Title: Infliction: Extended Cut
Developer: Caustic Reality
Release Date: February 25, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Caustic Reality, Blowfish Studios
Genre: First-Person Horror Narrative
There’s an argument about whether video games need to have the best graphics to be good. Cases can be made for realistic renditions being more immersive, but I tend to be on the other side of the fence, valuing good gameplay and story. Unfortunately, Infliction has an inconsistency in quality that makes it hard to defend its story and mechanics. No matter how much care Caustic Reality put into bringing this tragic tale to home consoles, I just wanted to get in and out but not because it was scary.
The story begins with an unnamed man as the protagonist finding himself in the middle of an investigation on a deteriorating relationship between a tragically killed woman and a suspected husband that has been mysteriously driven to madness. Before long, it becomes apparent that you’re cursed, going through multiple deaths and time jumping along with the events of the couple’s relationship. To break the cycle, cursed items must be burned as they relate to the demon woman that haunts you.
Self-proclaimed as an interactive nightmare, I spent most of my time in the game walking through a house to find the cursed items, collecting memories, and dodging ghosts. The house itself is well-made in terms of atmosphere, with a genuine haunting feeling of having walked in between a shifting environment.
These environments shift because as each item is collected, the deceased woman Sarah kills the protagonist, after which he awakes in a different room or even a different period. The shifting placements and changing objectives carry some uneasiness, never letting me become comfortable with the surroundings or having the upper hand. I felt that I was being taunted, a pawn in someone’s schemes nervously waiting for the next time I encounter the supernatural.
Speaking of being uncomfortable, the memories that are scattered throughout each chapter add more context to the story of Sarah and Gary Pout. Journals and ordinary household items unlock voiceover from Sarah, regaling about a simpler time in her and Gary’s budding relationship or the more sinister later years of her being a victim to his abuse and insanity. While the memories are not necessary to complete the main story, understanding the people involved in the horrid events adds depth to Infliction for those who are interested.
As for the main objective, finding significant items tend to make me experience violent and haunting scenes, such as teleporting through paintings to new dimensions or Sarah slamming the protagonist’s head through windows. With the rinse and repeat nature of each objective as well as the low-quality character model of the woman, the horror effects diminish the more I see these scenes. I favor Sarah more when shes in the environment, quick-moving and on-screen for a short amount of time.
These moments of gameplay make for some of the best parts of Infliction. The sense of urgency to get through puzzles with the added consequence of running into Sarah had me on edge. There is a tension to these sections as every second I took to look for memories or rack up PlayStation trophies is another chance for Sarah to rip my heart out or step on my face.
There are clever mechanics at use, with some death animations being contextual. Without spoiling the latter half of the story, I’ll say being near a framed picture when the ghost woman gets you is an eye-opening experience. These death scenes are a trip to witness; however, there are occasional scenes with stiff animations that detract from the creepy atmosphere the game was holding up.
On the subject of Sarah, there were a handful of times where my sequences with her didn’t look quite right or entirely glitched. My first encounter had me walk through the dark, trying to avoid her silhouette. When she grabbed me, there wasn’t much to see, and my character then woke up in the next chapter. Reloading the scene had a much better result, with Sarah holding me close to her face as her jaw opened wide enough to eat my head. These unfortunate glitches to sequences were common, as most of the audio cut out for entire chapters or Sarah, not noticing me when I’m right in front of her. Reloading fixes these issues but kills the experience.
As mentioned, environments are well-made for the main areas you walk through, but there is an inconsistency in quality in other rooms and spaces. For example, the TV room is full of interactable items that are fully rendered when picking up. Other places are empty and have “stock” models of trash piles and random assortments used to fill the room. In most accounts, I am not picky about empty areas in video games, but horror narratives should focus on the atmosphere more.
Infliction has some decent moments of storytelling, and the themes that it highlights are impactful. But my interest in those aspects dwindled every time I encountered a glitch or audio cutout. Infliction tends to fall apart shortly after it begins since it’s impossible to look past this poor quality.
For those that pay no mind to technical issues, there is still a nugget of gold to be found for the sake of seeing what indie talent can accomplish while delivering a quick scare. But horror is such a long-standing genre that no matter the era or platform choice, you don’t have to look far for a more polished experience.
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