Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy is considered to be one of the greatest works of literature ever, not to mention the single most important poem in the Italian language.  Its allegorical view of the afterlife from a Christian perspective represents a culmination of the Western Church's medieval world-view and has inspired spiritual and poetic giants like C.S. Lewis.  Broken into three parts - Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Heaven) - it is the Inferno that is perhaps best known for its vulgar depictions of eternal punishments.

The whole of The Divine Comedy is an allegory of the soul's journey to God after death. The Inferno represents the recognition of and rejection of sin. Ironically, it is the very representation of Dante's Inferno in video game form that need beg forgiveness.  Recognition of this game as a sin against Dante's work is more than obvious, but the game doesn't stop there. 

The Story

I'm in no way going to write a video game review lambasting the game publisher for not "sticking to the book" when it comes to 700-year-old poetry. Somehow I doubt that the primary audience for this game could care less if it's anything like the Italian poem. That being said, the barest bones of the poem remain in the video game, and that's what I'm going to stick to. After all, this is a review of a video game, not of a poem and a video game.

The story starts with Dante, a crusading knight in the Holy Land sitting next to a fire, stitching a cloth cross into his flesh. Yes, it's both gruesome and very, very odd.  Then you're whisked away to a scene that happened in the past where Dante is fighting off Saladin's minions "in the name of Christianity." I say it that way because this game's idea of medieval Christianity is ridiculously off base, making it out to be some sort of fanatic cult rather than what history tells us. This is also when gameplay begins. You fight your way through a crumbling castle to end up getting stabbed in the back and coming to face Satan himself.  Satan informs you that you're going to hell, but you (Dante) argue that the Bishop said his fight was a holy one. Dante refuses to go and fights Satan in order to escape his punishment.

You'll win the fight, of course, and end up heading back home where you discover that your beloved Beatrice has been killed.  Her soul leaves her body and talks to Dante, then she's whisked away toward hell and Dante chases after her.  I won't ruin the rest for you, but I think you get the idea.  Dante will venture through the nine circles of Inferno to deliver his beloved Beatrice from a hellish fate.

The Gameplay

I could bother writing an entire section on how good the gameplay in this game is.  Remember, when I speak of gameplay I'm speaking specifically about the controls, the camera, and how the action is presented in the game. If you can ignore everything that's blatantly offensive, this game is fun to play. Still, the gameplay itself is going to be offensive to some people. If you've played God of War and buy this game expecting something different, you'll be sorely dissappointed. What Dante's Inferno truly is, more than anything, is a reskinning of God of War.

What It Gets Really Wrong

I don't usually write up a section in reviews dedicated to the imagery of the game, but Dante's Inferno warrants one.  If you're planning on renting/buying this game, be warned of the imagery Dante's Inferno will put onto your screen.  Varying scenes of hell with impaled animated corpses, half-mutilated bodies walking around, and bloody naked women will invade your senses. Are the graphics good? Yes, which is why it's terrifying to watch.

EA's complete disreguard for the historical Christian church is a real let-down in this game. If you want to see evil Bishops with red eyes extending their arms to heaven while fire rips into the sky behind them, be my guest, but I'm tired of playing games that demonize Christianity.

My Conclusion

Dante wrote a beautiful poem full of meaningful allegory and sometimes haunting imagery. It has touched the lives of millions of people. EA made a horror movie thinly based on another work and gave it gameplay almost identical to God of War. I think that sums it up nicely.

Dante's Inferno PS3, PSP, xBox360
Rated M for Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content