Things definitely do go bump in the night. It didn’t help that I was playing the game in the dark with the sound up. The distant noises, creaks, footsteps and ghostly shrieks were made feel real. Well, I guess it actually did help. A lot. I was given the privilege to review Infliction: Extended Cut on the PlayStation 4 and I am glad I did.
Infliction is a first-person horror game full of enough scares to give a Korean horror film a run for its money. Developed by Caustic Reality and brought to consoles by Blowfish Studios, the game follows the gruesome tale of a suburban family.
The game starts with Gary Prout driving home to see a car crashed on the side of the road (you soon realize the significance of that moment). Gary is on his way to pick up plane tickets for his Wife. Upon entering the house, the eerie atmosphere slowly builds up when you notice the light switches aren’t working. There is no background music and the only sounds you hear are the ones you are making in your large and empty abode. Gary slowly makes his way upstairs (why is it always the furthest room in the house?) and locates the tickets.
All is well so far right? Wrong! From here everything goes downhill and Gary is trapped in a Ground-Hog day of nightmares while being chased by a ghost intent on his death, death and death. Without spoiling what happens, Gary ends up reliving through key events in his life that builds a morbid chain of events.
It is here that I was most captivated. The way the story slowly unravels through memories you collect made me want to know more about what happened in this man’s life. More about what happened in this house!
Overall, the gameplay is somewhat minimalistic in Infliction: Extended Cut. In my years of experience with video games it feels weird to say that this isn’t actually a bad thing. Being succumbed to the game’s immersion, the simplistic gameplay helped to move the pace, the scares and the story forward. Gameplay mechanics would vary from ‘locate X item’ to ‘locate Y item’. So yes, not very varied. Therefore, the fetch quests end up being breadcrumbs to lead you to the next plot point or story driven moment.
However, the thing that I found very clever was the use of the in-game camera. Taking photographs can reveal hidden clues in the photos themselves. Apart from being a resident Peter Parker, you can also use the camera for some ghost busting. So, you’re being chased by a ghost? Simply pull out your handy camera and take a snapshot. Ghosts don’t like flashed lights, we learned.
From the get go I was impressed with the visual quality the game offered. The graphics are generally crisp and very clean. However, I did find some of the character models were not as sharp as other areas of the game. It made the experience feel a little inconsistent given that the visual quality could range from ‘just ok’ to ‘absolutely incredible’.
For instance, upon entering the home, you can watch a real acted cooking show on TV. ‘Cooking with Masimo’ was a strangely compelling watch. The visual quality was excellent and took me away from the realization that I was indeed playing a video game. Later on in the game you are standing outside a cabin in the woods. The distant trees hypnotically blowing in the wind was so remarkable.
I have to say that the quality of art direction and graphics in this game just blew my mind at times, and I haven’t even touched on the scary and endearing paintings on the walls.
Each painting can say so much. They are a real work of art and a window into the motivations and minds of these characters. The game totally messed with me as well. Walking around familiar corridors would, however, lead to new locations. I’m so sure this room shouldn’t be here (I think to myself). The art direction and visuals have a surprising way of keeping things fresh within a limited setting.
Attention to detail
There are so many VHS tapes to sift through, which brought back so many memories of having my own VHS collection back in the day. I even found a NES looking console with NES looking cartridges. You can even sift through the small game collection here too. I found Mass Effect!
As you travel to different points in the character’s life, you notably travel to different times, whereby, items in the house reflect the time period. I even remember going to the 1990s and finding an X-Files video tape in the daughter’s bedroom!
Another thing that stood out for me was the daughter’s certificate of perfect attendance at school. The writing is so small yet legible. The detail! It is these little things that show the effort gone into making this house a home. A real place that has been lived in over a period of time. With real people, real memories, and a real turn of events.
I found the scattered memories through diary entries and photographs to be brilliant. The voice acting is superb! Kudos to Kylie Boase for really pulling me in with her captivating delivery. Again, without spoiling too much, I genuinely felt for what her character endured.
Immersion is a big thing for me in video games. Usually I would turn the background music down or off to make me feel in the moment. I am on screen. I am the character. In Infliction the background music is very minimal, and at times non-existent.
The atmosphere, the sense of dread, the sense of being alone is so powerful with the deafening silence. At times, I could only hear my footsteps and the things I would interact with. This made it more apparent when the telephone would ring in the distance or the radio would suddenly turn on. The use of audio in this game is so clever. The sudden and impactful music kicking in at just the right moments helped to increase the tension.
Infliction: Extended Cut does not outstay its welcome. Roughly lasting around 3 hours, you can easily finish the game in a single sitting. The gameplay is not overly taxing but the experience given is extremely compelling. My only criticism would be that it misses the chance to give variation in hiding or battling the stalking evil resident. It would be nice to be able to hide in cupboards, or increase the tension by having to find batteries for your camera to stay operational. Even saying that, these are not game breaking in any way, but perhaps food for thought for a sequel.
Completing the game unlocks New Game Plus. With the increased difficulty, new areas to explore and new endings, the game offers some replay value. As an independent game at a budget price I would definitely recommend playing through Infliction: Extended Cut. Horror game fans that have played Layers of Fear and that P.T. Trailer may find themselves in familiar territory with the game’s general direction.
They say the art form that leaves an impression is the best form of expression. Well, in this case it worked. Infliction explores troubling themes. This made me appreciate how powerful the video games platform is in highlighting difficult issues.
I have to give a special mention to a certain individual. Clinton McCleary is one to watch. He is, impressively, the one-man studio behind Caustic Reality.
“I created Infliction as a way to explore fears and anxieties that manifested after my wife and I started a family” said McCleary. “It’s a horror game with scares everyone can relate to.” He did not lie.