Are video game novels any good?

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Repetitive action works in a game because you control the variety; reading about it in a novel is dull. Despite the author's palpable struggle to maintain excitement in the subject, the words themselves aren't quite the pure sileage you'd expect. Oliver Bowden is a rather better writer than this adaptation might suggest.

Not the vilest trash: just a lifeless and perfunctory rehash of the game - 2/5

Publisher: Wildstorm
Writers: Christos Gage and Diego Latorre
The sensible would assume that writers of video game tie-in comics would try and synthesise their source material down to a manageable amount of stuff. Trying to cram 20 hours of game into a hundred pages of splintered dialogue and pictures is a bad idea. Dante's Inferno is not sensible.

Instead, it's a breathless, airless comic in which main character Dante has but a few panels to murder all of western mythology's greatest monsters. Minos, Greek judge of the dead, represented here as a sevenstorey skeleton with a sense of hyper-smell? Dead in six panels.


The hooded figure of death, the unassailable spectre of ethereal mortality that pervades global culture? Yeah, Dante rips a bit of his face off then he falls over. Lucifer himself, lord of darkness, Beelzebub, Satan and all of the world's evil combined into one spirit? Three pages and a stabbing with a big scythe and he's banished for all eternity.

The closest the book gets to its original source material - the 14th Century poem, not the game - is a short jaunt through the nine circles of hell. In Dante Alighieri's work, it's a life-altering slog told as allegory. Here, it's a quick jaunt through a few pages, with Dante stopping every so often to cleave a few babies in half. The book turns the greatest trial imaginable by humans into a sightseeing tour, punctuated by some light slaying.

Look to your left, Dante, and you'll see a minotaur...oh wait you've killed it. Stripped of the chance to actually play the main character, Dante's rendered totally unsympathetic. His choice to bone a slave girl makes his supposed love for fiancee Beatrice suspect, even though it propels him through hell itself. If he loves her so much he'd actually murder Satan, why can't he keep it in his pants when he's away on a crusade?

Dante's Inferno is muddled and overly frantic. Ignore the story and let the pretty, nightmarish art wash over you - 2/5

Publisher: Titan Books
Writer: Matthew Stover
The opening line of God Of War demonstrates why this novel fails to capture the excitement
of the game it's based on. "At the brink of nameless cliffs he stands: a statue in travertine." When we think of God of War, we don't think of travertine - we think of Kratos violently removing a monster's head.

And when the action does kick in, the descriptions leave a lot to be desired: "Kratos wove a curtain of death about them." "He slapped him with the flat of his blade, as a Spartan father disciplines a naughty child." The Gods in particular are characterised as a bunch of vacuous meatheads, with no trace of divinity. Their dialogue is so facile, it wouldn't be entirely out of place in an episode of Hollyoaks.

The mighty Zeus himself sounds like a whining emo teenager, rather than the thunder-flinging deity he should be. But the real problem here is that the author does little to make the story its own, instead documenting the gameplay like an over-descriptive walkthrough.

In fact, they even credit a YouTuber, thanking him for the GOW videos he's posted. It's a revealing insight into the process, if nothing else. Gods randomly appear to give Kratos a new weapon or power, Aphrodite rocks up with a quick tutorial on how to use Medusa's head, and he even gets his 'general magical reservoir' refilled when Zeus hands over his thunderbolts.

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