Dante's Inferno Hands-On Preview
Xbox 360 | PS3
Dante's Inferno box art
System: X360, PS3, PSP Review Rating Legend
Dev: Visceral Games 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Electronic Arts 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Feb. 9, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
One Hellacious Boat Ride
by Adam Brown

April 28, 2009 - The Divine Comedy is certainly a classic from a literary perspective, but now EA is attempting to transform it into a classic video game as well. Dante's Inferno will be focusing on the first part of Dante's quest to find Beatrice, the object of his affection, entitled simply Inferno.

Dante's Inferno screenshot

This portion of the Divine Comedy has Dante making his way through the widely accepted medieval perception of Hell, which involves nine different circles. These circles (Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery) should make for great source material and almost seem tailor-made for a game, as each are being made into their own level. At EA's recent spring press event, we were able to play through part of the first circle, Limbo, and from what we've seen, it seems poised to draw gamers' attentions.

This very early demo dropped us in on the back of Charon, a living ship that ferries souls over the river Acheron to be judged. The setting was definitely unsettling, as Charon's massive head continued to move around at the front of the ship and his spine and ribs were clearly visible. Not only was the nature of this vehicle/creature disturbing, the ominous dark clouds and violent wind that were also present helped to further set the mood. It wasn't long before taking in the surroundings took a backseat, with the battle to survive garnering most of my attention.

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In the beginning, Dante was faced with some fairly basic enemies who were quite easy to tackle with his trusty, spinal column-handled scythe. This will be Dante's main weapon, which will help him with many things during his travels (e.g. puzzle solving and platforming), not the least of which being the slicing of his foes. The scythe also comes with its own backstory, as Dante supposedly swipes it from Death's cold, dead hands himself.

Getting back to the fight, though, the first few enemies were easy enough to dispatch with, except for a couple flying attackers who were difficult to hit since the game lacks a lock-on feature at this point. Still, the ease with which I was able pick up the controls is a testament to the game, since I was essentially thrown into combat without any explanation of what the buttons did. Unfortunately, the reason it felt so natural and familiar is that I went about it as though I was playing the God of War series, which Dante's Inferno seems to borrow liberally from. Of course, if you're going to borrow inspiration from any property, it might as well be from one of the best action series on the market. Pressing the square and triangle buttons will result in scythe attacks, while the circle button is reserved for ranged attacks which involve hurling crosses. Making use of just these basic attacks, which can also be strung together into combos, worked incredibly well and was quite effective.

Dante's Inferno screenshot

After dispatching with the slew of weaker enemies, a massive beast piloted by one of the lesser foes climbed over the side of the ship. After providing it with a somewhat lengthy beating, a quick time event (QTE) popped up, allowing Dante to eject the current rider and take the beast's reins himself. This will be a key feature in Dante's Inferno, referred to as tamable enemies, which will allow players to gain control of some sizeable and destructive creatures. The large beast was a little sluggish to handle, but it more than made up for what it lacked in speed with its immense power. It was quite enjoyable to swat away the remaining foes as though they were flies; with the rancor-like head of the creature sealing the final enemy's fate, biting down and decapitating the foe. As the icing on the cake, you are even tasked with using the massive beast to rip off Charon's head in order to advance.

This lengthy combat sequence was followed up by some fairly traditional platforming elements such as scaling a crumbling wall, running atop a falling bridge, and making some well-timed jumps to ultimately reach safety. Some parts of this segment were actually pretty fun, but as with some of the combat, there was a heavy reliance on QTEs throughout. Much like God of War, Dante's Inferno seems to want to incorporate QTEs into just about every aspect of the gameplay. If you want to kill some of the game's enemies, take over a tamable creature, make your way through most of the action sequences, get through some locked doors, or even flip switches, be prepared to play many games of "Simon Says" with the screen using your controller. While this can get repetitive quickly, the animations and events that take place during these QTEs are usually quite pleasing to the eye, making their implementation a bit of a double-edged sword.

Dante's Inferno screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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