Review – Infliction: Extended Cut
Infliction from Caustic Reality has been on my radar for a while. It originally released for the PC back in October of 2018, following a Kickstarter campaign that had garnered my interest. Mainly because this game looked shockingly good for having been made almost entirely by one person, Clinton McCleary. I wasn’t able to get to Infliction when it was initially released and it ended up fading from my mind. Then when I heard it was getting a console release in early 2020, I swore I would finally get around to playing it. Now the question remains: was it worth the wait?
Infliction‘s storyline is hands down its strongest factor. You play as a man named Gary, who has to navigate through the broken remains of a once-happy home in order to find retribution for past sins. The story unfolds pieces at a time by finding diaries, audio recordings, and recalling memories when interacting with certain objects. While this delivery style is nothing new to horror games, it does so in a much more genuine and satisfying manner than most others.
This isn’t just your run-of-the-mill ghost story either. Yes, you will be stalked and accosted by an enraged spirit, but the reasons for it become more sinister and heartbreaking as you uncover the truth. Infliction deals with surprisingly real subject matters, like domestic violence, substance abuse, depression, trauma, and grief. I found myself actually caring about the family that once resided there and craved to know more about them and discovery the whole story.
While the main part of the story comes together well by the end, there is one subplot that remains unanswered. This bothers me a bit because it seemed like there was going to be some big reveal involving it, but after a certain point it’s never mentioned again. In fact, it’s simply dropped all together. I know sometimes horror games and films will have a red herring to throw you off the scent so they can surprise you in some other way, but this doesn’t feel like that. I can’t imagine there would have been so much time and care put into a storyline simply to misdirect you. I honestly wonder if they ran out of funding before being able to finish this particular thread.
Speaking of funding, as I mentioned earlier Infliction had a Kickstarter campaign a while back. The goal was to raise enough money to be able to hire a professional animator to help polish up the enemy animations. Since they were only able to raise about 70% of their goal, I don’t think they were able to contract one. This is very apparent when you see the game.
Most of it looks absolutely beautiful, almost to the point of being photo realistic. Then you’ll notice the stark contrast when you see an enemy or any human come onto the screen. While many of the enemy designs are fantastic (although clearly inspired by Silent Hill), they look really rough in comparison to the environment surrounding you. Unfortunately, this does tend to detract from the scariness of the game. It’s a shame too because there were a few times that a legitimate scare would have landed well if I wasn’t too distracted by how stiff and almost silly some of the animations are.
That being said, I am still impressed that this game was created mostly by one person. Clinton McCleary made good use of the pre-made assets from the Unreal Engine, although this does lend itself to looking like other games similar to it on the market. I felt like I had seen much of this before within games like Gone Home and Gray Dawn. Although, McCleary actually makes little nods to his sources of inspiration all throughout Infliction. For example, there’s a gaming cartridge you can pick up with the title “Gone Home“, as well as many books and movies that are clear parodies to classics in our world. This adds a layer of nostalgia to the game and helps reinforce the notion that he’s paying homage to these games instead of ripping them off.
That’s not to say there’s no originality in here. Quite the opposite in fact. Yes, it does play and feel very similar to P.T., but there are some ideas and effects in here that I have never seen before. At a certain point you’ll pick up a Polaroid camera that you can use to stun the spirit with the flash. It also shows other supernatural things that aren’t visible to our eyes. You’ll need to use this throughout the game not only as a weapon of sorts, but as a way to solve certain puzzles and find the way through an area. This is a clever feature to the game and one that isn’t overly utilized. You won’t have to spend your whole playthrough staring through a camera, but it does offer a fun new layer to things at times.
I am also impressed with how well McCleary is able to build tension. I can’t stand when games or films rely almost entirely on predictable jump scares or over-the-top gore to seem shocking. For me, the most successful scares are when you don’t notice something is there at first or when the terrifying thing is coming at you slowly with almost no hope of outrunning it. Like Samara from The Ring crawling out of the TV (which is another clear source of inspiration in this game). There are several extremely tense moments throughout this game and many of them I didn’t see coming. There’s a lot of unsettling imagery in here as well and some of it is delivered in truly creative ways.
The sound design is mostly superb all throughout. I highly recommend playing with headphones so you’ll get more immersed in the game with hearing whispers all around and the creaking of floor boards behind you. The voice acting, while pretty decent for most of it, does have a few instances where it falls flat, especially for the gravity of the situation. My biggest issue with the sound though, is the fact that there is a bug that removes the sound completely after completing a checkpoint. It’s not a game breaking bug as reloading your game fixes it, but it takes you out of the moment when you have to stop and restart the chapter. This happened to me after every major checkpoint I hit.
Now I will say that the last chapter of Infliction is really aggravating. At a certain point you’ll need to find an object that randomly spawns in one of several locations within the house. Then you’ll need to race to a specific place to use it before you’re attacked. If you fail, you’ll have to retry and the whole environment will have changed. This is frustrating enough, but there’s a certain visual effect that distorts what you see onscreen. Not only did this make it harder to navigate, but it also made me really nauseous after a bit. I almost quit after a while, but the story was so compelling that I just had to know how it ended. I guess that’s a true testament to the storytelling here though.
I have to admit that despite its flaws, Infliction really impressed me. It has a deep and tragic story with well fleshed-out, complex characters. Not everything in here is wholly original, but a lot of it is. This game shows that Clinton McCleary has a lot of creativity and genuinely unique ideas. If he could make a game this intriguing by himself with hardly any money, I can only imagine what a talent like his could do with a larger budget. I highly recommend Infliction for any fan of the horror genre and I can’t wait to see what else Clinton will do in the future.
Most of the graphics are impressive, using many of the Unreal Engine’s pre-made assets. The original designs however, especially the people, could use a bit more polish.
This is your pretty standard first-person horror game in which you mostly interact with certain items or hide from an enemy. The inclusion of a Polaroid camera to find clues is an inventive addition.
Most of the sound design was wonderful and is best experienced through headphones. Some of the voice acting falls flat though. There’s an annoying bug where the sound fails completely after a checkpoint and you’ll have to reload the game.
Infliction is a standout psychological horror game, that successfully builds some truly tense moments. It can occasionally fall into the trap of too many jump scares, although thankfully many of them are earned. The last chapter is incredibly frustrating, but the strong story will entice you to push through.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Infliction is available now on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro.
A copy of Infliction was provided by the publisher.