Damned EA

By Alec Meer on December 15th, 2008 at 3:12 pm.

After a year in which EA have suffered more than even the usual number of curses by beleaguered gamers, it is perhaps only fitting that they’ve announced a game set in that disagreeably toasty place o’punishment that Bible-lovin’ folk reckon the rest of us will spend our final vacation in. There were rumours of a Dante’s Inferno game earlier in the year, and now we get the official announcement, website and trailer.

Things to know:

– it’s by EA Redwood Shores, the folk who made Dead Space, which reportedly was one of the big-name games that didn’t do so well out of the Chrimbo frenzy.

- It involves hitting stuff

- Er

- Demons?

Here’s the trailer, which suggests the structure will be levels themed to the deadly sins:

Very id-y, no? Dead Space drew a few “this is what Doom 3 should have been” comments, so Redwood Shores picking a hellbound setting only increases the comparisons. The press release talks up introducing a literary masterpiece to a new generation, but the video seems more concerned with smacking demons with crosses. Poor old Mister Alighieri.

It’s also abundantly clear this is coming from the Dead Space studio. The palette seems murky, there’s much emphasis on visceral bio-horror and the apparent protagonist is wearing a stupid hat. I’ve had a few conversations in recent weeks in which there’s a vague feeling that Dead Space Dude’s tri-slitted welding mask thing, the vanguard of the game’s marketing effort, was part of its problem: it’s just not a terribly interesting image, despite a clear (or desperate) intention to be iconic. Step away from the dumb hats, Redwood Shores. They bring only ill fortune.

Oh – it’s currently down as PS3 and Xbox 360 only, but there’s a tendency of late to simply not mention the PC release. This is, of course, because publishers are dicks. Given most EA games turn on PC either concurrently or soon after their console releases, it’s worth keeping a weather eye on this fearsome little number.

And here’s a press release, albeit a fairly useless one:

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.* An abducted soul, a lifetime of sins, a journey to the depths of despair. Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS) announced today that EA Redwood Shores, the studio behind the hit horror game Dead Space™, is now working on another original property — this one based on the medieval epic poem The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. The dark fiction gave birth to the Tuscan Italian dialect and is widely considered the work that has defined the western world’s contemporary conception of hell and purgatory. The poem tells the tale of Dante who journeys through the twisted, menacing nine circles of hell in pursuit of his beloved Beatrice. Dante’s tortured and tormented world is an ideal setting for this 3rd person action and adventure of a video game, Dante’s Inferno™.

Written in the 14th Century, The Divine Comedy was published and read aloud in Italian (unlike the Bible), thereby making the poem accessible to the mass public. The poem delivers a striking and allegorical vision of the Christian afterlife and the punishments of hell. In part one, known as Dante’s Inferno, Dante traverses all nine circles of hell; limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, heresy, violence, fraud and treachery.

“The time is right for the world of interactive entertainment to adapt this literary masterpiece, and to re-introduce Dante to an audience who, until now, may have been unfamiliar with the remarkable details of this great work of art,” said Jonathan Knight, Executive Producer for Dante’s Inferno. “It’s the perfect opportunity to fuse great gameplay with great story.”

For more information on Dante’s Inferno, please visit www.dantesinferno.com and sign up for the newsletter and bookmark for news, features and upcoming events.

* Translation: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

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96 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    dhex says:

    “Chrimbo frenzy”

    which is what now?

    i never know if you guys are dropping british-isms or your own peculiar slang, like the sort of thing creepy twins come up with so no one knows what they’re plotting.

  2. Larington says:

    @Dhex: He simply means – Holy crap theres a lot of games being released in December.

    Sounds interesting. Fear ye, the silly hats.

    Looking forward to seeing how they approach the ‘lust’ level(s). Speaking of lust, that ‘World Premiere’ lady – Phwoarrrrrr.

  3. Alex says:

    Chrimbo = Xmas

  4. Meat Circus says:

    Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Heresy, Anger, Violence, Fraud and Treachery…

    Pet names for EA’s senior management team?

  5. Larington says:

    @Meat Circus – I bet the lust senior manager is very popular, then… ;-)

  6. Meat Circus says:

    The nine names refer to the nine circles of hell, whereinunder each of the eponymous sinners are kept. Though the eighth circle is actually called ‘malebolge’, which is a great word, and I hope the game doesn’t pass the opportunity to use it.

  7. Youatemycheeto says:

    It will be terrible. I can assure you. Does anyone have any doubt?

  8. Larington says:

    I wonder if this will turn out to be an odd cross between American McGees Alice and, erm, Doom 3?

  9. giovanni says:

    Our neighbours in Vatican will be very pleased.

  10. subedii says:

    This is really not a good concept to base an action game on. To be honest, I’m expecting that Inferno is just going to be a loosely tacked on skin to a mediocre game.

    I don’t know, maybe the concept could have made good use of the setting if it was going to be more along the lines of “Silent Hill”, but this just looks like “Generic action game with demons we want you to think are twisted looking but they’re just overwrought really number 347″.

    Maybe my opinion will change when I get to see more actual footage, but first impressions just leave me with the idea that this could have been any generic demon slaying setting for the purpose of the game, but The Divine Comedy has more name recognition so they stuck that name on the front.

    Also, PLEASE do not mention to EA that The Divine Comedy is actually a trilogy. Everything else is sprouting twin sequels as it is.

  11. manintheshack says:

    ‘It will be terrible. I can assure you. Does anyone have any doubt?’

    I’ll go for simply ‘meh’.

  12. Muzman says:

    Wouldn’t it be terribly ironic if it were short.
    “Hell is too much for modern attention spans”

  13. GriddleOctopus says:

    Have these guys even read the Inferno? That trailer was so depressingly violent and nasty that I wish I could sue them to make sure they don’t use that name.

    I’ll be clear about this; that trailer had nothing to do with Dante’s Inferno, which is a pensive and intelligent meditation on the status of Damnation for those born before Christ, a tour through the levels of sin (though not in the manner of the simplistic sins listed there) and a attempt to integrate classical erudition and knowledge into the Catholic faith. Years ago I thought the novel would convert perfectly into an atmospheric, educational interactive machinima, but that trailer makes me despair of the industry.

    I didn’t expect anything more of EA and I know this is just a shock trailer to capture the Doom audience, but this is the first time I’ve ever wished that copyright was indefinite so they couldn’t misrepresent this. Developers should keep their hands off the classic until they’ve proved they can handle them sympathetically.

  14. Heliocentric says:

    Where do sodomites go again? Quick time events?

    Deadspace looks nice, if this is just deadspace in hell i can roll with that.

  15. alex_jacobson says:

    And we wonder how people can be so stupid to think that computer games aren’t Art?

    It’s because games like this shit over our beloved industries credibility.

  16. lethu says:

    I hope it won’t be as cheaply ported to PC as was Dead Space… but first it would have to be a “decent” game, atleast.

  17. newt says:

    GriddleOctopus: Well, pop culture draws inspiration from the classics all the time but I agree — this shouldn’t be called “Dante’s” Inferno.

  18. Acosta says:

    It´s really unfortunate seeing this as an action game, I had little hope of seeing something faithful or respectful to the book when I heard about it for first time, but reality has been tougher than expected. Wish it was not called Dante’s Inferno.

    I guess that exploring classical knowledge and its place on christian cosmology is not marketable enough, deep games are reserved for tiny russian teams with no real money.

    I still love the new EA (the news about Brütal Legend still brings a smile on my face when I think about it), but I don’t feel really happy about this one.

  19. Larington says:

    Hopefully we’ll get some commentary from the developers at some point that will demonstrate we’re being too quick to judge.
    Hate falling back on this timeless statement, but, err, time will tell.

  20. Premium User Badge

    dhex says:

    thanks for the chrimbo 411. i’ve never heard that particular term before.

    “And we wonder how people can be so stupid to think that computer games aren’t Art?”

    don’t forget those philistines like myself who don’t care if games are art or not because we just want to blow stuff up and be entertained!

    anyhoo, it’s the divine comedy. it has about as much popular cultural currency as other bits of really old literature about religion with a bunch of references to long dead tribal dickfights. the trailer actually sets it up with a few worthwhile factoids, which was rather surprising.

    seriously, how many of us have read all three canticles? i have. creepy stalker vibes throughout. would make a terrible game if someone attempted an actual adaptation rather than the riffage we’re going to see – the big budget version would be even more ridiculous than the trailer and beatrice would be wearing a bikini, and the indie version would be too busy weeping about how hard it is to talk to girls and life and stuff to bother designing the rest of the game.

    the only hope would be a completely loony rich catholic genius who has the time, funds and sufficient madness – as well as an attachment to fanciful medieval allegories.

    not to mention they’d get seriously protested or potentially blown the fuck up because of a certain dude in a certain level who is a certain prophet to a certain religion experiencing a certain eternal punishment.

  21. AbyssUK says:

    Hell, meh been there done that multiple times..

  22. GriddleOctopus says:

    Oh. You’d be talking about both Mohammed and Ali residing right near the bottom of Hell as “schismatics”, being chopped up by a demon? That’s the sort of EA are going to accidentally leave in, you know.

  23. fulis says:

    I already played painkiller
    I liked it though

  24. tWB says:

    So if I’m reading this trailer right, part of the game involves slaughtering unbaptized infants in Limbo, right?

    Good luck with that, EA.

  25. subedii says:

    tWB: Passing that through would probably be an absolute [i]breeze[/i] compared to some of the things depicted in Dante’s Inferno. After all, Doom III had sort of winged Cherub… things didn’t it?

  26. Ian says:

    Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Heresy, Anger, Violence, Fraud and Treachery…

    Pet names for EA’s senior management team?”

    Limbo of the Lust?

  27. Premium User Badge

    Fede says:

    @tWB: actually, it’s more likely you’ll have to kill ancient philosophers and literates in Limbo.

    Sadly the first paragraph of the press relase contains some mistakes, it seems they don’t really know Dante’s work so well after all :P

  28. Hermit says:

    I think someone’s looked at God of War and thought “Are there any other mythologies we could use to lend our next third person game an air of epic?”. Not sure how they got onto Dante’s Inferno, but whatever.

    Expect all of Dante’s conversations with lost souls to be replaced with repeatedly beating lost souls in the face. I also predict a Minotaur Boss.

    And I’m so calling this right now: Geryon will be turned into some sort of horrible on-rails vehichle section.

  29. MasterBoo says:

    You posted this boring trailer and forgot the new Brutal Legend’s one?!

  30. ghor says:

    I once dreamt I made a Knytt Stories level based on the nine circles of hell.

    I should get to work on that.

  31. Acosta says:

    @dhez

    The second and third canticle have more difficulties indeed and there are some stuff that can’t be translated to a commercial game from a big company, no doubt. Still there is a lot of stuff that could be used to fuel a game closed to the spirit and the idea of Divine’s Comedy. There are plenty of pure entertainment in this industry already, is really necessary to look at the classics to create more entertainment and ways to blow stuff in a spectacular way?

  32. Another one says:

    I really wish someone held the rights to Dante’s work… and sued it into oblivion before it is released?

  33. Scandalon says:

    I want to see how they’re going to handle the “violence” level…or will the designer/devs not even see the irony?

  34. cyrenic says:

    Talk about missing the point.

  35. SanguineLobster says:

    @Ian: I think we’ve all experienced that limbo.

  36. mrrobsa says:

    Interesting, although I burst out laughing at the cross-to-forehead, ‘go to hell’ section, and I’m not sure that’s what they were aiming for.
    Haven’t tried Dead Space but I hear good things.

  37. Fumarole says:

    Still there is a lot of stuff that could be used to fuel a game closed to the spirit and the idea of Divine’s Comedy.

    Typo and all – too true.

    I like the Knytt’s Stories idea for Inferno, that could work.

  38. Heliocentric says:

    The pope let all the unbaptised babies out. Whether they were released or evicted was another matter.

  39. Evert says:

    Is that Jesus at the end of the trailer bludgeoning some poor daemon with a crucifix?

    He looks a lot more beefy than usually depicted, but I think I can see a crown of thorns, though it is hard to see, the view keeps on changing.

    Other then that – Oh my God. What an awful looking game. I realise I am one of the few in my demographic to have read the Divine Comedy (yes, all three bits), but the basic errors in the press release and the terrible trailer deserve widespread ridicule.

  40. phil says:

    It’ll be a real shame if the ‘long dead tribal dickfights’ get left off the design document – just like Milton gave us a heroically Cromwellian Satan, half the fun of the Divine Comedy is spotting bad tempered Papal politics super imposed on hell.

    A CRPG, perhaps not a million miles away from the PS:T endgame, would have been the best choice for a game ‘inspired’ by the book but for our sins we’re probably going to get Painkiller redux with shinier stakes and a frozen Satan endboss.

  41. Ben says:

    Here’s an idea, guys:

    What if the protagonist is not who we are assuming it to be. Perhaps we have the little confrontation at the end all reversed, and whatnot.

    I guess I’m saying they might be taking a more pensive, potentially frightening approach to this material than you’re giving them credit for, placing the player in the shoes of a nigh-powerless wisp in a world of crazy-hat cross-wielding bastards.

    It probably still won’t be accurate enough to please the literary set, but I think it could be unique and interesting enough to be a worthwhile game.

    Of course, this is all assuming I’m right about the little trick they may have pulled with this trailer.

    If I’m wrong, then, well, abandon all hope.

  42. Skurmedel says:

    Please don’t do a shooter adaption of a book classic… really please don’t. It’s worse than a shitty movie adaption of a book.

  43. Petazzo says:

    It seems like EA has obviously choosed the wrong poem. In fact the Divine Commedy contains so many autobiographical parts and simbolisms that even the most important scholars can’t make head nor tail of some parts of it.
    I’m wondering who might be that muscular guy at the end of the trailer… Hope he’s not Dante or Virgilio.
    Also this part of the press release is even worse than the trailer: The poem tells the tale of Dante who journeys through the […] nine circles of hell in pursuit of his beloved Beatrice – maybe “lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” is referred to the game itself.

  44. BooleanBob says:

    In This Thread: People who have read the Divine Comedy make it absolutely clear to everybody else that they have done so.

    I say this mostly in jest; I have to read it myself for next term’s seminars, so I won’t stick around for spoilers. Whoop whoop!

  45. JulianP says:

    Oh man. This has got to be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.

  46. Calabi says:

    It doesnt look that great from the trailer nothing like what I’d imagine a Dantes Inferno game to look like. It should at least look something like that painting(cant remember what its called). With huge numbers of people being tortured or transformed.

    A proper game of Dante would be cool. Where you are just there to observe and ask questions. Your given a gun, but if you use it all in the game, or do anything untoward then demons immediately swoop down and drag you off to be tortured with the rest(which is an hour long fmv).

  47. Ben says:

    “It should at least look something like that painting(cant remember what its called). With huge numbers of people being tortured or transformed.”

    Just so you know, you pretty much just described every painting by Hieronymus Bosch.

  48. Subject 706 says:

    And several feet underground, in Ravenna, Italy, Dante Aligheri is spinning in his grave.

    Seriously, shit like this makes me wish with almost religious fervor, that all mainstream games publishers crash and burn. Violently. And go to hell.

  49. Pags says:

    Coming soon from EA:

    Thomas Hobbes’ ‘Leviathan’ – God game where everyone ignores your orders because civil law takes precedence over divine law as no one person can ascertain infallibly whether another has truly heard the word of God.

  50. phil says:

    @BooleanBob – Read it? Now you mention it’s possible I glanced at it once or twice. I might have noticed some commentaries on the subject, might not.

    Seriously though, considering how much the Divine Comedy has inspired right up to the present day it might actually be a sign of the medium’s maturity that a major publisher is stepping up and producing gaming’s take on such a cultural touch-stone.

    Unless we accept that either EA = cack or that games automatically cheapen their subject matter, neither proposition I accept, there’s a faint chance this will be brilliant.

    That said, I’m suspect everyone’s cynicism will be justified; “Go to Hell” as the tag-line doesn’t suggest there’s going to be thought involved in making the game.