Dante's Inferno Gen Con Indy 09 Preview
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-08-20 PS3 Action/Adventure RP (Rating Pending) Visceral Games / EA

Based on the classic poem "The Divine Comedy," Dante's Inferno on the PS3 is set to challenge players through the nine circles of Hell as Dante, the devoted lover who returns from war to find that his beloved Beatrice has been murdered, her soul sucked into the bowels of Hell. In order to save his love from eternal damnation, Dante follows suit, but must face personifications of his own sins (lust, greed, gluttony, etc.) if he wishes to rescue her.

What starts as a tale of love and rescue ultimately becomes one of personal redemption and sacrifice, and at this year's Gen Con Indy, I had a chance to enter the Limbo stage of Dante's Inferno, and to face the gates of Hell, and the many challenges that lied therein, head on.

The Limbo stage of Dante's Inferno is populated not only by Lucifer's horde (which consists of various Hell beasts and fire demons), but also by humans, or rather the shells that remain in those individuals that have been sent to Hell not because of their committing sins, but because of their lack of faith in a higher power. Dante is also accompanied by Virgil, who becomes a guide for Dante through the darkness.

It would be almost impossible for me to describe the game without making at least a passing reference to God of War, so we'll get that out of the way now. Gameplay sees you controlling Dante over mountainous terrain, scaling rock walls and solving simple puzzles to raise bridges or open locked gates, all while being chased by Lucifer's army, the representatives of which will attack you at most open areas, initiating the aforementioned God of War gameplay.

With his scythe, Dante can simply stab or make slices into enemy flesh or, with the correct button combos, can grab enemies from behind, beheading them, or can slam them to the ground or otherwise negotiate them into a position where they can be easily maimed. While you can simply bash on buttons to defeat most non-boss enemies, larger foes like the nude and obese she-dogs or the towering devil-like soldiers require more pummeling, and tend to allow for specific button commands once they are weakened.

That is, in their weakened state, approaching them from a certain direction will cue a button pressing mini-game, where commands like R2 or R1 allow Dante to, in the case of the she-dog, grab the creature by the neck and slam her to the ground, introducing her innards to the length of his blade, only to slice up through her abdomen and out her back.

In the case of the tall devils, Dante instead swings onto their back, lodges his sword against their jugular, and with multiple presses of the circle button, saws his way through the neck, decapitating them completely. Needless to say, the game is violent... very violent. But, for this gamer anyway, the more blood the better, as I found myself audibly praising the game's gore, much to the appreciation of the staff in the booth.

But getting past the gates of Hell (the ultimate goal of the Limbo stage) isn't as simple as defeating a few waves of enemies, as you are challenged by larger enemies still, most notably King Minos, who, although blind (in fact, altogether eyeless), packs a notable punch. Minos is trapped - his tendrils interweaved through a series of columns. But Minos makes up for this by literally smelling the blood of those around him, not only exposing their sins, but also their location.

The boss fight here proved to be the most entertaining part of the demo, as Minos launched multiple attacks at once - a noxious gas that knocks Dante backwards, daggers that pierce upwards from the ground, and even his massive fists which pound and sweep over the landscape.

The battle continues for some time, as you follow various button cues to avoid attacks and scale the beast, eventually triggering him to squirm just enough to expose his soft underbelly, which of course must be continuously attacked to make progress. Without giving too much away, as the boss battle looks to remain untouched before launch, the ending of the battle was worth the wait.

Another notable aspect of the demo was the ability to tame and control various beasts that you encounter in Hell - like a massive golem with lava filled pock-marks that can be used to quickly transport you over long distances, or even be used as a weapon that stomps on enemies still on ground level.

While the gameplay and even the look of Dante's Inferno is incredibly reminiscent of God of War (in casual conversation, the words blatant and rip-off would be appropriate), the storyline here is actually far darker than anything seen in the former. The creatures are grittier and more menacing, for they are not all simply make believe, but rather, contain some sort of reference to the living world and what may or may not happen to those who die, either through murder or even natural causes (depending on your own beliefs).

One major example of this comes in Limbo itself, when King Minos summons wave after wave of un-baptized scythe-wielding children for you to slay, who are being punished in Hell for something they had no control over (that being their un-baptized state). And while most gamers may not even take the time to think about the game in such a detailed way, such references do explain those protesters...

Political correctness aside, there is no denying in my mind that Dante's Inferno is something to behold. Every aspect of the game, from the beat-em-up combat to the truly incredible voice acting, soundtrack and graphics looks polished and ready for launch. By taking a tried and true gameplay formula (if it isn't broken, don't fix it) and mixing it with the visceral (no pun intended) and emotional storyline, EA and Visceral Games have created my top must-have game. Feb 9th can't come soon enough.