Preview: Dante’s Inferno

icon_preview1Dante’s Inferno isn’t going to win any awards for originality. In fact, barely minutes into the game you’ll start to wonder how EA isn’t neck deep in Sony lawsuits for all sorts of legal violations. It’s almost funny at times how blatantly similar this game is to God of War. The art style, the health pick ups, the enemies and bosses, the static camera angles, and yes, the gore. It seems all too familiar, and not in a subtle sort of way. It’s in your face, almost like the developers (Visceral Games) are openly saying, “Yes, we’ve made a God of War clone, and a good one at that”. And they may be right. Dante’s Inferno can be a lot of fun once you get over the striking similarities between the two.

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The game is loosely based on Inferno – part of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem The Divine Comedy, and the levels in the game outline the nine circles of hell. I had a chance to play through the first – Limbo. To start off, the game throws enemies of all shapes and sizes at you, including blood-thirsty unbaptised babies, to help you get to grips with the combat. You have the regular sword combat, and ranged as well as grab attacks. Needless to say, there’s lots of bloodshed and ruthless dismemberment in the offing, and God of War clone or not, excessive gore is always welcome.

Similar to God of War’s health chests that release green health orbs, Dante’s Inferno does the same, but instead of a chest, there’s a water fountain-like contraption. It works the same way though. There’s also a lot of QTEs, particularly during the boss fights. And unlike other games, the button sequences are the same each time. So if you die a couple of times, in your next attempt, you can pretty much memorise which button you need to press and when. The boss fights were pretty easy (understandable, since it’s the first level), but they weren’t terrible engaging, and missing a QTE button press is the only way you can die in these boss fights, because everything before it is a walk in the park.

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You also get to ride a Charon (thanks Wikipedia), which works similarly to riding the Cyclops in the God of War III demo. Once you’re done clearing the area by swatting puny enemy grunts, you continue riding the Charon into a climbing/platforming sequence. Now the Charon is a sluggish, hulking creature so this was a bit of an annoying segment, where the controls were unresponsive and the jumping didn’t work very well, leading to many unnecessary deaths. But soon Dante was back on his feet, and so resumed the standard proceedings of tearing through hellish creatures and giant bosses.

The visual style is, well, hellish – rivers of lava, rock structures shaped like skulls, lots of black and every shade of red; you get the picture. We were told this was the E3 build that we were playing. It held up surprisingly well and looked pretty good too, so we can expect the final game to impress. The static camera approach however, did have some issues, because during the course of combat, you can often find yourself behind a large enemy obstructing your view, so you don’t really know what you’re doing.

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In terms of combat, Dante’s Inferno can certainly hold its own, and there are many similarities between this and God of War. But there’s one area where they’re poles apart – the main character. God of War has Kratos, while here we have Dante, a man seemingly on a mission for vengeance, but the character itself lacks the personality befitting the situation. He goes about killing enemy after enemy with the passion of a minimum wage employee at a fast-food restaurant. Hopefully, Dante’s character will be fleshed out later on in the game, but even in the early stages, considering the brutal manner in which he finishes off enemies, it wouldn’t hurt to show some emotion (read: rage).

Dante’s Inferno is shaping up to be a fun game. It looks good, the hack-n-slash combat is tight, enemies are many and of various shapes and sizes, and they’re no pushovers either. Yes, it’s a God of War clone, but surely a good God of War clone can’t be a bad game.

Dante’s Inferno is set for release in January 2010, with a demo due to hit PSN on December 10 and Xbox LIVE on December 24.

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