A Dime a Dozen
If you’re as much of a fan of the horror genre as I am, you’ve most likely played Infliction. Maybe not the actual Infliction, made by Caustic Reality, but a game that looks, sounds, and plays exactly like it. That’s because, as unfortunate as it is, Infliction doesn’t really do anything during its 5-hour runtime that separates itself from every other game that looks like this. It’s not to say that Infliction is poorly made, by any means, but a lack of any real creativity will undoubtedly be what swallows this game whole.
You’re dropped into a dimly-lit, spooky looking house, as is the case with so many of these games, and you’re left to unveil the mystery behind what went on within its walls. Naturally, it would be best if you evaded an ever-looming Spirit as you rifle through each room of the house, looking for items that relate to the story that’s unfolding. Many things in the house will glow, indicating that they can be further interacted with, often giving you a deeper understanding of what’s occurred. On top of this, you eventually find a Polaroid camera, snapping pictures to reveal areas where you might find a secret or a ghost. The camera system is actually my favorite part of the game. The Polaroids themselves look fantastic, having this eerie old-timey look to them, and I appreciated that the tutorial suggested using the right stick to shake the picture, just like in real life.
This all works well enough, it’s just that I’ve done this a million times before. What horror game these days doesn’t have you rummaging through drawers, with a small flashlight, and some type of something breathing down your neck? Caustic Reality attempts to keep you hooked with the story beats that are peppered throughout the game – for example, an empty beer can will lead to the discovery of a drinking problem. Or a smashed dish will reveal spousal abuse. And don’t forget the police reports you’ll find scattered about, detailing sons killing mothers, husbands butchering wives, etc. These are horrific issues, of course, but the problem is that they’re so overused in this type of game, the impact of so much of it all has been completely mitigated.
Definitely Don’t Fear This Reaper
Infliction is also a victim of its own budget. The sound design is quite good – things like whispers, doors slamming, TVs playing, and radios blaring all sound great and will have the hair on the back of your neck standing up, especially if you’re using a good headset. However, visually, the game tends to suffer. Many of the assets look fine from afar, but as soon as you get up close to what you’re looking at, everything will become washed out and blurry. The Spirit itself is nothing to write home about, either. If it gets a hold of you, it looks decent up-close, but seeing it move around in-game actually took a lot of the horror away from what was happening. It looks blurry, lacking any real definition, and call me crazy, but a little grey blob moving around isn’t exactly terrifying.
You’ll, of course, run into your fair share of bugs as well, but nothing that’s going to render the game unplayable. Minor audio syncing issues occur, and there is a fair amount of texture pop-in that you’ll see as the game goes on. There were far too many times I would see something scary, but its texture would load just at the last second as it slinked away around a corner. Lastly, there were a few moments where some pretty bad screen tearing would occur, but nothing that lasted longer than a blink of an eye.
There is one thing I need to mention, however, and it’s important because it may have been the thing that kept me interested enough to continue to push through. Cooking With Masimo. Throughout the chapters of Infliction, you’ll come across TV sets that can be turned on. If you turn on the right TV, you’ll be greeted with Cooking With Masimo, a bizarre live cooking show starring a man named Masimo. The episodes slowly but surely become darker, and more disturbing, and I absolutely loved the concept behind these. If Caustic Reality were to take this idea and expand on it, they could have a game that Infliction simply isn’t – unique.
What sort of horror game puts you to sleep? One that doesn’t try anything new. And that’s what Infliction is. I can’t stress enough that it isn’t the technical side of the game that I don’t like – I think a lot of what’s there is well done with the budget they had. The lighting is good, some of (not all) the voice acting is strong, and the sound design is solid. But it’s the lack of innovation in storytelling and mechanics that throw me off. It’s frustrating too because ideas like the Polaroid camera and Cooking With Masimo show me that this team is capable of coming up with some genuinely fun stuff. But until then, I guess we’ll just be afflicted by Infliction.
***PS4 code provided by the publisher***
- Nice Sound Design
- Good Lighting
- Polaroid Camera
- Cooking With Masimo
- Boring Storyline
- Subpar Visuals
- Severely Lacking Creativity