EA offered hands-on with its second circle of its interactive Hell in Japan on Wednesday, allowing me to try the Lust level of 2010's Dante's Inferno. It was more disgusting than it was sexy, I hope we can all agree.
Beware: Lots of words for body parts are used in this post.
As it has slowly revealed the parts of its least subtle action game, EA had revealed different sinful circles of its Hell in different regions. We've previewed some. There was no hidden meaning in introducing Lust in Japan, the game's executive producer, Jonathan Knight told me as I got ready to play part of it at EA's multi-game press event at a rented museum hall in Tokyo.
Each level of the game draws from the descriptions of Hell in the classic Dante's Divine Comedy, referencing the imagery of the Inferno mapped in the legendary poem. The game uses that scenery as backdrop for its God of War-styled gameplay and as fodder for its base delights.
The result of EA's efforts on Lust were evident in a snippet of the level I played on Wednesday in Tokyo. The a section that featured floors of Hellish architecture decorated with a pattern of swimming sperm. Walls in the level had more sperm designs as well as portals shaped as labia. Columns surrounding a circular elevator that the game's hero, Dante, needed to raise, were topped with smooth, sloped tips. They were giant, metal penises.
The content in the game's Lust level is unabashedly sexual. The first encounter I had on the PlayStation 3 build of the game shown in Japan pitted the game's hero, the scythe-swinging Dante against yellow monster ladies known as Temptresses. With Dante, I could slice, slash, jump and dash against these and other enemies. I could use special magic and combo attacks mapped to controls that would remind any God of War player of the capabilities of that game's lead character, Kratos. The Temptresses were a bit different than the norm. They could unzip the front of their torsos so that a 10-foot tentacle unfurled out of their body, then lean back, spread their legs and try to pull Dante toward their crotch. A well-timed button press by Dante could cancel that gesture, swinging the Temptress by her tentacle into a wall. This little contest is not played for titillation. It's hideous.
After defeating a few Temptresses, my Dante was able to get a glimpse of his lost love Beatrice and then meet Virgil, a ghostly presence who will read from the famous poem or keep quiet for the impatient players who just want the action and not the culture. Near Virgil was a puzzle that challenged Dante to raise the aforementioned sperm floor through an opened ceiling. Levers needed to be pulled; a towering block had to be pushed.
Beyond that puzzle was the tease of a boss battle. The giant Cleopatra, scaled as King Kong to my Dante's Fay Wray, scaled the exterior of a massive Hellish elevator shaft. She's been seen in screenshots, her big, purple-gray fully-exposed breasts her most prominent feature. As she climbed and threatened Dante, the sperm floor raised ever higher. Temptresses attacked. Bigger beastly demons did too. When nearly vanquished, the beasts flashed button prompts over their head. That indicated that Dante could attempt to damn them or absolve them using special finishing moves for extra karma points.
All of this played smoothly and was vividly animated. Behind me, another reporter wondered if the game needed more than its handful of enemies on the screen to compare favorably to the next God of War. At the PS3 where I played, a female journalist had remarked that the sequence I was about to encounter was the first time she'd fought a video game battle staged in front of giant video game breasts. She had reached, as I now did, a moment when Cleopatra stopped climbing, clasped one long-nailed hand on the elevating floor, moved her chest to the center of the screen and then — swallow your food before finishing this sentence — stuck tongues out of her nipples. Next, she retracted those tongues and emitted winged babies from those nipples to attack Dante. In response, I was to swing at the demon babies, hack at Cleopatra's hand, leap to some switches and turn two giant serpent statue heads toward Cleopatra's figure so they could belch fire upon her. Lust level demo complete.
I had asked Dante's producer Jonathan Knight to remind me what the nature of this circle of Hell was. It hadn't seemed at all lustful in a sexy way. Dante didn't appear to be on the verge of being seduced. His likely reaction — as was mine — would be revulsion. Knight told me that, no, Dante was not being seduced here. The Lust circle is the place in Hell for those who were to lustful. Dante's quest merely takes him through it.
The journey through Lust was not tempting or titillating, but garish and gross. The toplessness in God of War has been played for cheap thrills, the opportunity for an off-screen threesome. If comparisons will be drawn — and they will — the toplessness that filled the Lust level was played for cheap chills, a visual argument about how ugly a sexualized body can be.
Right before I had started playing the Lust demo I had witnessed the game's prototype menus screen. A more angelic beauty wearing not much white clothing posed prettily to the right of standard menu text. She was topless too. The Dante's Inferno team can render bawdy beauty if they want to. Within their virtual Hell, however, they choose otherwise.