Let's get this out of the way now: There are breasts in Dante's Inferno. Big, naked breasts. Big, naked breasts attached to Cleopatra, the notorious Egyptian queen who serves as one of the game's epic bosses. Big, naked breasts with tongues for nipples. Big, naked breasts that spew babies with swords for hands. Wait, what?
It's the Lust level of Hell, as seen through the lens of Visceral Games' upcoming adventure game for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PSP.
As we've been following the development of Dante's Inferno, we've seen several areas so far. First, there was Limbo, the realm of King Minos, judge of the damned. Then, there was the river Styx, which we crossed when playing the Anger level; it eventually led us to the City of Dis, which marks as the entry point into the game's inner circles of Hell. Today, we got a peek at the Lust level, which continues the game's evolving formula of equal parts fascination and revulsion.
The demo we played hammered home the "lust" theme early. As the demo begins, Dante encounters a Temptress--a bare-breasted creature who, before attacking, opens up her torso cavity only to show off a long, dangerous-looking tentacle grotesquely waving in front of her body. That tentacle turns out to be just as deadly as it looks. Not only is the Temptress quick and hard to hit, but that extra-long appendage can also grab Dante and cause some serious damage.
After dispatching a handful of Temptresses with Dante's trusty bone scythe and holy powers, we immediately set into a puzzle. So far, the puzzle aspect of Dante's Inferno has been downplayed by the development team--who is in favor of showing off the blood and guts--but there does seem to be a pretty strong undercurrent of puzzle-solving at play here. The first puzzle requires you to figure out a way to gain entrance into the violent storm of lust being generated by the gigantic Queen Cleopatra (herself a character in the epic poem upon which Dante's Inferno is based). In the poem, the lustful damned are whipped about in an unending maelstrom, dashed upon mountainous rocks for all eternity. As Dante, your goal is to enter that storm in the hopes of finding your true love Beatrice.
The puzzle itself was a relatively simple matter of moving stone columns and activating a series of nearby levers in order to get a platform to rise toward the top of the tower in which the majority of the demo level took place. Once we got Dante on the platform, rising at inhuman speeds up the tower as Cleopatra looked on, it was time to deal more pain. We were beset by multiple enemies--including the long-horned demons that look to be common foes in the game, as well as the aforementioned Temptresses. At one point, the demonic Cleopatra smashed her way into the tower and a brief quick-time event occurred, which allowed Dante to avoid her attacks.
Once at the top of the tower, it was time to take Cleopatra on herself. Before the battle could begin, we saw her rise up and watched as her left breast erupted in a spew of pus. Eventually, a trio of blade-babies erupted from the wound. She then scooped them up and hurled them at Dante.
With smaller enemies like this always around, the goal for Dante is to burn Cleopatra by activating a pair of fire-blasting statues on either side of the queen. Activating the statues first requires you to attack Cleopatra's hand, which rests on the platform where you're standing. Once you cause enough damage, she'll quickly retract her hand, the platform will rise slightly, and you'll be able to jump to activate one statue. You repeat the process to activate the statue on the other side, but you have to be careful with the timing here--you need to engage the statue when Cleopatra is close to the platform or else the fire will miss her completely once it's activated.
From a gameplay standpoint, control is a bigger concern than the game's content. While Dante has a host of awesome attacks he can perform on the ground and in midair, it often feels like he's out of touch with what the player is doing on the controller. For instance, it's difficult--if not impossible--to break up combo attacks from enemies with the block button. Also, when we were fighting Cleopatra, we would be attacking the queen's hand, only to have Dante turn around whenever peon enemies got close and focus his attacks on them. It seems that further control tweaks are inevitable, and it will be interesting to see how things evolve in the coming months.
One thing that's definitely changed is the absolve/punish mechanic. Previously, we'd only seen the mechanic on non-player characters "lost souls," characters pulled from the original source material that Dante could either choose to punish or absolve for their crimes. Either choice would earn him unholy or holy points, respectively. That mechanic is now available against regular enemies as well. After capturing one with Dante's scythe, you can choose to absolve or punish with a button-mashing minigame.
There's little doubt that Dante's Inferno is going to have some ratings trouble when it's released next year, which is something the team behind the game seem to be aware of and expecting. As a result, producers told us that they're prepared to work to make the game acceptable in every region it's set to be released in--even if it means toning down certain aspects. Those discussions are for the future, however. The game isn't due for release until early 2010--and there's still more layers of Hell to uncover. Stay tuned for more from GameSpot in the coming weeks.