World War I was a horrific experience for millions; such a waste of life across all sides of the appalling trench warfare battles. It changed generations, but for some reason, the horror of this war has mostly appeared in games as a straightforward shooter – think Battlefield 1 – or in the most unusual of horror games like Amnesia: The Bunker.
But now, in Ad Infinitum, we see a strange tale of horror and realism, where deep in the trenches something is stalking you.
Ad Infinitum plays out across two different worlds and, maybe, two different realities. You are a German soldier, recruited for WWI, but in the first part of the game, you wake up in a room in a largely dark empty mansion; a mansion where nothing quite works. It’s a place where notes are left dotted around the corridors and rooms, giving an insight into a family drama overshadowed by war. As you move from place to place, strange shadows form and sounds appear in the distance. It’s disorientating and disturbing.
The game then takes you to the trenches of the battlefield, even into No Man’s Land itself. The place is dark, and claustrophobic as strange monsters hunt you down. It’s a nightmare world that mixes reality and fantasy. Is it all in the soldier’s head or are these things happening to him for real?
The storytelling works as a mixture of the visual imagery on show and the actual documents and conversations you have with a few people. It creates the world of Germany in that period brilliantly, with some great attention to detail, not just in the battlefield sections but also around the mansion. The writing is extremely good, as is the world-building atmosphere that the developers have been able to create.
The gameplay reminds very much of Layers of Fear. Set in the first person, you are guided through a linear structure, even though at times it brings the illusion of an open world. You can sprint, but mostly you’ll be found examining and collecting certain objects. In the mansion sections of the game, it’s very much like a puzzle adventure in a haunted house; attempting to find keys for doors or unlocking musical cabinets and mixing solutions for an acid that will break a lock. I enjoyed this section a lot, as the atmosphere and storytelling of the mansion itself are extremely solid.
In the trenches, it’s a very different affair. It’s here where some puzzle elements get introduced, especially in a chapter when you are hunting a saboteur in a factory. But generally, it’s more action-focused. Monsters are hunting you, as you hide away from sight. And that means there are moments where you can’t make a sound, or shine a light, for fear of attracting attention. Stealth is the order of the day for these sections.
I found the hide-and-seek element of Ad Infinitum sometimes fun, but at other times frustrating. There is a section that plays through a hospital where you need to try and get through a maze of creatures, scared of light. It mostly plays out as a load of flailing around in the dark. Thankfully there are some boss battles which work well, capable of adding an extra dimension to the gameplay.
The visuals of Ad Infinitum are very good, with some brilliant level design and terrifying creature creations. The attention to detail regarding the period of the piece is excellent. It can get very dark at times though, so switch out the lights and check your TV settings because you will need to see the slightest glimmer of light in order to not get lost.
The soundtrack is excellent as well, with amazing horror and strange music throughout. There is also some German-period marching music you can find and play on gramophones. It’s fully voiced too, with committed and great performances from all.
Ad Infinitum is disturbing, confusing and horrific, much like the WWI setting. It tackles some interesting themes and tells a story that is hard to get a handle on. But the gameplay is solid, as are the visuals and brilliant soundtrack.
It means that if you are after a new horror experience, Ad Infinitum might well be able to give you everything you will ever need.