Dante's Inferno

Dante's Inferno Hands On Preview - On the Road to Hell

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Going with the new EA sentiment that Dante’s Inferno’s promotional campaign will piss off as many video games are evil people as possible, Dante’s Inferno’s demo will whip up a stir on Xbox Live on December 24th – the eve of Christmas. If you have a PS3, the demo should be available today. Last week we went hands on with the demo and as usual, we’re going to some throw words at you and see if any stick.

Getting the formalities out the way; the demo takes around 30 minutes to complete from start to finish – provided you don’t get stuck on any scene – and will deliver the very beginning of the game. In the build we went hands on with, we we’re treated to silky CGI cut-scenes and the opening scenes of Dante’s journey into hell.

The demo kicks off on the docks of Acre as Dante battles through wave after wave of enemies as an esteemed warrior of the Crusades. When I say wave after wave, I kid you not, there are more than a few to wade through. The game controls as you’d expect any hack-and-slash title to control – left trigger to block, X for a light attack, Y for a heavy attack and A to jump. The control mechanics are responsive and by using the right thumbstick – which is a quick dodge – it can make for some fun and fairly long combos. As you defeat the wave of enemies and progress inland, Dante will ultimately take a knife in the back when he’s least expecting it and so a showdown with Death himself will occur.

The Death fight is a traditional early boss for titles of the genre, with Death demonstrating only a few move sets. Blocking is essential, and he/she/it can easily be put down by mashing the light attack button when they’re not attacking. The end of the boss scene will set you up with something that might be deemed too frequent in Dante’s Inferno – quick time events (or QTE’s if your hip). A series of button presses allows Dante to dispatch the bringer of Death with a gruesome finishing move, ultimately allowing him to grab his Scythe for personal use. No, Dante won’t be harvesting fields with it. He’ll be harvesting souls instead.

The story then takes Dante on a path back to his mistress, Beatrice, moments before she’s pulled into hell for reasons unknown. During this short sequence of events Dante will find himself in a crumbling church – now equipped with a glowing cross that can be used to deal range attacks – as he attempts to enter the underworld and bring her back.

The demo does a good job of introducing all the fundamental aspects of the game, from the combat and combos, to the magic and the absolve vs. punishment system. The magic, whilst powerful and a pleasure visually, lacks the ability to control where you aim it other than where you’re looking, which is hardly ideal and actually can be a little frustrating. The control mechanism is similar to the ranged cross attacks, but because your magic uses are tied in with a traditional depletable mana system, it actually becomes quite a problem.

The absolve vs. punishment system is possibly the one unique thing that Dante’s Inferno is bringing to the genre. Whether you use the right trigger to pull in a demonic entity or are given the choice for the finale of the boss scene, players will be presented with two choices to finish off foes once and for all; to absolve, or to punish. Depending on which one you choose will not only give you a vastly different animation – with the punishment scene being particularly brutal – but it will also map what powers you can unlock and how you level up Dante. Using the white souls you collect from dead enemies, you can choose which side of the RPG style tree to climb and which powers Dante can use. You can’t just build up both sides if you’ve only been using one of the finishers either, because the levels are capped. It’s hard to tell the differences between the two paths from the demo, but we’re intrigued to see how this aspect plays out in the full game this coming February.

After working through a few simple traps and some pretty archaic and murky scenes which are beautifully portrayed, Dante will have to face off against a series of demonic Minotaurs and some ten-times-the-size-of-Dante massive ogres. As it seems to be a trend with Dante’s Inferno, the aim of the game here was to weaken and then commandeer the massive ogre – who was unbelievably simple – and then to use it to kill the remaining demons, and then smash down the gates of hell and... go to hell.

Dante’s Inferno’s doesn’t really seem to add anything new to the genre, aside from the skill progression that comes from the absolve vs. punish system. It rather takes everything that works so well in other titles from the genre and moulds them together in one neat package. The emphasis seems to be on intense, gory and visceral action rather than the intricacies of the controls as you’ll often find yourself button mashing rather than focusing on complicated combos that you could expect in a Devil May Cry title. Whilst it seems that it might not match the fierce over-the-top combat that Bayonetta will bring in January, it seems to be shaping up to be the Playstation-less 360 owner’s answer to that God of War void. We’re hoping it is anyway.

Dante’s Inferno is coming February 9th and February 12th to North America and Europe respectively. The demo is set to drop on Xbox Live on December 24th.


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Game Info
Visceral Games
Electronic Arts


US February 09, 2010
Europe February 12, 2010

Price: $14.99USD
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