Infliction: Mediocre Game but a Scary Experience
A recent addition to the Steam’s lineup of horror games, Infliction shines a dim light on a supernatural atmosphere; an underwhelming premise is conveyed through a poorly polished game for a surprisingly scary experience. The first game developed by Caustic Reality, this indie title brings a strong fight to the table, but ultimately fails on a technical level. What follows is my player’s opinion.
Story: A vengeful spirit is wanting to kill you for killing her, except you died fleeing the scene of the crime, except you woke back up in the murder room. Now you have to vanquish the spirit hunting you. End prologue, start game.
You play as the husband and killer of the deceased. The story is told through clues left throughout your house as you try to gather items necessary to perform an ancient ritual to dispel the ghost.
As previously described, I found the story lackluster. A selling point on its Steam page touts a real-world domestic tragedy, which is hard to sympathize with when you play as the abusive husband. Story is important for me individually, but I can overlook the inconsistencies. If the main character was another family member caught up in the mess left behind, familiar with the daily suffering, I’d be a believer.
The satanic undertones act as a segue for supernatural occurrences, such as transforming hallways from the home to a hospital, for instance. Compared to other games, it felt like a stretch to my suspension of disbelief, but I could get into it.
Gameplay: Simple, but inconsistent at times. This is a standard clue hunting game, reminiscent of the Penumbra series, and while the concept is tried and true, it falls just short of the mark. While the game advertises that the ghost actively hunts you, I rarely encountered it. If the ghost catches you, you die and restart back at the checkpoint. Sometimes when you complete a major objective, the story scripting takes over, bringing your doom at the cold hands of your pursuer and creating a new checkpoint. Frustrating to say the least, as it diminished the impact the ghost had over time, and encountering our spooky friend became more of a hassle than frightening.
Controls were simple enough and remappable. I will give praise to the awkwardly slow speed you must walk. While I don’t expect a sprint function in horror games, leaving it out enhanced the atmosphere and my enjoyment.
For an game made with Unreal Engine, bad.
Photorealistic does not mean using a photo of the interior of a shirt drawer to simulate the interior of a shirt drawer. Putting the bare minimum of detail does not help. I’m sure it helped the already hurting frames with less items to render, but it was painfully clear that little effort was put into the visuals to make the world feel less alive. A comical moment for me was looking at the pictures of fallen officers on the wall in the police station segment. Two officers had poorly photoshopped caps on, which took me out of the moment in a game where clues and looking at details are fundamental.
The opening cutscene honestly looks like it was rendered on an original Playstation. I started the game at high settings by default, and the cutscene was capped at an abysmal 35fps for something that looked a half step up from Final Fantasy VII. I have a modest rig, but it ran poorly for an Unreal game. I had to drop down to medium settings to stay above 45fps. All things considered, I had little desire to tinker to max out my fps.
The options menu was adequate, I had no major complaints.
Sound and Music: Creepy. While nothing to write home about, the atmosphere was saved by the audio. I would go so far as to say that my enjoyment of Infliction rested entirely on the sound design. Some sound effects had more impact than others, but I had few qualms in this area.
Voice Acting and Dialogue: Downright egregious. Inconsistent in the quality of writing and quality of voice actors. In particular, the memories of the vengeful deceased, Sarah, had a distinct lack of emotional range. The few points that the sound and music garnered were lost every time someone was speaking.
My feelings: At the end of the day, I was thoroughly spooked, thanks mostly to the sound design. My criticism here is my attempt at being as impartial as I can be. The flaws in the game were too much for me too ignore.
Infliction feels scary enough, but not worth the $20 price tag. Should it go on sale for $10 or less, I would recommend it to any horror fan.
Reviewed by K. Clayton