At the EA stand at E3 this year I noticed nobody was having a go on the handhelds. Seriously, there were around ten PSPs running interesting and exciting titles that were completely neglected. I had to take advantage of this, and had a go at the action/adventure title Dante's Inferno for the PSP. Dante's Inferno was one of the more impressive titles shown at the EA press conference, and although the PSP version isn't quite as spectacular as it's older PS3 brother, it sure comes close, and that's saying something.
Loosely based on the epic poem, you play as Dante who must navigate his way through the nine circles of hell in order to rescue his beloved. As he progresses further into the bowels of hell, Dante learns that perhaps he wasn't as virtuous in life as he thought he was, and at the end of each level he learns something new about himself. I began my demo in the middle of my decent into hell, taken across by the boatman Charon - although in this game, Charon IS the boat, his giant head slowly angling the body of the ship forward. As demons began to rain for the sky, I excecuted some of the attacks at Dante's disposal.
Gameplay is extremely similar to God Of War, and based around a series of combos of light and heavy attacks, with a few epic moves such as the 'holy cross move', which shoots Dante's cross at a distance right into the heart of the enemy. It feels as fluid as God of War, too, and I was effortlessly slaying bad guys left and right, dodging and blocking all the while. There's also a health and damage meter that can be replinished by power sucked from a dead enemy or from a chest. God Of War is strong in this one.
There's a level of scale to the PSP incarnation that's very impressive. Some of the bosses and demons are huge, and the backdrops are gorgeously grand in scope. During my boat-ride, I fought a giant demon (defeated by a series of quicktime prompts) and then proceeded to take control of him in order to rip the head off poor Charon. During the next level, I traversed across a giant pillar as it crumbled beneath my feet, fought legions of unbaptized demon babies (!), and crossed walls of dead bodies. In Dante's Inferno most of the levels are made up of dead bodies in various ways - it is hell, after all - and it's worth noting that the walls I crossed were actually slowly moving and writhing. This level of detail in a PSP game is terrific. The game is beautfully dark and atmospheric too, with dynamic lighting provided by the occasional burst of hellfire.
From what I've played, this is a very true, honest incarnation of the console game, and I've been told the levels and the structure of the game remain the same. Although my time with the game was brief, it's given me hope for the handheld's longevity.
The Good: Great presentation; fully-featured.
The Bad: Surely something had to get lost in translation?
The Ugly: Quite a lot of hell, shockingly.