Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Developer: Metropolis Software
Release Date: June 30, 2009
Oh look, another game that takes the shooter formula and applies it to the eternal battle between heaven and hell. All right, time to go fight the demons and … wait a minute, I get to play for the bad guys? And I restore my health and ammo by consuming the souls of the foes I kill? Oh sweet, this game is going to be awesome! No, hold on a sec, I'm sorry, it turns out that it's completely terrible and anyone who plays it is just wasting their time. Sorry for getting your hopes up there folks, but I quickly came to my senses; while Infernal: Hell's Vengeance provides a cool backdrop, it totally drops the ball in terms of gameplay, production values, and just about any sense of fun you could have.
Infernal places players in the shoes of Ryan Lennox, an ex-heavenly enforcer who was fired for being the equivalent of an angelic rogue cop. As the game opens, Lennox is double-crossed and attacked by EtherLight, the very organization he used to work for, and then falls right into the arms of Lucius Black, head of the Abyss Corporation, AKA hell's standing army. Lucius has a deal for Lennox: Help him stop EtherLight from deploying a mind-control device, thus forever ending the war between the realms, and he'll provide Ryan with all the hellish powers he needs to get the job done. As I stated above, the elements are all here for a very cool game, but the story quickly gets ground down to dust due to the absolutely horrific script and voice acting, and nothing else about this game is appealing enough to rescue it from its slide into oblivion.
Infernal is a by-the-numbers third-person shooter, with Lennox picking up the standard complement of weapons such as pistols, machine guns and grenades. For whatever reason, the aiming mechanic is mucked up right from the start, and no amount of fiddling with the sensitivity will allow players to get it into the sweet spot. The initial sensitivity setting will be far too twitchy for anyone who doesn't play PC shooters, but turning it down even a little makes Lennox so sluggish that you'll take tons of damage in the process of simply turning around to target enemies who are shooting at you from other angles. In addition, switching weapons is handled by tapping up or down on the d-pad, but you don't see your inventory until you actually change guns. That means that if you wanted to pull out your SMG in the heat of a firefight, there's a 50/50 chance you'll push the wrong button and bust out your pistol instead. Oops. Oh and by the way, while you were fumbling to grab the right gun, you died.
The awful shooter mechanics don't end there, though, as defensive actions also prove to be even more worthless. The title uses one of the most inane mechanics in order to allow you to stick to cover, and trying to move in and out of cover points is frustrating and pointless. Couple this with the fact that your cover often doesn't even protect you from enemy fire (because obviously that's not what cover is for), and you'll likely abandon the mechanic within 10 minutes of playing. Of course, that is assuming you play the game in the first place, which you absolutely shouldn't. The same goes for the evasive roll, which is performed by double-tapping the thumbstick in any direction. It sounds like a good idea in theory, but the move has practically no worth in battle, and the overly sensitive controls mean that you'll often bust out rolls completely unintentionally, as though you were interrupting your war against the angels of heaven in favor of a quick audition for the circus.
The game attempts to save itself with its key gimmick, the inclusion of the so-called "infernal powers." Using mana, you can power up your shots, temporarily teleport to another location or drain your enemies of their health and ammo. Unfortunately, every single one of these skills is entirely too cumbersome to utilize effectively, and they're only useful in very specific puzzle situations. A somewhat practical concept, the ability to absorb your fallen foes, is hamstrung by an overly long animation and a relatively short window in which to execute the maneuver. Sure, sucking up a soul to get health is fun the first time, but you won't even make it out of the first level before you get sick of it. There's also an "Infernal Vision" skill that's supposed to help you find secret codes and hidden sources of health and mana, but all it really managed to do for me was make the screen blurry and cause headaches. Then again, that might just have been my reaction to the entire experience in general.
The most infuriating blunder the developers made in creating this game was totally flubbing the save mechanic and outright forgetting to include any sort of autosave feature. Even better, the game never tells you that there's no autosave, so the first time you'll likely learn about it is the same way I did: playing for a couple of hours, dying, and the being whisked back all the way to the beginning of the very first godforsaken level. I'd like to apologize to my neighbors for the ruckus I caused, as well as to the mailman who was whacked on the head by the controller I threw out the window due to my inconsolable rage. The lack of an autosave on a console game in the year 2009 is unforgivable, and what little patience I still had with Infernal completely died at that very moment.
It's not as if the game's presentation was going to do anything to save it, but it just rubbed more salt in the wound. The graphics are decent but not great, with way too much flare coming off light sources and some pretty ugly moments of slowdown. The script is an abomination, and I hope the folks who did the voice acting were working for free because they don't deserve any sort of paycheck for this farce. The worst offenders are the nameless guards who continually spout such gems as, "Ow, that really hurt," when shot or, "Oh no, we're losing," in a completely monotonous voice without any hint of emotion. It starts out as sadly funny, but it quickly turns into being just plain sad.
Infernal: Hell's Vengeance has a neat premise, and that's it. The gameplay is botched in every conceivable way, and the graphics and voice acting will grate on you endlessly. Perhaps the game is meant as a recruiting tool for churches because if serving hell is this miserable of an experience, then I want no part of that eternity. The Devil may have all the best music, but in this case, he clearly has one of the worst games.Score: 4.0/10
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