Dante's Inferno Hands-on Preview

Written by Joe Martin

April 29, 2009 | 09:53

Tags: #dante #dantes-inferno #hands-on

Companies: #ea #electronic-arts


Dante’s Inferno is a game which follows pretty much every single tried-and-tested convention of the third person action brawler genre that it’s possible to imagine.

The levels are linear, bone-covered hallways punctuated by the occasional arena or boss-fight and it’s your job to hack, slash and double-jump your way through them all, collecting new combos as you go and recharging your health at the spiritual fonts that dot the levels.

The levels themselves are directly influenced by the nine circles of hell that were so extensively described by Alighieri and the sample of the game which we got to see was taken from the very start of the journey – the river styx and the realm of Limbo.

In the original poems the journey across the river is accomplished by Charon, the archetypal cloaked ferryman, but in the game Charon is re-imagined as a deformed giant who wades through the water with passengers on his back. Dante hitches a ride and finds himself having to fend off hordes of demons until he reaches his destination.

Dante's Inferno Hands-on Preview Dante's Inferno Hands-on Preview - Gameplay
Click to enlarge

The demons we got to face off against on the journey over the river and onwards to the Judge of Souls were an incredibly mixed bunch, it has to be said. While some of them were undoubtedly a little creepy and fitting with the source material, such as the demonic cherubs that represent all those confined to limbo for dying without being baptised, there are others who were a lot more generic. For every winged, screeching baby there were two standard demons who just stomped with around with cloven feet and horns, breathing fire and looking mean.

No matter what the demon was though, the response was always the same – fight! Dante’s eyebrow raising ‘death scythe’ is his weapon of choice and you can pull off all manner of attacks with it, from grabs and slices to hammering handle-butts and impalements. As is standard fare for all these types of games you can perform fatalities on large foes that have been significantly weakened too, though the punishment for such an easy kill is having to hammer the attack button until the decapitation animation is complete.

Aside from Dante’s colossal corn-culler you’ve also got a crucifix to use as a ranged weapon, though you disappointingly can’t throw it like a boomerang. Instead, thrusting the cross forwards in an impersonation of Link when he finds something shiny lets you send out bolts of holy pew-pew lightning, ol’ testament style! It isn’t as strong as the scythe, but at least it makes even less sense!

Dante's Inferno Hands-on Preview Dante's Inferno Hands-on Preview - Gameplay
Click to enlarge

Whichever attack you favour doesn’t matter though really as, in order to finish any of the bosses or more challenging enemies you’ll still need to hop through endless QTEs and scripted ‘Press X to not die” moments, so combos aren’t really as important as good reflexes. “Wait a minute,” we can hear you saying, “Muscle-bound protagonist with a furrowed brow and a huge sharp-pointy thing? A hellish pseudo-religious setting and quick time events for finishing bosses? That sounds like God of War, doesn’t it?

Yes. Yes it does. In fact, there really isn’t any single part of Dante’s Inferno that we saw which didn’t correlate exactly to something from God of War, elevating Dante’s Inferno far above the usual genre-clone to something even more derivative. That’s not bad news if you’ve been jonesing for some macho-carnage since the last God of War, but it is a little disappointing that Inferno emulates the God of War template so deliberately and openly.

The imitation is so complete in fact that it really does beg the question of what sets Dante’s Inferno apart from Sony’s stalwart other than the fact that it’s exchanged the Greek imagery for a Catholic replacement? The answer: not a lot judging from what we got to see.
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