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Xbox 360 Review: Dante’s Inferno

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Back in 1981, Atari sued Phillips. The latter had released a Pac-Man clone for the Odyssey 2 titled K.C. Munchkin, and Atari believed the game was similar enough that it infringed on their exclusive home rights to Pac-Man.

The courts ruled in favor of Atari on the grounds of plagiarism, as even though K.C. Munchkin contained changes (including moving dots instead of stationary ones), the “feel” of the game was the same, according to the judge. Phillips was forced to pull copies of their games off the shelves, although not before a significant number of copies sold, making it currently one of the more common games on the system.

So, what does a nearly 30-year old lawsuit have to do with someone venturing into hell to fight Satan himself? A lot, actually. Dante’s Inferno is shameless in its attempt to rip off God of War to the point where it is easy to believe the source code is the same. While the industry jokes about knock-offs and how other games are “inspired” by one another, this is the KC Munchkin fiasco once again, minus the lawsuits.

Dante’s Inferno is offensively bland, to the point where not a single creative idea, beyond the art design, has been implemented. The product reeks of shameless corporate licensing, taking advantage of a famous poem if only for the name. It is as disrespectful to the source material as it is to modern gamers' intelligence.

To count the ways this is familiar tripe would take hours, about as long as the six- to eight-hour campaign. Every jump, every inane puzzle, every fatality, every enemy, and every unlockable is a direct copy of the Sony franchise. Dante’s weapon, an oversized scythe, even extends into a chain, whether to jump across a chasm or take out a radius of foes surrounding him.

Dante’s Inferno is not even smart enough to fix the flaws. Each fountain, containing either health, mana, or money in the form of souls, requires button mashing to access. Demon doors ask the same, a monotonous, pace killing task with no purpose, point, challenge, or satisfaction. The only puzzles involve moving blocks, flipping switches, or pushing levers. If they provide a challenge, it is only because the answer is illogical or ridiculous or maybe even unclear.

Boss fights, despite their scale, follow a familiar, brainless pattern. Hulking brutes slam their fists into the ground creating a shockwave the player must jump over. After a set number of tries at that, the foe tries a sweeping motion, also needing little more than a reaction from the player. At some point in the battle, smaller minions are summoned, keeping the player informed that yes, the inevitable mini-game fatality is drawing near.

This is a game that despite copying everything, cannot even figure out a way to extend itself to reasonable length. Surely there was a level in one of the previous two God of War title to steal, right? Instead, one of the final levels is a series of 10 identical-looking arenas, each requiring a specific means of dispatching the enemies.  Essentially, the finale in Dante's Inferno is what most games do at the start to provide some training as to the basics of combat.

To be fair, EA’s mish-mash of this poem has one unique idea — the absolving of sins from famous figures doomed to hell. God of War didn’t do this, but then again, no one involved in that series would want to. We call them “rhythm” mini-games these days, although this vertical and horizontal button pusher never has any music or rhythm to play by. What is left, in fact, is a direct copy of the 1982 Imagic title Cosmic Ark. Of course, since Imagic is no longer with us, EA is probably safe from that lawsuit.

Dante's Inferno is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content. This game can also be found on: PS3, PSP.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.