In EA's upcoming Dante's Inferno for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PSP, whether you take the holy path or the unholy path to victory, your road will still be strewn with the corpses of 1,000 (or more) dead demons. EA recently sent us playable builds of Dante's trip down to the netherworld, and one of our first stops on the long way down was the upgrade screen. In this screen, you can spend the souls Dante collects in battles on useful improvements made to either Dante's scythe or his holy cross.
There are two upgrade paths from which to choose. First, there is the unholy path, which focuses mainly on the scythe (and, thus, melee attacks). Then, there is the holy path, which is centered on the cross and acts mainly as a ranged weapon in the game. You can spend your earned souls on either path at any time, and spreading the souls between both paths seems like a good strategy. That's because one weapon is sometimes more effective than the other, depending on the situation and the enemies you face.
The holy cross, for example, is an ideal weapon for keeping hordes of enemies at a distance, and some of the upgrades you earn include such things as Holy Devastation, which unleashes a wave of holy energy at foes after four quick presses of the B button (on the Xbox 360 controller). Or there is Divine Force, which fires a more concentrated beam of holy light after holding down the B button for a few seconds. We found the Divine Force particularly effective against slow, lumbering enemies like glutton demons whom we could keep at bay with a few shots of Divine Force without ever having them get close enough to cause serious damage.
The unholy path focuses on Dante's scythe, which he earns early in the game after beating the tar out of Death and stealing it. At the path's lower upgrade levels, you'll earn simple combo upgrades that might launch an enemy into the air or improve Dante's reach with the weapon. As you progress higher up the unholy path, you'll earn attacks that will not only deal hefty damage but also break through enemy defense.
Both upgrade paths share some similar upgrades. For example, you can choose to increase your health or mana bar in scale or unlock an additional relic slot (relics are earned in the game, can be attached to slots, and provide Dante with additional powers, such as damage absorption, immunity to certain demon attacks, or the ability to stun the enemy after a successful block). Game producers told us that while it's unlikely you'll max out both upgrade paths in one play-through of the game, you'll be able to keep all of your powers upon a subsequent tour through hell and can experience Dante at his finest that way.
However you build him out, Dante will need all of those abilities at his disposal as he makes his way through the nine circles and its many trials. In past previews, we've taken a look at certain levels and the unique enemies that you'll encounter along the way (the blade babies, the giant bare-breasted Cleopatra, the scum-spewing glutton demons, and so on). With a fuller version of the game at our disposal, we got a look at more of the highlights. EA has asked us to keep certain aspects of the game's plot under wraps for the sake of spoilers, but here are a few of the memorable moments from what we've played so far:
Mark and Cleo
By now, you probably know that Cleopatra hounds you for most of your time in Dante's lust level. However, at the top of the Carnal tower, which you spend a good chunk of the level ascending while Cleopatra does her best to stop you, you'll see a brief cutscene. This cutscene involves Dante's beloved Beatrice and Lucifer himself, and it's one that will shed a bit more light on the backstory between Dante and his ladyfriend.
With the drama out of the way, it's back to the beat-'em-up action. Cleopatra starts things off by spitting up the corpse of her significant other, the Roman general Mark Antony. Armed with a massive sword and shield, Antony is a formidable opponent by himself, but when you toss in Cleopatra's occasional whirlwind-like lust storm attacks, you've got a memorable boss fight on your hands.
Three Dog Night
The giant three-headed monster Cerberus serves as your introduction to the game's gluttony level. After descending a huge rope made of corpses, Cerberus is our first fight in this circle of hell. Though this monster is portrayed in Greek mythology as a three-headed dog, in Dante's Inferno, Cerberus--as guard of the gluttony level--is a triple-headed mess of mouths, teeth, and bad attitude that is prone to spitting balls of rotting corpses at you.
While Dante doesn't have much a chance of going up against Cerberus head-to-head in true boss-battle fashion, there are some ways to even the odds; namely, by destroying molten rocks that block lava geysers. After destroying a boulder, Cerberus will attack, get caught in the geyser of lava, and be temporarily stunned. This gives Dante ample opportunity to get up close and do some serious scythe surgery on Cerberus' face. It takes a while to bring Cerberus down completely--he does have three heads after all--but, once he's defeated, your journey into gluttony can continue.
Yes, there's lots of hacking and slashing in Dante's Inferno. In fact, many sections of the game are designed to put you in as small a space as possible and throw multiple waves of enemies at you. If you've got a small appetite for this kind of thing, then Dante's occasional puzzles might come as welcome relief. In the game's greed level, you'll encounter one puzzle that you'll solve while mounted on the back of a huge armored demon. After wiping out the peons that do their best to knock you off your perch, it's puzzle-solving time.
A huge golden statue of the goddess Fortuna sits before Dante, with a massive block to the left of the statue. You can grab and drag this block by pressing the right bumper then moving the left stick. Once you drag the block to a certain spot on the floor, the statue will sink down into the ground, giving you a window of time to climb up the wall and over the temporarily sunk statue to continue through the level. You must move quickly though, as the giant block will eventually disintegrate, thus resetting the puzzle.
A good chunk of the puzzles in Dante's Inferno use levers or moveable sections of floor, but there are a number of old-fashioned jumping puzzles to mix things up as well. In fact, one of the newest puzzles (of sorts) is the absolution minigame that is used when you decide to absolve a non-enemy character of his or her sins. These characters are historical figures, and you'll get a brief rundown of their sins before deciding their fates. You can choose to punish with a simple press of the B button, which ends things in a quick and bloody fashion.
While the game doesn't give an exact theological explanation as to why Dante can absolve people who are already in hell, we'll just chalk it up to "video game logic." Choosing to absolve someone (by pressing the X button) will bring up the aforementioned minigame, which plays a bit like the Bit.Trip games for the Nintendo Wii, in that you have to match the timing of orbs traveling toward the center of the screen. The orbs travel in channels, and each is connected to one of the face buttons on the Xbox 360 controller. When they reach the correct spot, you press the corresponding button, and each successive orb you collect will earn you more souls at the end of the timed minigame.
These are just a couple of snapshots of our time in Dante's underworld, and there's certainly more to discover before the game is released on February 9. If you're looking for more on the game, you can check out our previous coverage or wait for our next glimpse of the game, which will be in a segment on an upcoming episode of GameSpot's video show Today On the Spot. So be on the lookout for the official air date.