by Ingvi SnŠdal
previewed on PS3
Dante returns to his home only to find his servants corpse on the floor and his fiancÚe Beatrice's body lying on the ground outside his house. A short cut scene explains how her soul is now the property of Lucifer and he himself shows up to collect her. It is in this cut scene where I first noticed the level of detail that has gone into the cinematics in this game. As Dante kneels down beside his fiancÚe you can actually see the little white hairs on the skin under her nose. This level of detail is rare and the Visceral Games art department deserves a "thumbs up" for it.
The fight continues with your newly upgraded scythe towards a church where Lucifer is preparing Beatrice's soul for departure. The fighting at this point has already improved dramatically over the standard button mashing combat you saw in the beginning of the game and with the addition of the cross, which you receive in the church, it finally feels complete. The floor gradually gives way under your feet as you fight off a couple of flying minions to reveal the pathway to hell. The fight serves to teach you how to use the cross (circle to fire a holy blast at your enemies and double tap to fire a three cross burst at them) and introduces you to the Punish / Absolve system. With the R2 button you can grab a targeted enemy and choose to either punish him for- or absolve of his sins. Punishing your enemies gives you unholy XP which you can use to unlock extra moves in the unholy upgrade tree and absolving them gives you holy XP. With all the enemies dead the decent into hell begins. The dramatic shift in art direction from the scene before you enter the church until the floor opens up to show you the pathway to hell is very effective. The game goes from being a generic medieval hack-and-slash game to an artistic and dark vision of life in hell.
You fight your way through the catacombs on your way to enter the gates of hell. You get the first taste of the Redemption feature about halfway through the catacombs. When you've filled your redemption bar (which you fill by keeping up multi-hit combos) you can press L1 and R1 simultaneously to enter redemption mode where Dante's speed and damage are dramatically increased. This is however nothing new and has been seen in other games under various other names such as "Berserk mode" or "Rage mode", the latter even being so famous as to get its own definition in the Urban Dictionary.
You meet the ghost of Virgil at the bottom of a pit and he gives you your first magic spell. The Righteous Path spell is sort of a dash move that knocks your enemies prone and is very handy against the bigger minions. Virgil is the soul of a dead poet and acts as your guide throughout the game. He's mainly there to explain the circles of hell and their purpose. His role and dialog are supposedly unaltered from the original poem making him one of the more interesting characters for those of us interested in medieval literature.
On the whole I think Dante's Inferno will prove to be a good hack-and-slash action adventure game but I feel it doesn't bring anything new to the table. The Holy/Unholy upgrade feature that people keep hearing about is very similar to upgrade features we have seen in other games. The Redemption mode seems very familiar and the health and mana fountains found scattered throughout the levels are virtually the same as can be found in the God of War series and not to mention Prince of Persia. The game is fast paced and action packed and there were some moments where I got really excited but they were, regrettably, few. One of them was the beast scene where Dante took control of a massive bear looking beast with stomp, smash and not to mention fire breathing attacks. That was -for lack of a better word- awesome. The in-game graphics seem a bit generic but the cut scene graphics and the voice acting are excellent. The dark and gritty atmosphere created is exactly what we'd expect from a journey to hell. The cut scenes do a great job of telling the story and I must say that Visceral Games have done a good job of bringing this old adventure onto a new medium. I guess that Oscar nominated screenwriter really paid off.