Do you remember Requiem – Avenging Angel? What a cool game, although it had numerous bugs. Games with battles between heaven and hell are always intriguing, but just having that premise as a backdrop to a game doesn’t make it great. In Infernal, a new third person action game, the struggle between heaven and hell is revisited again. Infernal has a pretty impressive presentation, which I’ll elaborate more on throughout this review, but it fails to pull together a really solid gaming experience. Instead I found it to consist of a lot of seemingly random ideas that don’t fit together very well to produce a game that is pretty fun for the first couple of hours, and a chore after that.
Something’s Not Right…
First, a little background on the story; you play Ryan Lennox, an angel cast out of heaven’s forces and left in between sides. Black, who I assume is supposed to represent the devil, convinces you to work for him as a new agent. The characters in the game are about as generic as they come. Lennox sounds just like Jason Statham from the Transporter movies and even has one of those silly flame tattoos on his shoulder and neck. He is also complete with flat, boring dialogue and cheesy one liners. The character Black is similarly dull, with a deep voice and he oddly enough doesn’t seem to know very much for being the powerful leader of Infernal; he’s constantly chatting to you on your earpiece “Communicator” to see how you are doing. You might be wondering who or what Infernal is. Well, in the game, heaven and hell use small armies to battle on their behalf. Hell’s forces are known as Infernal and heaven’s are the EtherLight. Eh, not the greatest idea but what’s worse is that both sides seem so ‘normal’; i.e., they use cheesy security systems and standard weapons and it just doesn’t meld right.
The action in the game doesn’t flow quite right either. You have a combination of military weaponry and basically one Infernal move per weapon. I don’t have a problem with this, as I said I enjoyed Requiem that was similar—big guns with cool supernatural powers. You even get shuirkens, which are always cool; I don’t think I’ve used shuirkens in an action game since Shadow Warrior. Anyway, regardless of what weapon you are using, be it the Melter, the machine gun, the laser pistol; the combat is still the same. You will fight small waves of enemies at a time, and it doesn’t change much at all from one level to the next. Enemies will get tougher with increased armor and firepower, but the combat remains pretty flat. The AI will tuck and roll and take cover behind objects and sometimes to nice effect; it looks natural and they do an alright job. More often you will be able to storm them and take them out before they can do a whole lot, however. When dead, the enemy will lay where you left them until you come by and steal their soul. This takes about five seconds per enemy, and it gets tedious before long. This is the only way to get health and it also gives you ammo.
Using Infernal abilities relies on using mana, which you regenerate by killing the enemy or being in a particularly dark place. There are again some nice ideas here, like whenever you are in direct light your mana begins to disappear or whenever you are in a cathedral or similar place your mana will run out forcing you to use just traditional weaponry instead of your Infernal powers. The Infernal powers aren’t all that great, but they sure are handy as the enemies get tougher. The powers system is very basic though; each gun has a secondary fire that uses the Infernal powers so for example with the assault rifle if you use the secondary fire and have enough mana, you will fire off a volley of shots that have some nice fire trails, inflicting more damage on the enemy.
Linear And Tedious
One of the major issues I had with Infernal was just how linear and arbitrary things were; I’ve already mentioned some things, but let me mention a couple more. For one, the five missions are very linear and very similar. You basically go room to room taking out enemies, stealing their soul, and about every couple of rooms there is a small, quick puzzle to solve, almost always involving a locked door. Locked doors will have a red panel near them saying “remote access” or “keycard required” and in response you do one of a handful of things, over and over. You can use your teleport ability to get to the other side of the see-through wall you are facing so that you can access a terminal and open the door. You might also need to use your Infernal ability to see the invisible (reminds me Clive Barker’s Undying, where your character also had this type of power), and you will always find the code you need written on the wall, of all places. The other option is soul-stealing an enemy’s body and getting the required key card. It just got really old coming across all these blocked doors and having to do the same things over and over again to get by them; it felt forced and very random. Same can be said for the the level design. The levels are very much linear, and you likely won’t ever get lost. They aren’t very interesting or satisfying.
For the many shortcomings of this game, it is pretty darn good looking. Infernal has a glossy look to it, with a nice assortment of cool visual effects, like the sparks of gun fire. The use of the PhysX technology from Ageia is noticeable and so there are some cool looking physics in the game too, but not very many. Mostly what you will see are some objects falling and rolling or the ragdoll looseness of dead bodies. Most of the in game textures used aren’t particularly interesting or detailed, but Infernal puts together a surprisingly good looking game despite its other shortcomings.
The audio presented is a mix. The soundtrack isn’t very good, and the same annoying rock or metal riff will play once the action starts, even if you are just taking out two enemies which can take just a few seconds. Using dynamic music in a game is a very touchy idea; it can either improve things dramatically, or make the play very annoying. In Infernal’s case, it’s way overused, and should have just been left out. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory made good use of Amon Tobin’s work for its dynamic music, although it too was problematic at times. Gunfire sounds good, but this is often mixed with the same yells of “he must not get passed here” or “kill him at all costs” and a few others by the NPCs. Sometimes it seems like the voices of the NPCs are coming out of nowhere since you will hear these statements after everyone is dead.
Infernal has a lot of flaws, but it manages to be fun, at least for a while. The single player campaign is only five missions, but the missions are fairly lengthy and you will probably get near eight hours of play out of it if you stick it out until the end, which isn’t a given. I suppose this is a good time to mention that the game crashed on me twice during the first four hours, too. After that, there is no reason to play it again and no multiplayer, so there really isn’t a lot offered here for the asking price of nearly $40.
Overall: 6.0 – Average