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Impressions: Dante's Inferno burns in (the fifth circle of) Hell


For the lazy, here's the short preview: it's God of War, in HD.

Dante's Inferno is the talk of many here at E3. Why wouldn't it be? The solid graphics, the over-the-top gore, the visceral, uh, hold up! We already wrote this ... about God of War III. The comparison between the two games is well worn, but what about the confusion? Sitting in on a behind-closed-doors demo of Dante's Inferno, seeing the game in action for the first time, I was stunned by the dead-on likeness to God of War, in every detail and gameplay mechanic, and it wasn't a leap to imagine a consumer easily confusing Dante's decent into Hell as a spinoff of the Kratos myth. Inferno is no hackneyed clone, it's an impeccable replica.

Gallery: Dante's Inferno (E3 2009) | 6 Photos

After a retread through the first circle of Hell, Limbo, the demo skipped down into Anger, the fifth circle. On the shores of the River Styx, Dante approached a cowering Filippo Argenti, a historical rival of the real Dante (for background information, the game will feature some light reading materials in its frontend), and quickly chose to "punish" him. Argenti is just one example of a series of damned souls that Dante can judge throughout the game: punish or absolve; savagely annihilate or ... (we didn't see the result of a merciful Dante). Like in God of War, essence balls released from destroyed souls and absorbed by the main character serve as the game's "economy," used to upgrade Dante. Senior producer Justin Lambros implied that the moral judgments would have "a long-lasting effect on how you upgrade your character and his combat style," but he didn't flesh out that point any further.

Moving along through Anger, ferryman Phlegyas, imagined as a monstrous titan -- er, "giant" -- appeared as an environmental element (you can see him utterly glowing in the backgrounds of the screens featured here), pounding his fists into the enclosed combat section; a threat to both Dante and the hell spawn. Again, just as in God of War, levels are divided into many sub-sections, essentially rooms, which must be cleared of any enemies before advancing. We caught glimpses of enemies ranging from devilish, unbaptized babies (hailing from Limbo) to the Gluttony minion; a plump, female-appearing monstrosity with sagging breasts and acid vomit. Oh, and brutal farts -- "she fires from the back end, as well," clarified Lambros. Feature foes like this foul-smelling beast are -- yep, just as in God of War -- capable of being stylishly executed through a short QTE button combination once weakened. In Gluttony's case, she's beheaded and gutted in an eruption of green ooze.

We did catch one glimpse of beauty, though, in Dante's angelic manifestation of love and hope, Beatrice. Unfortunately, she'd been seduced by "the shadow form of Lucifer," who intends to turn her into his Queen of Hell. She's the princess Kratos has already lost, and you've got to stop El Diablo before the dirty deed is done. Perhaps this is where Inferno and God of War diverge, but Beatrice disappeared too quickly to tell for sure.

The demo wrapped up with a "stand-in" sequence for an unfinished bit in which Dante fails to stop Lucifer -- he's still got four circles to go, after all -- but does end up riding the back of giant Phlegyas, marching, "in complete control of this character" (see riding the Cyclops in God of War III), toward Heresy, Treachery, Violence, and Fraud. In yet another nod to God of War, the camera pans out revealing the enormous scale of Hell. It appears, there's room for all of us. Well, at least, room for one more "God of War." (Plus, this one's for Xbox, too!)

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