by Dylan Blight (PC)
Infliction is an interactive nightmare, a journey into the dark secrets of a fractured home. Wander through the heartbreaking remnants of a once-happy family, piecing together clues and trying to atone for past sins. All the while a malevolent force dogs your footsteps, seeking violent retribution.
Often in the best horror stories, the real thing to be afraid of is someone close to the lead character, or even those you thought to be your friends. Infliction by Caustic Reality dives into some very dark themes as you begin to uncover the truth in a narrative full of twists and turns where the true enemy is revealed to be someone closer than you may have originally thought.
I’m sure you can blast through Infliction pretty fast if you know what you’re doing, but it took me just short of 4 hours to finish. The first 30 minutes of which is a very different game to what becomes the majority of the gameplay featured in Infliction.
You start Infliction by arriving home with one job and the task is simple, ‘find the plane tickets.’ Your Wife has forgotten these tickets at your house, so before the gears kick into crazy you have time to explore the creepy house. But it’s this first thirty minutes with Infliction I found the tensest. Knowing, of course, that something is going to go horribly wrong I began theorizing about what’s happened to my family -- their plane’s going to crash; I’m a ghost; my Wife is a ghost; a satanic cult is cursing my premises. And so the list went on as I searched the home for plane tickets while picking up and inspecting items, to which there are quite a lot of interactive 3D objects to look for clues over.
Once you find the tickets the game reveals the reality of the situation to you and you begin living under Groundhog Day-Esq sequences where you have to search different areas of the house that will often change and mould into different locations or time periods.
Infliction becomes creepy, but not particularly scary as the ‘monster,’ a woman roaming the house can be eerie from a distance but quickly becomes comedic as she launches herself on to your face, which she does several times, while you stand weaponless and unable to fight back. At one point she was drooling or spewing (I don’t really recall) blood out of her mouth while she attacked me but what came out was a light red spray that was comedic if anything, not scary.
Often Infliction makes weird decisions to get you really close to character models and objects that just don’t hold up well upon close inspection. What makes it more frustrating is the game does such a good job of building its tension at times, only to throw it away by having the Woman jump on top of you going for shock over keeping the tension up.
Pulling me through Infliction was its really interesting story. Once it is opened up after finding the plane tickets I was really intrigued and genuinely didn’t see the story heading in the direction it did. A story about family at the forefront where you’ll learn more about their past as you move through the game and some of these moments, within the family's past, are truly dark and terrifying, often more so than the games moments it’s trying to make scariest.
Infliction, which is very noticeably inspired by PT does at times show its inspiration a bit too on the sleeve, frustratingly so given how intriguing its actual story is. Not only are you haunted by a woman -- a trope that PT doesn’t in any way own, but is part of the PT clone schtick -- but you also spend the majority of the game walking around a house with a swinging and creaking chandelier. At one point you awake under the swinging chandelier and can see the woman standing on the floor above you overlooking the balcony, basically recreating a popular moment from PT in an eye-rolling fashion. It’s fine to not be afraid of showing your love for something that helped inspire you, but in the case of Infliction it does become detrimental to its more interesting elements when it’s overshadowing your original product.
Infliction does many different things throughout its story, some I found really unique, others not some much, but it’s final section nearly ruined the game for me. Without spoiling anything (because I’m not starting now) the final section of the game has you searching for an object that spawns in a random location, to which you must quickly race to and then bring to another location, while of course, evading the enemy. I think I failed this section upwards of 20 times. I was nearly going to review the game without finishing the story because I didn’t think it was worth the trouble of listening to the unskippable cutscene over-and-over-again, but thankfully I finally pulled it off. I’m describing this sequence as much as I can and my pain not to rub in how annoying it was, but to summarise Infliction as: a game I really wanted to see the story through to finish with quite an intriguing story featuring mystery and constant twists and turns. I was so intrigued I was willing to play this awful final segment to completion amongst complete anger -- and that’s my time with Infliction, persistence because I liked its story enough.
At so many corners Infliction seemed to be fighting with itself to make its experience less focused and often threw gameplay elements, story or silly body horror at me thinking that’s what I wanted. Of course, I screamed back at the contoured woman’s body throwing up tomato soup on me that “your story is really interesting! You’re also rather creepy from a distance, so do you think we can just stop these silly moments?” She, unfortunately, didn’t listen.
Infliction is better than the majority of games you can find like it, featuring much better writing, but its problems standout frustrating tall. Still, it’s hard to not give the one person team of Clinton McCleary at Caustic Reality many props for pulling off what is here basically all by himself, and I look forward to seeing what he does next.
Developer: Caustic Reality
Publisher: Caustic Reality
Platforms: Windows (reviewed)
(A review code for Infliction was provided)