You could accuse it of being God of War with a different backdrop, but the comparison wouldn't bother EA at all. That people are comparing Dante’s Inferno (360 version pictured) to the massively successful myth-based hack 'n' slasher can only be a good thing, although the developers are keen to point out that they've been playing a lot of Devil May Cry and Onimusha too.
In fact, Dante’s Inferno is an attempt to make weapon-based melee action even more spectacular than its predecessors did. The sub-bosses are big enough as it is, and you have to get the better of them before you can even think about besting the actual bosses. Seems like EA’s throwing a bit a Shadow of the Colossus into the mix as well.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, is that Dante’s Inferno is PSP bound. Canadian studio A2M is on development duties. Although it uses a PSP-specific engine, the game itself will be the same as the PS3 - suitably scaled down in terms of graphical resolution, of course.
At the recent EA showcase in London, an early version of the first level was on display, although not yet playable, unless you happened to be produce Wes Culver.
“We’re only a couple of months into development,” he explained. “There are a lot of issues to be ironed out.”
These mainly seemed to revolve around collision detection and clipping, but apart from those, the first level, which see Dante riding of the back of the ferryman across to hell, look pretty sparkling. Culver said the game was currently running at between 35 to 60 frames per second.
As you’d expect, the characters and environments are suitable grotesque, the style being something perhaps best described as organic gothic.
The action consists of wiping out waves of nasty lost souls who rise up from the floor, your tools of the trade being a huge scythe and a cross, which you can use in combination to perform the usual array of light and heavy strikes, counters, projectile attacks and special moves, as well as juggling enemies in the air and giving them a righteous beating.
The best part, however, is when the lumbering sub-boss turns up. You have to dish out a mild beating - while avoiding his stamp attacks - then use your scythe to climb up onto his back via a series of press-the-X-button-now Quick Time Events.
Then it's just a case of unseating the daemon riding him and taking control yourself. This results in some satisfying quashing action before you lumber over to the ferryman and rip his head off. Lovely.
Next up come the unbaptised babies, who have curved blades for arms and lollop across the floor, with appropriate fingernails down the blackboard audio.
As you should be able to tell by now, Dante’s Inferno is an unsettling mix of dark humour and mediaeval angst, all shot through with lashing of spectacular particle effects and blood splatter. And, of course, you will be collecting souls as you make you way through the underworld so you can access the upgrade system. The pope will be so proud.
As for the release date, the PSP version will be out at the same time as the PS3 version, although this is likely to be sometime in 2010.