Horror is a hard genre to get right, especially in the world of gaming. Fear is subjective and creating a compelling story while also terrifying players is a challenge that many studios have tried and failed at. Constantly checking over your shoulder, hearing noises that aren’t there, and having shivers sent down your spine is an art form and signs of a well-crafted horror game. Infliction, the debut PC horror game from Caustic Reality, manages to do all of this and more, creating an immersive and nightmare-inducing experience that will linger with you long after the credits.
Infliction Review — The Devil is in the Details
In the same vein of Gone Home or Layers of Fear, Infliction tasks players with moving through a seemingly normal house. You have to inspect key objects and complete basic objectives in order to progress forward. As you discover more, uncovering the twisted tale this game has to tell, the house becomes more and more terrifying, complete with a spirit ready to snap your neck as soon as she can. But this isn’t just a game of cat and mouse.
From beginning to end, Infliction is crafted with expert and haunting detail. Environments are believable and real and nearly everything you see can be interacted with and investigated. The story is sad, terrifying, and gripping stirring up a whir of emotions that many games, horror or otherwise, completely miss. But the shining star is not its graphics or story; it’s the sound design.
Infliction was developed by a one-man dev team. Clinton McCleary, the creator, built this experience from the ground up almost entirely alone. That being said, the fact that the sound design is so impressive absolutely baffles me. Horror is about atmosphere, believing you are in the situation that you are playing and sound plays the biggest role in that. Everything from the music to subtle whispers, to floorboards creaking and a light swinging, is perfected. McCleary spent immense amounts of time on the sound alone and, when played with headphones, it is what will ultimately cause the hairs on your neck to stand up.
One thing I love about this game is that it doesn’t rely on jump scares. Sure, they exist, but my most fear-inducing moment was the more subtle, drawn-out ones. Whispers in my ears, environments twisting and changing, the feeling of always being watched and not knowing what is around the corner. Infliction draws you in with everything that it does and the level of detail here is fantastic, opening itself up the more you look at it.
Perhaps my favorite mechanic of this game is a vintage Polaroid camera. Early on you get access to a Polaroid camera that you use to solve various puzzles. Taking pictures of certain areas will reveal things that the human eye cannot see. As I moved throughout the game, I would find myself utilizing the camera a lot simply because of how much I loved it. Snapping a shot temporarily illuminates a dark room, complete with the iconic flash recharge sound effect, and the image slowly coming to life via the printed photo. It is a tense, fantastic mechanic that reminded me strongly of the scene in the original Saw when Adam uses the flash of his camera to illuminate his dark apartment and find a potential invader.
Infliction Review — Inspiration Is Everywhere
Infliction also pays homage to various games and movies, all the way down to placing Easter eggs directly into the game for explorers to find. It is absolutely a game that rewards exploration and interacting with everything that you can. You will come across wonderful references such as a Gone Home game cartridge, which the creator has said was a huge inspiration for the game, and various story elements are taken straight out of horror culture. It is incredibly difficult to talk about Infliction without spoiling anything. The less you know, the better the experience you will have.
Throughout my 5 or so hours with the game, I only came across two bugs that forced me to reload my game. They didn’t completely break the immersion for me and are things that can get fixed with a patch. These bugs, and one story element that was left more to the player’s imagination, are the only major gripes I had during my playtime.
Infliction Review — In Conclusion
Infliction is an accomplished take on a well-worn genre. Minus two glitches and one unexplained story beat, it’s a game that demands your attention and refuses to let it go until long after the credits roll. This is horror done so very right and a game that has me eagerly anticipating what McCleary and his studio are going to bring to us next.