The last time we saw Dante's Inferno for the PSP, it was tucked away in a corner at EA's Tokyo Game Show press event alongside the higher profile Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game. To bolster the handheld's version profile, EA recently dropped by our offices to show off just the PSP version and give us our first peek at the Heresy level of Hell.
What's New: In the epic poem upon which Dante's Inferno is based, Heresy is depicted as the sixth circle of Hell, alongside such sins as treachery and violence. In the game, being helmed by EA's Visceral Games studio and developed by AM2 (the folks behind Wet), the Heresy level is the first level you encounter upon entering the City of Dis. In it, heretics burn in a never-ending fire for doubting the existence of life after death. More so than combat-heavy levels we've previously seen, the Heresy level mixes puzzle-solving and a good deal of platforming. As you make your way through the level, you'll see a gigantic statue of the Old Testament's Abraham, and your goal in the level is to free him from captivity in Hell by solving the level's puzzles.
What's Different: The absolve and punish mechanic, which was previously only available to use on certain non-player characters in the game, looks to be nearly complete. You can now grab an enemy (by pressing the right trigger) and choose to absolve or punish him or her. Punishing a foe is as simple as one press of a button; while absolving requires you to mash buttons and takes longer to complete. The thinking here is that's it's tougher to be holy in the game. Whether you choose punish or absolve, enemies (and NPCs) will determine which powers Dante will have at his disposal as he progresses.
We also got a look at a new enemy--a dark priest of sorts--who could quickly teleport, making him difficult to attack. The priest is also immune to Dante's cross attacks and makes any minion around him similarly immune as long as he's alive. As a result, the priest enemies make for a challenge; one that needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible before things get out of hand.
It's also worth pointing out that, unlike previous levels in Dante's Inferno, the Heresy level doesn't end with a big boss fight. Instead, the level we played finished with an action sequence that had Dante skipping across a chasm of crumbling rocks as he tried to avoid falling into a pit of lava. While there's no boss battle in Heresy, producers said that the following level, Violence, will feature a final encounter. Judging by the level's theme, here's hoping it's a doozy.
What's the Same: The camera in the game hasn't changed much and can still be the occasional problem. During the latter part of the stage, we were required to jump between several moving platforms, trying to make our way closer to the statue of Abraham. It wasn't always easy to tell exactly how close (or far away from) we were to the different platforms, making some of the jumps difficult. In addition, some of the clues you need to finish certain puzzles are a bit obscured, making for a good deal of running around willy-nilly looking for an "interact" icon to pop up on screen.
What Impression the Game Made This Time: Dante's Inferno is at its best when it's reveling in the gruesome landscape of its levels. We've seen a lot of the same enemies in the game, and so far, we aren't in love with the combat system and only a few of the puzzles have been interesting. That said, we've been delighted with the twisted architecture of each new level of Hell, which seems to further cement Visceral Games' status as the go-to developer when it comes to creating a horrific atmosphere.
Look for more on Dante's Inferno in the coming months, leading up to the game's release in February 2010.