Winston Churchill once said “If you are going through hell, keep going”. And this is certainly good advice for those who have spent time playing the many varied and excellent horror games to have released on console over the last few years. Infliction: Extended Cut is no exception to this rule, but just be aware that there will be times in which you’ll want curl up into a small ball and whisper gently to yourself in the hope that it all goes away. But carry on you must, and if you do you will enjoy one of the best horror games to have arrived on Xbox in the last few years.
There are two big influences to Infliction: Extended Cut; two games that I have found comparable are the brilliantly scary Layers of Fear and PT, the PS4 demo for a Silent Hill game that never arrived. In Infliction though you play as a normal suburban husband – Gary Prout – who is driving back home to his house. The game takes place in the first person, with missions and objectives pushing you through; the first of which is to collect some airplane tickets from the house. As you arrive at the house, you go about exploring, watching a strange Italian cooking programmes on TV and then heading upstairs to find those tickets. Suddenly though your world is turned on its head, something dreadful happens and, without spoiling the details, you die.
But then you wake up and find yourself back in your house at 3am in the morning. Again you decide to explore some more, walking about the house examining rooms and looking for clues to figure out what strange oddity happened. Then you realise you’re not alone, and things aren’t quite what they seem. Before you know it you’re suddenly attacked, collapsing into darkness. But then, just like before, you find yourself awakening again with the alarm clock signifying it is just after 3am. The question left to you from there on out is how do you break the cycle?
The storyline found in this extended cut of Infliction is certainly a good one, borrowing ideas from a hundred horror and psychological terror storylines from the past. The whole “groundhog day” repetition of a day is something that is utilised well, and just when you think you will be treading the same ground again the game surprises you enough by whisking you off somewhere else. The narrative and story are delivered through the exploration opportunities found in and around the house, as you take in some cleverly designed diary entries or documents that are scattered around. Working your way through things does become confusing at times though, mostly as you will find yourself wandering around a fair bit; lost occasionally as you look into how to move onto the next part of the cycle. The ending is fantastic though, delivered with a flourish, and the payoff provided is very interesting even though it’s not a particularly unique concept.
In terms of the gameplay itself and Infliction is simple enough to play, moving around the space you are in, crouching and hiding when the need arises. You can pick objects up, using them if and when required, as you partake in some minor puzzling elements; simple stuff like needing to remember specific codes or actioning a tricky sequence as you try to banish an entity with electricity. Without ruining what happens as you move forward, there are plenty of times where stealth is key to success, where the game asks you to move carefully around. I have to admit though to finding these elements the most frustrating, as in the later stages when repetition takes hold it all seems to take you away from the overruling narrative a little too much.
It is however the atmosphere and the way Infliction deals with terror and fear where the game excels tremendously. I’m not afraid to admit that at times Infliction has utterly scared me out of my wits – and that’s coming from someone who has played a good deal of horror experiences and is more than used to jumpscares. It cleverly provides a sense of dread in the way it repeats the sequence of waking up in the same situation, before pushing you to replay the same sequence of events with different outcomes over its 4 hour playthrough.
The game looks good as well, with some great interiors, and when it decides to go strange and into full-blown horror weirdness then it does so with relish. Unfortunately there are times – like pretty much all great horror experiences – when you see the scares up close and it dispels the fear a little, but overall the imagination of the development team is fully realised in this excellent visual package. A big mention should also go out to the amount of detail that has gone into the graphic design – the VHS video covers, books, documents and diary entries included are among some of the best I’ve seen in a game.
The sound is excellent as well, with a haunting and terrifying soundtrack that completely works in tune with the gameplay and visuals. The effects manage to make the hairs on your arm stand up on end, and everything from crunching noises to blood-curdling screams send shivers up the backbone. This is all well complemented by a very high standard of voice-over work with some great performances throughout.
As a fan of horror across both games and film, I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey of Infliction: Extended Cut on Xbox One, becoming fully immersed in what the game tries hard to achieve. Non-horror fans might struggle to get a grasp on the game but there is plenty to enjoy here, from the visuals to the soundtrack, to the narrative and the weirdness. There are moments where it’s a little unclear as to what you need to action next but there is real pleasure gained when you find out what secrets the house is hiding and the real reason why you are stuck in this horror loop. If you want to be scared out of your wits, but love the adrenaline rush that terror games bring, then Infliction will be right up your Nightmare on Elm Street.