish to reveal, it's nice to have jumping back on the controller.
Also, having come from playing copious amounts of Demon's Souls, I think it's fair to mention this game has pretty frequent save points and when you die, you restart at the beginning of whatever encounter you were on. So, if you're at the boss and die, you start over at the boss, not back at the save point. I know for some it's more of a nuisance to be dropped off at the start of the level / last save point after death, so rest assured, you pick up essentially where you left off / failed and get right back to it.
Last, but not least, this is definitely not for kids. Violence and Nudity are basically the name of the game here, so if you have concerns regarding either of those two things, either don't bother or rent first.