Review: Infliction: Extended Cut
Though Infliction was released on PC back in 2018, it has now reached a wider audience with its recent release on Xbox One and PS4 in the form of Infliction: Extended Cut, which features many improvements over the original release, including some additional scenes and changes to the story.
The game was developed by Caustic Reality, an independent Australian game studio made up of just one game developer, Clinton McCleary, and despite the reputation many solo-developed games have for low production values or being full of bugs and other issues, Infliction immediately sucked me in from the opening scene. The way it sets up the narrative includes several scenes that are as unnerving as they are initially confounding.
Things start fairly tame, with you driving home late at night and seeing a car crashed into a tree on the way, as well as hearing some foreboding news reports on your radio about people and families disappearing. Afterward, as you arrive at your seemingly empty home, you start piecing things together by reading notes, inspecting items and listening to radio broadcasts which provide clues as to what may have happened. Things quickly take a turn for the worse and get extremely dark, as you start seeing horrifying apparitions appearing around the house and eventually run back out to your car to escape the scene.
As you’re escaping in your car, you crash into the very same tree you saw the other car crash into on your way home and realize it was you that was in the crash. This is the first time the narrative begins to bend your mind and starts a strange trip back into the history of the house and your family, as you wake up in the house again, only in a different year and as you continue to piece things together.
From here, the timeline of the game jumps back and forth between different years in the history of the family who lives in the house, showing not only the state of the house itself but also the state of the family members, their relationships with each other and their dwindling sanity through multiple life events that would drive most people to the brink of insanity.
After waking up in the past, things get even more disturbing as you explore the house further and start to solve some more puzzles. This is where you’re introduced to the game’s main antagonist; a horrific female stalker that chases you through various environments, making for some of the most terrifying chase scenarios I’ve experienced in recent years.
The girl’s only weakness is light and the only lights you have that can affect her are the flash on your Polaroid camera, which only provides short-term relief from her pursuit, and the few functioning household lights, which are able to scare her off for more extended periods.
After discovering more pieces of the story, you’re warped to other times and places, with more puzzles to solve and encounters to survive, including a dark and dingy asylum, a cabin in the woods, some very twisted and warped versions of your family home, as well as some truly sinister hell-like environments that made me pretty uneasy.
Without spoiling too much, the story takes some very dark and emotional turns that involve domestic abuse, alcohol and drug addiction and the death of children, as well as more supernatural and religious elements. It’s surprisingly well-written and well-acted for such a small production and all the important notes and items you find are accompanied by full voice acting which helps you to understand what each of the characters is going through.
The narration also very subtly shifts some of the perceptions you may have at the beginning of the game, as you learn every member of the family has their own dark secrets that play against the others. Everyone in the family has some major problems and trauma that was never resolved and which lead to the conflicts you discover on your journey.
The story of Infliction: Extended Cut is about 3-5 hours long depending on whether you get stuck on some of the puzzles or enemy encounters, though it’s quite forgiving when it comes to the encounters. They remain absolutely terrifying in every instance, but the game does give you a little time to recover after each failure and lets you explore or complete objectives for a short time without the threat being so high.
It’s a small detail, but the element of being chased by an enemy is actually tied to the story. All the in-game clocks you see around the house operate in real-time and the enemy always appears at a certain time. It’s a unique and chilling mechanic that really impressed me and made me start watching the clocks with fear after I realized this.
The later gameplay features some stealth-based puzzles, changing up the gameplay more than I had originally expected. Scenes become increasingly more violent, shocking and visceral as you go along. Religious, psychological elements are also intensified, as well as the gore elements getting cranked up very high towards the end. Some of these scenes are not for the squeamish and may get under many people’s skin in a way that many modern indie games fail to do.
The controls are fairly standard fare for a first-person horror game, which unfortunately is not always the best when playing with a controller, but it’s certainly not game-breaking. It’s clear the game was designed with a mouse in mind, but there are sensitivity and control options to help adjust and customize your control preferences if needed.
The sound design in Infliction is top-notch and I rarely felt safe when playing with headphones, as there’s almost always some kind of strange noise, ambient sound, voices or something else present, even when you’re just walking around and exploring. The sound design during enemy encounters is also used effectively and features a grating static noise that gets louder and louder as the enemy gets closer to you, even if you can’t see them. The constant state of dread was palpable in every scene because of the audio and it always felt like something might be behind me or around a corner at any moment.
For such a purely indie title, Infliction is surprisingly well-polished. I had very few bugs or performance issues that affected my experience. There were however a few small graphical glitches here and there and the game is very dark overall, with no brightness options (likely on purpose, to some extent,) but nothing that broke the game by any means.
Infliction gleefully wears its influences on its sleeve, with a constant string of subtle and not-so-subtle references to other horror and gaming properties, including titles like The Evil Dead, P.T., The Exorcist, Layers of Fear, Hellraiser, Gone Home, The Ring, The Amityville Horror, Blair Witch and several others to varying degrees. While it references a lot of other titles, it doesn’t rely on any of them or emulate them too much. There are several shelves and areas of the house that have VHS tapes of horror and sci-fi films laying around; many of them are real media that the creator was inspired by and others are fictional ones made up for the game which are fun to look through.
As a fun aside, there’s an added “torture chamber” epilogue to the console version that lets you choose from four different re-creations of scenes from famous horror movies, all done in-engine with the style and assets of Infliction; a very nice touch. A New Game+ mode is also available after completing the game, which adds a bit more value for players seeking an additional challenge.
There’s also a museum mode, where you can walk around and view all kinds of interesting content from the game including art, models, and deleted scenes, all with the creator’s comments. This mode is especially a treat, as one of the main characters is an artist who paints on canvas and all of the disturbing and beautiful paintings you see throughout the game can be viewed here in their full glory.
Overall, Infliction: Extended Cut exceeded my expectations and showed me how much can be accomplished by a solo indie developer when enough love, effort and time is poured into a game. This is far from your average horror walking simulator and brings a lot more to the table than you might expect, for a very affordable price of entry.
(8.5 / 10)
An Xbox One review code was provided by the developer. All Extended Cut content has also been patched into the PC release.