I have to say, despite claiming myself to be a fan of horror media, such as films, horror-style video games can really spook me out so much easier and I become hesitant to play them. I don’t know what it is about games specifically that can make me more scared than watching a movie, but I believe it’s the more interactive side of it that really creeps me out that you can’t do with movies, aside from simply sitting and watching it with no personal input.
However, at PAX Australia 2019, I was lucky to play a demo of the then-upcoming console port of Infliction: Extended Cut, a first for me as I had never played a first-person horror game before, while also getting to have a quick chat with Clinton McCleary, the one and only man behind the creation of Independent studio Caustic Reality, who seemed pretty excited to show participating gamers in the PAX Rising section the upcoming console version of Infliction: Extended Cut. I had a good time with it and also felt pretty spooked out in the best kind of way. But I really wanted to get a chance to play this closer to the game’s release date, which thankfully, publisher Blowfish Studios very kindly had provided us press keys to try this out near release. (Thank you!) While I did come across some issues and things that could be smoothed out, I’m happy to say that Infliction: Extended Cut was my first true horror experience in a video game, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Infliction: Extended Cut is a console port of the Steam version that was released back in 2018. Not only is this a port but the game also comes with extra features that were not present in the original; such as extra endings, a new game plus mode with more content thrown in and a higher difficulty setting. The story revolves around controlling a man who has returned to his home but has discovered that it has been infested with an angry and vengeful spirit. Suddenly, everything seems to make no sense and you become stuck inside the never-ending house of spooks and scares. You must discover the mysterious events of what has happened here and along the way, discover some gruesome revelations.
The most successful thing Infliction: Extended Cut has going for it is its sound design. This is easily the best thing that developer Caustic Reality has managed to pull off extremely well in this horrific nightmarish scenario. Whether it be the sound of footsteps walking over floorboards, the barely visible but noticeable sound of a *squeak* from elsewhere in the room, or even just whispers and the sound of a glass shattering somewhere. Combined with unsettling music playing in the backdrop, Infliction: Extended Cut manages to absolutely nail sounds and movement in this game. Everything managed to make the hair stick up on the back on my neck for majority of my play-through, and made me freeze in fear with whatever I was doing whenever I could hear noises that would normally not happen if this were real life. Real props to Caustic Reality for making this sound so fantastic and scary.
The atmosphere in Infliction also holds up very well with just making you feel like there’s someone, or something around the corner, waiting for your next move. Whether it’s the writing on the walls with vague cryptic teasers of what’s possibly to come for you to experience, the further you explore this bizarre house setting, the flickering of lights, or the sound of a distorted voice speaking softly somewhere, the atmosphere is brilliant.
I’m glad both sound design and atmosphere presented in this game is outstanding because while the scares and eerie moments in this game start off scary, it starts to dwindle and feel like the same old thing the further you play. A jump scare or two are always effective, especially at the start of something so you have an idea what to expect. It’s just a shame that these scares, whether it’s a woman’s disgustingly grotesque face appearing right in front of you facing the camera or a brief appearance of a spooky shadowy figure appearing and then disappearing become same-same the further you play. You eventually expect these to appear frequently when it feels like a jump scare hasn’t happened in a while, which is a shame. It’s great that as mentioned above, the sound design and atmosphere of the house you explore make up for the same feeling of reliance of scares or creepy supernatural beings going after you because sadly, Infliction: Extended Cut feels like the same sort of thing and scare the further you play.
The entirety of the game is presented through as a first-person exploration game, meaning you control the character from their perspective while interacting with everything you can find. Certain objects you find along the way may shine or shimmer, indicating these are important or can be picked up and viewed. I’m glad Infliction is presented through first person gameplay because as makes the game much more effective with its atmosphere and sound. Even though the jump scares do become a bit ‘been there done that’, eventually (as mentioned before) it’s much more effective and scarier through the view of a character you are controlling.
To continue through the game, you must complete basic objectives to advance further which allows you to uncover more of the story, with twist and turns around each corner. Your character in Infliction also owns a polaroid camera at one stage, introduced as a gameplay mechanic. Using this tool allows you to take photos of things that the normal eye cannot see and can uncover eerie clues. It’s a cool little feature and adds more to the gameplay rather than just simply walking around and observing items. I liked this feature a lot and probably enjoyed it the most when playing. Just taking photos of anything was fun, even if it didn’t require photo-taking at all.
While I will say I enjoyed the setup and introduction of the story and the setting early in the game, it starts to feel predictable and maybe even cliché towards the end. Even the extra endings provided in the Extended Cut version still feel like things I’ve seen in other pieces of horror media before. Of course, no spoilers will be discussed here, but once you’ve viewed these endings (and one ending in particular stuck out to me), you may feel the same way as I did. They’re a nice addition to give the console port a fresher and newer feel as an extended version, but it’s not awfully exciting.
Overall, I did have fun with Infliction: Extended Cut. While the jump scares start to feel repetitive and story doesn’t hold up or have a total satisfying ending (or endings for the extra ones) the sound design and atmosphere are impeccable and stand out the most as the best features in this horror entry, as well as the photo taking mechanic. As someone who still overall feels new to the horror video game genre, and especially particularly new to first-person horror games, I did have fun and will definitely be replaying Infliction: Extended Cut again to uncover things I may have missed while roaming the bizarre house.
As far as indie horror games go, with some tweaks and changes that may need to be done, Caustic Reality did a good job that I did find myself enjoying playing in the end.
Infliction: Extended Cut is now available on PlayStation 4 for $26.95 AUS.