It has been a short time since I last reviewed a horror game, but once in a while, when one catches my eye, I jump at the opportunity. Having watched the trailer for Infliction when a press release came across my inbox, I was sold at the sight of a scary woman crawling through a hole in the wall. That was all it took to peak my interest. That is all it takes with horror. One image, seared into your mind, hooked into your flesh, and you become invested in the curiosity. And Infliction is a curious game, one that has the player inquire into the story, putting together each piece with the breadcrumb clues it provides throughout. You are Gary Pout, a suburban husband who’s seemingly great life quickly unravels as the truth and horrors behind it begin to present themselves.
The beginning of the game starts simple enough. Upon returning home on a fetch quest of sorts (to retrieve your wife’s plane tickets), you must find a way in as the doors are all locked. Once inside, you will find your home to be quite tidy, albeit empty. After a brief search, a horrible vision is shown and in a panic, Gary attempts to flee. This results in a car crash, but after waking up you are back home, only it is 13 years in the past. This is the start of Gary’s nightmarish hell as you traverse your house as it becomes twisted and warped, continuously traveling throughout different era’s in the Pout family’s life. Whether it is at the house; a police station; or a hellish asylum; you are consistently in fear of your reality and the ghostly woman that haunts you throughout.
The game plays like many of the same genres on the market. First-person perspective, silent protagonist, and no fighting, just hiding or stunning. Also in line with other titles of a similar nature, there are A LOT of set pieces to interact with, though most are pointless. I will say I was impressed with the variety of “props” around the house, as there were plenty of movies, music, and other objects with unique titles and covers. Some items though give you voiced memories that give further insight as to what went wrong in the Pout household. While it was nice to get some verbal additions to the story, the majority of the voice acting was pretty poorly done. As a mostly one-man development project, I can understand that options may have been limited on voice talent, but sadly there is not much range to the actors that performed. On the flip side, the ambient audio did quite a good job at ramping up the heart rate and adding to the jump scares. The scrambled whispers, creaky floors, and demonic bellows all made me tense and on edge. These initially added to my desire to stay alive in the game but the more I failed to elude the spirit, the less scared I was because the game barely gave me a fighting chance and there was little to be lost when dying.
I have several issues with the ghost that haunts you throughout the game. My first issue shows up before you can even click new game. There is no gamma slider in this title. With no adjustments to be had, my experience when playing Infliction was OVERLY dark. I rarely had the chance to see her. Another is that while you have the ability to stun the ghost by turning on a working light, I was hardly ever in the position to do so when it would make sense. Most of the time when I ran into her, it would be as I was rounding a corner. I was as good as dead already. It was hard to follow her audio cues, outside of the growing static that hinted at her presence. There was an option to hide under beds and tables, but again, rarely did I have situations to use this as it was intended. There is an animation of the ghost killing you by stepping on your face, but boy is it ugly in a laughable way. This also reduced her street cred in the horror department. Get your smelly dead foot off me! Many times when I died I just could not see it coming, so I would just respawn and rush to my objective, putting exploration on the back burner.
As the story progressed, I did become more invested in it. Initially, I was pretty lost, but there were a lot of points that came full circle and cleared up a lot of questions I had. There are some afterlife nods that allow you to interpret what happened in a natural way, not in a way that leaves you feeling cheated out of closure. I particularly liked the asylum and cabin portions of the game. Not only did those changes of scenery help with the pacing and story, but they also really screamed “horror movie” instead of Gone Home. A puzzle-solving mechanic is introduced during the game that really stuck out to me too. Using a Polaroid-style camera, you can reveal hidden solutions for certain must solve puzzles. There are nifty fingerprint details on the printed pictures as well, which struck a nice chord with me. There are some pretty cool bonus features that allow you to see galleries and content regarding the development of the game, the backstories of the characters, trailers, and more after beating the game. This was a neat little bonus feature that fits well with the structure.
Though Infliction does not break any new ground, it is an OK horror romp for aficionados that are well into the genre. There are lots of inspirations to be seen, but sadly the worst feature of the game is the one that drew my attention in the first place. The ghost just doesn’t do it for me in the end, and only came away with the occasional jump scare instead of the consistent, looming fear that something like Alien Isolation presents. There are some neat features in the game, no doubt, but it is not a consistent package. The story is shallow early on, and the unknowing is scary. As the story gets better, the horror dies down and dying just becomes a chore, with survival not being a rewarding experience. If you can get it for a budget-friendly price, it is not the worst thing you can play. But it is certainly not the best horror title either.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
FINAL SCORE: 6.5/10
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