Release Date: May 9, 2007
Infernal may just be one of the, no wait, the most descriptive game titles of all time. The dictionary defines the word infernal as "hellish, fiendish, and diabolical," followed by "extremely troublesome and annoying," and both characterizations perfectly describe the game in its entirety. While Infernal does look quite shiny, the joy is dulled by poor gameplay mechanics and sub-par level design.
You begin the game with a cut scene; the main character, whose name you've just learned is Ryan Lennox, is engaged in a conversation with a woman in a somewhat fancy restaurant. The conversation topic is how terrible it is to be a normal person without superpowers. Lennox's loss of said powers is the work of his former employer, Everlite, who has just decommissioned him. Everlite is supposed to be Heaven's own secret agency, or at least that's what it's rumored to be, as there's very little detail on the story.
The woman eventually looks up, proclaims to Ryan that she has something direly important to tell him, when his phone rings. He, of course, answers it only to be greeted by a sinister voice with a job offer "he can't refuse," should he feel so inclined. The conversation ends abruptly with the loud drone of helicopters disembarking an army of men into the building and the woman, who so desperately needed to speak to Lennox, is now pointing a gun at his head. Then, as quickly as she'd leveled her weapon, she takes off, ending the cut scene and thrusting you into the action at last.
The game is played entirely in a third-person, over-the-shoulder view with a small reticle placed in the upper middle section of the screen. Each one of the controls is explained when it is needed, pausing the game to allow you to read the explanation. For example, say you approach a dead body; the game will pause and explain that the "E" key is used to search bodies and use items such as computer terminals. So you become acquainted with the game, learn how to shoot, dodge, crouch, and search bodies.
The level design is somewhat simplistic but it's all right because you're having fun shooting things in the head and picking up whatever goodies they might have on their bodies. When you finish clearing the restaurant, another lengthy cut scene ensues where a devil, or maybe the Devil himself, proposes that you join his side and work against your former employer. In exchange he offers a full revitalization of your powers, which Lennox hesitantly accepts.
This is where the game truly begins, and where it takes on the definition of "extremely troublesome" and "annoying."
The powers you now possess are similar to those you had before, with a few exceptions. Since you're harboring the will of the diabolical and evil darkness, you're now capable of not only searching dead bodies, but also absorb their souls. When you do this, the entire screen focuses in on the corpse, a bright red tint floods the area, and fire erupts from the body which transfers into your arm, giving you the much-needed heath you desire. It's a lengthy process that looks spectacular the first and second times but gets old quickly. That's not all; you also become a pseudo-vampire! Light hurts, but fortunately, it's not just any light, but the super-bright spotlight outside the movie premiere, which is also charged with light essence. You also now have the capacity for mana, a resource you'd be wise to keep an eye on, as it can supercharge bullets, creating an extremely deadly shot — the only one capable of penetrating the light-shields that surround the bigger bad guys. Killing people, since you're all evil and such, will increase your mana, along with hiding in dark places. Go figure.
No longer in the comfort of large, wide open building halls and spaces, the controls become very clunky. You'll often stick to a wall you didn't want to, or roll dodge when you didn't need to, or peek around a corner you didn't even see. Controls aside, Infernal goes from being fast-paced and exciting to somewhat slow and repetitive, and every sector of a level becomes a chore. Open the door, proceed in and kill three bad guys, drain their corpses to search them and recover lost health; lather, rinse, and repeat. In fact, draining each one of the corpses becomes so much of a bother that I almost stopped doing it altogether, as it took more time for that than it did to actually kill them.
After clearing a handful of rooms filled with your standard bad guys, you'll meet a boss. The boss is much cooler looking than his henchmen counterparts, with a constant white orb of energy surrounding him. This orb is made of pure light, which means it deflects bullets — you know, like all light does. As I said before, the only way to penetrate this shield of light is with infernally charged ammunition, which will burn your mana supply.
The boss fight itself is also quite repetitive. You'll run up, fire off a few rounds of infernal shot, retreat to cover and hide in the shadows to regain your spent mana supply. Occasionally, you'll run into a boss fight with a severe lack of places to hide, in which case the game will continually throw smaller henchmen enemies in manageable waves of two or three for you to harvest, since you automatically gain mana for every kill. This can sometimes be a pain, as the computer A.I. is a total cheater.
The A.I. for opponents in Infernal is downright frustrating. The enemy always seems to know where you are and what you're doing, whether it be hiding behind cover or taking an alternate route to flank the enemy. Despite your best efforts of stealth and positioning, the enemy will always be on top of you with guns firing. This can get especially annoying when six or more enemies charge at once. It's near impossible to take up any sort of position, whether it's offensive or defensive, without the enemy understanding what you've done and implementing a countermeasure, all without even seeing you. You can also forget about any sort of stealth strategies. The enemy sees you and sounds the alarm, despite your best efforts to slowly crouch-walk a great distance behind.
Infernal's voice acting can be funny at times, but only because you can do nothing but laugh at the poorly scripted lines and in-house voice acting. Repetitively cheesy lines dominate the dialogue throughout the game to the point where you'll simply avoid watching the cut scenes altogether. The musical selection employed by Infernal consists of fighting music, and not fighting music. Needless to say, it gets old very quickly, and you'll find yourself running Winamp or iTunes in the background sooner than you thought.
Although the title is lacking in the audio department, the graphics attempt to make up for it. The physics are good; I'll give it that. Bodies fall and lie like they should, explosions project objects appropriately, and setting things on fire is damn pretty. The particle effects in the game are especially impressive, but a major component of the visual experience, namely textures, is where Infernal loses its luster. Building walls, barrels, tables, chairs — all of these things are textured very poorly. Characters themselves aren't too bad, but you'll really notice everything else as soon as you hide behind a stack of crates to avoid fire.
All in all, I think Infernal is better suited as an arcade shooter than anything else. Nothing about the game particularly stands out, the level design is simple, the storyline is generic, the graphics are of the current generation, and the gameplay is mediocre at best.
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