I have a tendency to download everything humanly possible when it comes to Xbox Live now that I'm equipped with my 120 gig harddrive, so long as it's free. This usually leads me to download every single demo that hits the Marketplace, both so I may try everything that the cool kids are buying into and, at least as an excuse, play games I'm looking forward to a month or so earlier than their launch date. I never really end up playing the latter as I like to have a fresh first-time experience with something I know I will enjoy, but I'm an American, dammit, I have to consume bandwidth with my hands free for fast food and Chinese plastic products.
It seemed only natural to reach for the demo of Dante's Inferno, the upcoming game from critically acclaimed developer Visceral Games. As some of you know, I hold Dead Space in the highest regard of this generation, citing it to be up there with the likes of action juggernauts Gears of War and BioShock as one of the finest examples of cinematic action experiences in gaming this decade. With Visceral behind the project, we're bound to see something interesting with such a premise, right?
...Where have I seen this before?
...Oh yeah. It's God of War.
And that's what it all boils down to. The game IS God of War. You play an otherworldly badass who stitches the Templar flag onto his chest for shits 'n' giggles, who defeats hordes of skeletons with his sharpened weaponry and rips the spine out of demons who come to take him to the underworld. How do you defeat said demons? By using an aerial assault of somehow-I-am-floating-in-air-as-if-I-am-so-insane-that-I-can-cease-gravity's-existence-on-command Samuel L. Jackson-itude, mixed in with "Press the X button, press the O button" sequences.
It's God of War.
According to PlayStation: The Official Magazine, the writer, producer, and director for Dante’s Inferno, Jonathan Knight, had this to say about the similarities: "We never get sick of hearing it because it's the greatest compliment we can be paid. We hope to be worthy of that. Those guys are at the top of their game and there's no question God of War III is going to be spectacular. I'll be the first in line to get it. I hope those comparisons are being made because of our combat system and is just as responsive - the control over the character is very immediate, it's very fast-paced, you can branch out of moves very easily, you feel very powerful and overall is a very fun game to play."
Oh Jonathan, people make the comparisons because you lifted the engine and characters directly from Sony's blockbuster franchise. My best friend played the demo for a staggering five minutes before dropping the controller. His response? "If I'm going to play God of War, I at least want to wait a month later and grab God of War III."
Ultimately, this is what consumers will assume; Dante's Inferno comes out February 9, 2010. God of War III drops on March 16, 2010. If this was meant as an homage, why, from a fiscal standpoint, release it one month before the juggernaut franchise's third entry? The EA series is a brand new IP, meaning it has not won over the average gamer yet, and will cost the same amount as God of War III. Is their assumption that people are so stoked for the third Kratos encounter that they will blow sixty bucks on a knock-off a mere five weeks before it drops?
Fact is, Jonathan, people are making the comparison because it feels cheap, and your team of developers is much better than this. To the casual observer, it's a developer riding on the coattails of someone else's success, like a wannabe pop starlet covering a Lennon/McCartney song and claiming to have a similarity in place with the original songwriters. To me, it feels like I was duped into buying tickets to a Pixies concert only to have them pull out a setlist of Bee Gees covers instead of what they're good at. At least Jonathan took the homage route, instead of pulling the "ours is different because the characters' names aren't the same" Vanilla Ice-on-Queen defense.
I try not to judge a book by its cover, but it's hard not to when the lettering is in big, bold print. If you're listening, I advise your team to put away the Sgt. Pepper ensemble and create your own beat. I'm not judging the game itself until I play the final product, but with minds as bright as those who work at Visceral Games, it's sad to see creativity spurned for the sake of copying a winning formula; that, in itself, is the greatest defeat of all.
I'm still anxious to try it, if for no other reason than to get the achievement for slaying ten unbaptized babies. Hey, if I've got it in real life, I figure I should have it on my gamercard.