Dante's Inferno has a very big challenge ahead of itself. It's invariably going to be compared to God of War, especially with God of War 3 ramping up it's presence in the spotlight. It doesn't help that EA chose to show off Limbo, which is the game's first level. You see, when Dante described Limbo it was heavily influenced by Greek mythology. God of War pretty much IS Greek mythology. The remaining circles of Hell will all look different and be themed according to the sins represented there, but I played through a level that reminded me a lot of God of War.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. God of War is a great game and more games like it are a good thing. Unfortunately, besides the story, I didn't see or experience much that set it apart from Sony's franchise. In fact, I noticed a lot more in common with GoW than not. You'll control Dante Alighieri, who was a soldier in real life, giving the developers the license to turn him into a complete badass. He descends into Hell to rescue Beatrice, who was taken by Death into the Underworld.
Dante kills Death and takes his scythe, which will be Dante's primary weapon. In addition to the scythe, you'll be able to do some ranged combat uses Dante's cross, which can fire projectiles at enemies. Dante will also eventually gain magical powers, which I'm pretty sure didn't actually happen in the book.
Attacks can be chained together and mixed to create combos. Enemies will be juggled, slashed, grabbed, and killed. Bigger enemies will require Dante to deal enough damage to activate their kill-sequence. When this happens, the corresponding button will appear over the enemy's head. Seem familiar? When the button is pressed, the camera zooms in and button commands will tell you how to dispatch the foe. Dante will even rip the heads off of minotaur-like creatures. I've heard the developers express concern with the amount of God of War comparisons they've been getting, but you can't tell me they aren't setting themselves up for this.
Unfortunately, Dante will also be able to ride enemy creatures and control them by stabbing them to illicit reactions from them. I honestly believe that they were not aware that Sony was positioning this feature as one of the bullet-points for God of War 3, but it doesn't help EA's case. It also doesn't help that it looks better in God of War 3.
When I think: Dante Alighieri, I don't imagine a badass warrior traveling through the bowels of Hell ripping heads off and stabbing things in the eye. That's what this game presents, however. Again, that doesn't mean the game isn't fun and the combat isn't rewarding. It's just something I've already played.
The game runs on the Dead Space engine and looks good, but the animations are still being fine-tuned. The build I played was pre-alpha and certainly not representative of the final product. It does run at a buttery smooth 60FPS, though. That was appreciated.
Dante's Inferno also shines when it utilizes the source material and the developers definitely have a thorough understanding of Dante's original work. King Minas is a great example. In Limbo, King Minas is the demon that judges the fallen and sentences them to a particular level of Hell. Through the level, King Minas can be heard in the background shouting out sins as he judges the damned, getting louder as Dante approaches. Eventually, you'll fight and kill King Minas in an extremely gruesome, but satisfying manner.
I'm also told that Dante will face his own sins as he moves from circle to circle and this will hopefully add some depth to the game. Without seeing anything past Limbo, it's hard to accurately preview the game as the first level will not be the style of the complete work. On the surface, the changes to Dante and violence makes it seem like Michael Bay was somehow involved. Its source material is one of the most influential literary works in history and the game sends a super-soldier into Hell to destroy demons with Death's scythe and magical powers.
I'm looking to seeing more, but EA might want to schedule this release far, far away from God of War 3. Hey, at least Xbox 360 owners will have something to play while the PS3 kids enjoy GoW3.
How many times did I mention God of War 3? I wasn't even trying to constantly bring it up, but that's what I turn to when thinking of this game. Dante's Inferno is due out in 2010 for the PS3 and Xbox 360.