Whenever someone starts talking about their guilty-favorite games on Twitter, they’re usually thinking of something tame, like one of the weirder Metal Gears or that one Metroid that everyone thinks is bad. But mine comes with a lot more guilt than most—an appropriately Catholic amount of guilt, in fact, because my guilty favorite is Dante’s Inferno, a game based on the namesake epic poem that describes a journey into the depths of hell.
Dante’s Inferno, released by Electronic Arts for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2010, takes offensive and inappropriate to a whole new level. By that, I mean that the very first level is about murdering screaming, blade-handed newborns with Death’s own scythe, which you previously killed him with. It is only downhill from there, literally and figuratively.
But I’m not here to talk about murdering hell-babies; I’m here to talk about what happens next in the first circle of Hell: Lust. From the moment you step on the bridge into Lust—having just murdered the Judge of Hell by impaling his tongue on a spiked wheel and spinning it until his face-organs come out—you know what you’re in for. Golden statues of naked women flank the pathway, and everything is this sort of sickly penis-vein purple.
Then, a gigantic, 40-foot dong erupts from out of nowhere, topped with a King-Kong-esque manifestation of Lust who screeches at you like an angry, sexy velociraptor and summons some kind of lightning-filled sex-tornado, filled with moaning, screaming, naked bodies. The sexiest of weather conditions.
Unsurprisingly, Dante’s Inferno goes all-out in the Lust level to an almost disturbing degree, giving way too much insight into the minds and the body-horror fears of the designers. Every door is a vulva. Every pillar is adorned with golden, engraved sperm. Every minor enemy is a writhing, nearly-naked woman, with long talons and a bad case of exposed butt-crack, who moans and clutches at her crotch before sprouting a scorpion tail from her nethers.
Eventually, you find your wife sitting on a bed (she’s been kidnapped by the Devil, you see) and she gets sucked up to the top of the aforementioned 40-foot penis. It’s probably a metaphor?
Your super-judgey guide, Virgil, tells you about the shades in the Lust circle. These include Semiramis, an Assyrian queen who allegedly made incest legal, and Helen, a woman who was kidnapped. Those awful, awful sluts. The Devil, who looks like Voldemort, pops up to remind you that you cheated on your wife, who’s dressed as a BDSM-themed Final Fantasy villain, and then they have sex. It’s probably still a metaphor?
Then it’s time to fight Cleopatra, who spawns babies from her nipple-mouths, then barfs Marc Antony at you, then tries to sort of kill-fuck you, until you finally finish her off with one big, meaty thrust of your sword. (Your actual sword.) This game doesn’t fuck with subtlety.
As I said before, Dante’s Inferno is a guilty pleasure. The guiltiest. Saying that you like this game is a bit like saying you really like reading about gory real-life murders, because while you’re probably not alone in that, people will think you’re weird and won’t invite you to dinner parties. I remember playing the Lust level with my brother, when I was 18 and he was about 15, and being unsure what to think. It was all so ludicrously nasty.
From the 40-foot black-and-purple peenscraper to the woman who could birth babies from her nips, the layers upon layers of twisted sexuality raises questions, the main one being: is this still meant to be sexy? Sure, Cleopatra’s breasts are swollen and bloody, yet they still swing tantalisingly behind you while you fight off hordes of sex-demons, not to mention that every “lustful” human monster is young and female. There are no saggy temptresses, no men stripped naked in shame—it’s all just skinny, idealized female bodies moaning and wiggling and thrusting all over Dante. Isn’t that interesting.
It could be argued that this is all for Dante’s sake, but then again, the Gluttony level that comes next isn’t about fighting off giant pizzas and family-size packs of Cheetos, so if that’s the case, then it’s a little inconsistent. There isn’t really any “lust” here at all. It’s all just… sex. But as a comment on the original Kotaku preview of the Lust level says: “What better way to make the thing they once wanted, the body of a woman let’s say, and make the sexual revolting?”
And I say: They didn’t make it revolting enough.