Sunday, February 21, 2010

Video game number fifty two: Dante's Inferno

Game review number fifty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Dante's Inferno".

This game is part 2 of 2 in my SUNDAY OF HELL

Why Sunday of hell? Simple. Today, I picked two games that involve all sorts of demonic shit that I never would have played in a million years, were it not for this challenge. I generally like my video games filled with race cars, assault rifles, power-ups and heroic characters. Today, I've been playing games filled with demons, skeletons, bones, blood and damnation. Just a bit of a break from the norm I suppose.

Darksiders started out promising, but the story proved too convoluted and boring for me to want to continue it. Dante's Inferno started out promising and stayed that way. The story is fantastic. I don't know anything about the poem it's based on...but this may be the first video game in history that made me want to go explore classic literature after playing it. Wanting to read the Halo books after playing those games doesn't count.

Forgive my ignorance, but I have no idea how closely this plot follows The Divine Comedy. I've read a few reviews from folks more knowledgeable on the subject, and they think the game is a terrible adaptation. In this regard, I may actually have the advantage, because if the developers have screwed up some details, it doesn't bother me in the least. I can with confidence that if you're a moron like me, the story is really, really interesting.

For those who have not played the game (or read the poem): You're Dante, and you've been off on some crusades, while your wife has been at home waiting. You're sinning while you're on the road, because some priests said that since you were on a crusade, you have a get out of jail free card from God. It turns out this wasn't the case...and off to hell you go. To make matters worse, while you were on the road sleeping with a hot chick and eating a lot, your wife was killed. For some reason that isn't immediately made clear to the player, she's been pulled down to hell and you've got to save her. I think this part is the modern updating of the classic story, because I'm pretty sure there was never a princess to save in the poem.

You spend the rest of the game visiting the nine circles of hell (the names of which I wasn't aware of before, but my wife says they are pretty common knowledge). Each one is a unique level and you have to encounter all of them in the process of trying to save your special lady. A simple enough tale, but it's expertly told and keeps you interested to hear every tidbit of dialog that you can in order to find out what will happen next.

The levels of hell are amazing. There are demons, dead people, giant beasts and lots of naked ladies everywhere you go. Of course, Lust was my favorite circle of hell so far, because it was filled with tons of horny sinners, lamenting the fact that they're damned to hell. Many parts of the level are filled with moaning, oohs and ahs....which I hope will alert any parent who was stupid enough to buy this one for their child to come into the room and take it away from them. Dante's Inferno is NOT a game for your teenager. This game makes Grand Theft Auto look like Elmo's counting game.

You will fight many disgusting beasts, including a giant talking boat and evil babies with knives where their arms should be. One particularly disgusting villain spits these demon knife babies at you, out of little mouths in her boobs. I can't describe how disgusting the visuals are in this boss fight, but I hope they don't give me nightmares.

The gluttony level is also pretty gross. All kinds of overweight monsters, with giant man-boobs hanging over their enormous bellies. They're constantly trying to kill you in rivers of what can only be described as bile and crap. It's as disgusting as it sounds....and I didn't even describe the giant intestinal worms that try to eat you while you're visiting.

The Greed level is filled with rivers of molten gold. One thing all of the levels of hell have are "walls of the damned" that you can climb. It's pretty gross, but instead of a vine, or a brick wall like you might find in another video game....the walls and ropes you climb in Dante's Inferno are often made up of screaming sinners. They're usually pleading for help...and often whining about their specific sin. The greed folks are funny....one lady cries: "I had it all...I had it all". On the "Heresy" level of hell (which seems reserved for atheists and people who worshiped the wrong god), the dialog of the dead people is awesome. "I was wrong, I was wrong...I believe now!" one says. "Your gods can't save you now" says another. On the wrath level, the dead people are all pissed off at each other. I heard one of them say something like "Move your foot or I'll cut it off". The little details like this made me laugh every time.

The game is actually pretty long and there's a ton of stuff to do. The gameplay changes often enough that it never gets stale. There are dozens of different types of enemies to fight, and you have a ton of different ways to kill them. You can also tame giant beasts, and ride them like giant death machines. The first one you ride looks like the Rancor from Return of the Jedi. Although I haven't finished yet, I am absolutely compelled to keep playing.

This game ranks right up there with Mass Effect as one of the best games I've played this year. In some aspects, it's even better...because the combat is much more rewarding. The area where I think it will eventually suffer is replayability. They throw in a metric ton of items and magic stuff that you can go back to collect, but ultimately...the story is the same no matter which ones you pick up. That means you probably play this one once and then (unless you want all 1000 gamer score), you don't need to go back.

Overall...this one gets a 9/10. I think it's fantastic, and if it had some multiplayer, or alternate quests or something...I'd give it a 10. It's great...and definitely one of my favorite games in a long time.

I played all day long today and unlocked about half of the achievements. There are still many more to come, but since I'm not collecting every little thing...I don't think I'll be getting all of them. Still, check out this giant list. I realize I got so many that you can't read them all...but you can always click on my gamertag to the right and see them on the Xbox website:

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