by Justin Snyder
previewed on PS3
Controversies pile up
Dante’s Inferno is one of the more talked about games of the last few months. Not as much because of anticipation, but because of controversy. EA has run through a series of controversial ad campaigns for it, not limited to the “lust” related campaign at E3, in which attendees had to take sexy photos with sexy booth babes to win sexy money. Okay, so maybe the money was just normal. Regardless, the game has been pretty talked about. And now they’re upping the controversy a little, and releasing the demo on Christmas Eve for the Xbox 360. However, those of us with a PS3 can enjoy the Gates of Hell now.
The demo takes around 30 minutes to complete from start to finish, without dying, which isn’t hard in these beginning levels, and gives us the intro to the gameplay and story. The cut-scenes cannot be skipped, but for a demo that should only be played once, that’s not the biggest deal.
Dante gets serious
Once we actually get control of Dante, we’re on the docks of Acre as a bunch of prisoners have just escaped. The game throws wave after wave of enemies dressed in rags as you learn to fight. The game controls about the same as any general action hack and slash, X to jump, Square for light attack, Triangle for heavy attack, and left trigger to block. The player doesn’t get control of the camera (more on that later), so the right stick is used to dodge. It actually gets incredibly useful, not only for actually dodging, but for keeping up really long combos. As you finish the enemies and head into some wide open space, an assassin gifts Dante a knife in the back and Death shows up to take you to Hell. But, Dante’s not having any of that, and so he decides to fight him off.
Death fights like any traditional first boss, with only a couple of different attacks. He does have two different phases, though, so at least it’s a little interesting. As long as you remember to block, Death is easily taken down by just jumping and hitting him with light attacks. Once you’ve taken out enough of his health, the fight ends much like every one in God of War. The good, ol’ QTE (quick time event, for the less savvy). The button you need to push pops up in the top of the screen, but it felt to me like it was too small and subtle, not that I couldn’t see it, but I just didn’t react as quickly as if it were more noticeable.
We’re then whisked away from Acre back to Dante’s home, in search of his wife, Beatrice. He find his little house in a less than pleasing state, with Beatrice outside on the ground, a sword plunged through her chest. From there, she’s pulled away to the underworld by some smoke-demon of sorts. Now Dante has to follow and try to get her back, earning himself a glowing magic cross in the meantime.
The demo gets its job done: gives a taste of the gameplay, including the magic and punish/absolve system, and introduces us to the story, enough to make some interested enough to pick it up on day one, maybe. The magic is as simple as it can be. Use L1 to pull up a small cross menu in the lower left side, and hit one of the four face buttons to deal out a different magical devastation.
Holy or unholy, that's the question
While good vs. evil moral systems are no new additions to the action genre, the way it’s done in Dante’s Inferno is worth noting. The game uses an absolve vs. punishment system that determines whether you earn “holy” or “unholy” points. To do so, you grab one of the lesser enemies, then choose whether to absolve them with your cross, sending their spirit to Heaven, or punish them brutally with your weapon, condemning them back to Hell. Earning souls from enemies lets you level up Dante (again, nothing new) but your rank in holy or unholy will open up different talent trees to be earned. From the look of things in the demo, there are four ranks to each side. The Unholy side of things earns Dante new melee attacks and combos, while the Holy side unlocks new magic spells and uses for the cross.
One typical action title, coming up
When it comes down to it, Dante’s Inferno is really typical action fare, aside from the absolve vs. punish system. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, though. Visceral and EA have taken everything that other action games have done well and implemented them into one adventure. My only real gripe with the game is the camera. Like other popular games of this vein, we don’t get control of the camera. However, in this one I felt that it wasn’t implemented very well. There were quite a few times when I found myself trying to maneuver it myself, unlike in those other games. Especially in the fight with Death, once he entered his second phase and was floating, he was between the camera and Dante and I never managed to get Dante around to his other side. It was a frustrating moment, to say the least. But, this is only a demo. So, it won’t be the most groundbreaking action game in the world, but it’s still shaping up to be a fun one.