Dante's Inferno Demo Impressions and a Glimpse Deeper

EA and developer Visceral Games all but asked for their upcoming macabre action game Dante's Inferno to be dismissed as a God of War knock off. And let's be honest here; it is. But on that note God of War wasn't exactly the first of its kind either. So the real question at hand comes down to whether the action comes off as a flat, generic imitation of other better games or stands on its own.

nope

Earlier this week I played through the demo level that hits PS3 today and Xbox 360 on Christmas Eve and while it wasn't revolutionary I have to admit it was pretty fun. Combat at first feels like something to get through by mashing buttons. While that will work to a degree -- especially on easier difficulties -- learning how to combine blocks, horizontal and vertical attacks, and the ranged blasts of the holy cross weapon pays off. At least in this first section it struck a nice balance between just wading through enemies mindlessly and cursing at the screen trying while getting overwhelmed.

Along with the action the character development system takes a tried-and-true approach. Throughout the game enemies from mini-bosses and above can be either absolved of their sins or punished for them. These decisions feed points into the holy or unholy skill trees accordingly but more than once after a tough battle I found myself just reacting and dropping the punish on an enemy in the heat of the moment. Granted, if I'd been playing more than a demo I'd probably be planning which way to go based on the next skill I wanted to unlock. It's not a strict either-or, though. The game's producer, Jonathan Knight, told me that by the end there'd be enough points earned to unlock one tree all the way and about half of the other. BOOM video 3099

I also got to see a stretch about halfway into the game (toward the end of Anger for those following along in the poem). It started with a fairly long cinematic sequence that looked impressive. Whomever they've got making their movies is definitely earning their keep creating a suitably blue vein covered bare breasted pasty vision of Dante's damsel in distress, Beatrice. From there Dante hops atop a towering demon and controlling it with his scythe buried in the top of the beast's head proceeds to stomp into the city of Dis wreaking havoc.

It should be interesting to follow response to the demo over the next few weeks. The polish there will probably come as a surprise to many. One thing's for sure, it needs something to push through the stigma to give it a fighting chance going up against the real God of War and surprisingly well-received Bayonetta next spring.

Coming to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 via Visceral Games and PSP through A2M, Dante's Inferno hits North American retailers on February 9, 2010.