Dante's Inferno First Hands-On

Millions of damned souls, blade-wielding babies, and a badass poet with a huge scythe. Welcome to EA's version of hell.

After ripping off the head of a living ship while crossing one of the main rivers of hell, causing the boat to crash, you make your way up the sheer face of a pair of trembling mountainous columns and sprint across a crumbling bridge that's collapsing behind you. At quite literally the last moment, you make a final desperate leap to safety, attach yourself to a wall, and then drop to the ground to enjoy a moment's rest. With whatever breath remains in your lungs, you continue on your quest, circling down into another hellish dungeon where, after kicking the door down and readying your weapon, you prepare to meet your foe. From a fiery furnace a few feet away, it emerges: a small, monstrous infant with long curved blades where its hands used to be. Worse yet, it's not alone; soon the lone menacing demon-child is joined by another, and another, and still more. You grip your weapon and prepare for the worst.

And this is just the first layer of hell.

Whether fighting with his monster scythe…

As Dante Alighieri, the hero of EA's upcoming video game adaptation of the literary masterwork Dante's Inferno, you'll explore more of that first layer of hell, as well as eight additional levels, each plunging deeper into the morbid and horrific medieval vision of hell as well as the progressively uglier sides of human nature. During an EA press event yesterday, developers and producers behind Dante's Inferno debuted a playable build of the game and also spoke about the process of adapting the epic poem (itself just one-third of Dante's Divine Comedy) into a work of video game adventure.

In many ways, producers said, a lot of the work in adapting the story to the game was already complete. After all, if you've read Dante's grim poem--essentially a travelogue through the nine circles of hell, told in first-person narrative as Dante is accompanied by the poet Virgil--it's obvious that the setting and the structure of the story are ripe for a video game: a lone hero making his way through nine clearly delineated levels of a terrifying locale, surrounded by evil creatures, and all of it clearly described in Dante's rich and evocative language. Even the boss battles are taken care of--who, after all, is a better final boss than Lucifer himself?

Still, excellent source material doesn't automatically translate into fun. That's where the folks at the EA Redwood Shores studio come in. The studio is the same one that put out last year's critically hailed Dead Space, but producers said that while there is some crossover between the two games, the current team isn't the exact same one that worked on Dead Space. The team has been working on making the third-person action that is at the heart of Dante's Inferno as thrilling as possible, and even though the game is still at least a year away from release, it seems like they have a promising start on things.

The level shown during yesterday's demo served as an introduction to Dante's abilities in the game as he makes his way through the first level of hell, known as Limbo. In the game's narrative, there will be a preceding tutorial level that will come before Limbo, explaining Dante's reasoning for invading hell--he's on the search for his special lady, Beatrice--and also explain how Dante acquires his weapon of choice: a massive scythe. In fact, it's Death's scythe; in the tutorial, you'll guide Dante through his battle with Death, eventually defeating him and taking his weapon for yourself.

… his holy cross…

As you might expect, that scythe gives Dante--who's considerably beefier and more badass than the medieval Italian poet-philosopher upon which he is based--some incredible abilities. The weapon's long reach will keep smaller enemies at bay, and thanks to a complex combo system that mixes light and heavy attacks and some handy midair jumping abilities, Dante becomes a one-man wrecking machine on his trip through the Nine Circles. During the press demo, we saw producers demonstrate successful midair combo juggles, essentially reducing nasty looking demons into playthings for Dante's scythe.

The scythe isn't Dante's only means of dealing pain. In addition to magical spells you can unleash with the R1 button, Dante has a holy cross he can use to shoot blasts of righteous energy at enemies. He can also tame and mount huge giant demons, which we got to check out in the later portion of the on-hand demo. While crossing the river Archeron on the back of the living ship Charon (an adaptation of the boatman who ferries souls across the river and into hell), Dante encounters a huge monster being controlled by a mounted rider. After dealing with the other enemies on the ground and softening up the big demon, Dante climbs on top of his back and begins to pummel the rider in a QuickTime event that has you pressing buttons in the order they appear on the screen. After you dispatch the rider, the mount is yours and you can then pilot the beast to take care of more enemies by swiping at them, breathing fire, or biting their heads off.

Dante's abilities will be tested to their fullest with an array of enemies that look to get more gruesome as the game progresses. In the Limbo level, we saw skeletal shades, huge demons with massive horns and bigger swords, flying harpy-like creatures, and the aforementioned blade babies. As producers told us, those creepy little kids have at least some grounding in religious history--specifically the belief that even infants would end up in Limbo if they died unbaptized. To be fair, we have yet to locate the doctrine that states they would be reborn with swords for hands, but it's effective in the game nonetheless.

Beyond all the demon slaying and adventuring, Dante's Inferno's narrative will include a sort of moral underpinning most obviously seen in the game's "absolve/punish" mechanic. Periodically, Dante will encounter souls begging to be released from their hellish misery. As Dante, you can choose to either punish or absolve the soul--either choice will result in a QuickTime event that, if you successfully pull it off, will earn you currency you can use to upgrade Dante's weapons and abilities. As producers told us, the path to "absolve" a soul results in a more difficult minigame and a greater haul if you succeed. As they put it, doing the right thing is often more difficult but can result in greater rewards.

…or on the back of a tamed beast, Dante proves that hell hath no fury like a poet scorned.

Though the game we played was in the early stages, the graphic vision of hell is affecting from the outset. In the backgrounds of the Limbo level, for example, you'll watch as thousands of doomed souls careen over cliffs into whatever punishment awaits them. It's grim stuff, and considering that it's just the first of nine levels, it's a fair bet that things only get worse as you go. That said, the graphics were early--though most of the attack animations were impressive, some of the transitions were rough or nonexistent. Most of the environmental effects were relatively rudimentary as well, though producers did show a clip of a level with more sophisticated environmental effects in place, particularly some impressive wind and fire effects that greatly enhanced the epic doomed atmosphere.

At this early stage in development, Dante's Inferno has a lot of things going for it: great source material, a fantastic, menacing setting, and a hero that is both fun to play as and easy to root for. The main challenge? In short, making sure that Dante's Inferno doesn't come off as yet another God of War third-person action clone. We've still got a long wait before we make the plunge into hell--more than a year, according to producers--and we'll be keeping a close eye on Dante's progress in the coming months.

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Discussion

245 comments
parasiteman
parasiteman

gamesites from xbox 360's give this game 4 stars or a 9, multi console gamesites give this game between 6 and 8. It's 95% god of war gameplay with worst graphics and take about 9 hours to complete. Neh, I think I will leave this game, I hoped it was better because I really wanted to have this game, but now I will wait for the real thing and that is afcourse god of war III

Areslathe
Areslathe

This game is another mass-produced fresh coat of paint on an old old game. props EA, you keep churnin em out, we'll keep buying em.

sherden
sherden

This thing about the babies...and i'm sure that everyone that has read any one of the gospels, knows that Jesus said in one part that the kingdom of heaven belongs to children. Granted, there are children, and then there are some children ¬__¬. But, at the end, this should be taken for what it is, a work of fiction, an interactive work of fiction. even if it touches a subject as controversial as religion may get.

100starz
100starz

At first i was dull about this game. But as i see more of it, it looks like it will be a very interesting game. The whole "9 levels of hell" thing is freaking cool. I guess once i'll play this game i'll start going to church!

Qixote
Qixote

At first I was excited for this game. But as I see more of it, it looks like it will be a God of War clone. The God of War games were great, but a Dante's Inferno game deserves to be more original.

crakkranjah
crakkranjah

I read the book/poem awhile ago and if this is done right it will be awesome. And yes Jhraxlin its some semi-catholic weirdness with swords added.Seriously though the poem is so sweet please stay true to it EA !

Jhraxlin
Jhraxlin

I intend on getting it, the part about the babies is freaky, and has absolutely no biblical groundings whatsoever.

dareough
dareough

The game is still in early development and the graphics look pretty good for being so early.

RonTorque
RonTorque

Looks like a game full of pure menacing evil that i would love to try. I like.

saadxxx
saadxxx

copying god of war sucks how about some new ideas

darthjake21
darthjake21

devil may cry................................................................

joelgargan
joelgargan

@thenephariouson STFU. Noone wants to hear from a fanboy nobjock when its about DANTE's INFERNO! seriously your a loser.

backatcha
backatcha

This looks very promising, and it's about a year away, which hopefully translates to it getting even better. I love the premise.

Notelessinferno
Notelessinferno

looks like a great game, can't wait. Always wanted to kick lucifer's ass ;)

HaRdNiPs
HaRdNiPs

damn this game looks amazing it's like another god of war or like devil may cry witch are both awesome games but it's based on Dante's origins. by the looks of the trailers this game has some crazy stuff and hopefully it has some internet based stuff.

XanderKage
XanderKage

So, games based on movies, TVshows, comic book and books are getting old, so they decided to based a game on a 14th century poem... NICE! Too bad it's EA who's making it. PS, does anyone else see the resemblence to Devil May Cry? I mean I always thought that Dante's Inferno was a kind of an inspiration to DMC... And now this..

corkyhookahking
corkyhookahking

hey why do 360 owners fell like they have to talk C**P about the ps3 i mean really i own both a 360 and a ps3 and i play my ps3 more so what does that say we have games like Killzone 2 Resistance 2 Rachet and clank and many many more oh and on the subject of Dante's Inferno can't wait i loved dead space and thats one of the best books i've ever read

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

Wondered how long it would be before someone mentioned God of War, It doesnt have a monopoly on 3rd person hack-n-bash em games you know. I understand you feel defensive about it as its only around 1 of around 4 games actually worth buying for your console, therefore i understand your snarling at anything that even closely resembles it.

Darkestrah
Darkestrah

Hail Satan.. this has the be the best game ever!! aarrr i am also waiting for The Darkness 2. it was simply Brilliant'e

NoctisLucis
NoctisLucis

ps/ and for Chutup: that idea of Virgilio as a sword is really cool hehe.

NoctisLucis
NoctisLucis

i cant belive it,hehehehe! not shure what Dante will say but im shure im gona play it, looks very well done and planed unteil now , even whit the year who separate us for this work, EA´s really give me a cool surprice whit Dead Sapce , so i go for this one to, i just hope they make a good work whit the source material , and in my opinion and a cool Boch stile hell will be the perfect ecenary for me to slice and dice demons and this pics looks are gona walk in that way

faceman420
faceman420

looks like a more-demented god of war

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

looks quite good, and still around a year away, nice, cant wait.

Pr3acher
Pr3acher

chutup: actually, they do. I worked there and it happened.

chutup
chutup

Gameboy2k: "Trust me, these bigsize companies have people who read blogs and get gamers input on what they want." No. They really don't. And even if they did, why do you think it was you who they copied off? Your idea isn't really very original. In fact there have been two games based on Dante's Inferno already: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnsWceYWNpQ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamashii_no_Mon If they used specific elements from your description (like Virgil being a sword) then you might have a case.

jenova
jenova

This game was supposed to come out years ago, and was called "the lost" and it was made by (I think) Irrational Games... they chose to cut funding and put out that Freedom Force sequel instead. So an Indian game company bought it up and Baliwooded it up, changing the voice overs to Hindi and giving some of the characters a more "Indian" style. It is now called "Agni: Queen of Darkness." You can only direct download it from the producer's site, and it has... passable... English subtitles, though in some parts things are people are refered to by the original English names. It's worth checking out.

tincho_X4
tincho_X4

"kvan33 Posted Feb 27, 2009 5:59 pm GMT Source material aside, it looks like another bland hack 'n slash game. Nothing to see here" I agree, though, these kind of games are really good. But yes, I think it may just be a copy of God of War. I read the Divine Comedy, and well, if the game's hell is exactly like the book's hell, then it might be pretty disappointing. I really don't know why they call it "Dante's Inferno", because dante's inferno was nothing like this. It was much more boring. Anyway, to sum up, I think this can be a good game. Nothing revolutionary such as Heavy Rain, but...

Gblazer01
Gblazer01

look great!! who doesnt want go to hell and kill demons?!lol

FaranO
FaranO

looks like a great game,no word of lie but in a game like this camera angles are pivotal.lets hope the camera angles dont make you sod off and wonder hey

Gameboy2k
Gameboy2k

people copy all the time. Next thing you know, you'll be telling me that Windows wasnt a bite off of apple... and apple wasnt a bite off of Xerox(gui interface). Companies constantly rip the little man for ideas. Trust me, these bigsize companies have people who read blogs and get gamers input on what they want. Everyone tries to get an innovative edge. Again, I'm not hating on them... but I just wonder how come the idea is so close to what I thought of. I just hope it's a kick@$$ game. No "hater"ation over here.

roryk666
roryk666

Gameboy2k, haha dude.. as if they got the idea from u

chutup
chutup

Gameboy2k, you don't seriously believe that EA actually read your post and decided to 'steal' your idea, do you?

SpiritofheavN
SpiritofheavN

gameboy2k's Idea!!! niceee job dude..I wish mine was taken too..lol anyways looks nice doesn't it? I don't own a ps3 so I will have to settle for dante's inferno with my machine. god of war(s) are awesome....I need a ps3 soon..:-S

stike22
stike22

As a story yes Dante beats God of War and all the other hack n slash games based on Demons and hell. but simply put as a GAME its just another clone of God of War with a warrior type weilding a giant weapon slaying everything in site...been done before so many times...unless it has something very new to bring to the table its pointless unless your a Dante fan.

Skydiver8
Skydiver8

To all the Dante fans out there who are bemoaning the development of this game, you need to look at it from a different angle. If this game causes even a few kids (who normally wouldn't care) to go to the library or Amazon and pick up a copy of the original poem and actually read it, i would call the game a success. Who's to say that rather than "ruining" the Divine Comedy, this game won't cause a rise of interest in the poem or other classic literature? How do you know that perhaps that isn't one of the intents of the developers? ;)

ArmoredBreaker
ArmoredBreaker

Hell sounds good enough to me ! And u have a big badass scythe!!

0oJazZMano0
0oJazZMano0

hmmm.... Impressive, most impressive.

HomicidalCherry
HomicidalCherry

Completely inappropriate and awful use of the source material. Dante's Inferno a God of War-esq hack 'n slash? Come on. I have to wonder why they even bother securing the license in the first place. It's not a very big name, and they seemed to completely disregard every aspect of the source material.

gdabi
gdabi

Did any of the haters on this comment board play Dead Space? It's one of the most polished and perfect games to come out in a long time. Does that not count for anything in terms of the faith we should have in the integrity of this game? Come on! G

semianonymous
semianonymous

Dante would probably make a decent Point and Click adventure story. The game itself will probably be decent, assuming you aren't a huge Dante fan. Maybe if you ignore the source, it'll magically be better...

kvan33
kvan33

Source material aside, it looks like another bland hack 'n slash game. Nothing to see here.

NoDice_386
NoDice_386

Really guys? There is hardly any info about this game and everyone is already calling fail for one reason or another. If the concept hasnt piqued your interest, stop following it...?

robmephisto
robmephisto

What's with all the complaints? This looks like it might be a pretty fun game, who cares what it's based on? It's not like any of you guys wrote the book, so why are you treating this like a personal attack? You might find you enjoy life more if you stop taking yourselves so seriously!

TruPrince
TruPrince

ACAblackpanther...chill the hell out man. Stop crying like a little girl and take a step back to see that this game looks good! And yes we know that it doesnt look like the original story but they explain why and to me I'm glad they didnt do it exact, walking around observing all the levels of hell would be boring. So get off your soapbox, get your thumb out of your ass, and shut up ACAblackpanther. It looks like a really fun and good looking game

ACAblackpanther
ACAblackpanther

I absolutely can not stomach this. "Death's Scythe"? Seriously? The fact that this is supposedly based on Dante's work is a travesty. Unless my memory is really foggy, I don't recall any visceral hand-to-hand combat in Dante's Inferno. He was more of an observer...and yes, being an observer would make a crappy video game. Therefore, Dante's Inferno would make a crappy video game. If this game isn't crappy, it's not Dante's Inferno, and shouldn't be titled as such. There is no way in hell they stay true to the source material. They've already deviated too much. (And what's with this "punish/absolve" deal? Dante now gets to be judge and jury for tormented souls? Please...)