Developer: Intoxicate Studios / Publisher: Nicolas Games / Played on: PC / Price: $35.00 / ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Bloody. Scary. Intriguing.
These are just a few of the words I would use to describe my time with Afterfall: Insanity, a post-apocalyptic horror-genre hack and slasher. Designed by indie studio Nicolas Games, Afterfall sets its sights on grasping you with a compelling story and endless amounts of dark, terrifying corridors to trudge through.
Does it set a new precedent for hallway fright-fests? Not exactly, but while the game has a few missteps in design, its overall execution is solid. Fans and developers of the horror genre should read and take notice.
Afterfall: Insanity sets its story in the deep underground bunker entitled “Glory”, where humanity now dwells. The world above ground has been ravaged by destruction and radiation, all thanks to a global thermo-nuclear war.
The situation is very akin to the post-apocalyptic theme that Fallout 3 explored, only focusing more on the inhabitants of the bunker, as opposed to the wastelands outside its walls. Similarities could certainly be drawn to other post-apocalyptically-themed titles like Metro 2033, a game also focused on humanity’s banishment to the underground.
Resident psychiatrist Dr. Albert Tokaj is one of the many residents of the shelter, and you step into his shoes throughout the entirety of the game. Your days are spent reasoning with patients and skipping out on sleep (due to frequent nightmares and anxiety), while simultaneously trying to hold down a healthy relationship with your girlfriend, Katarina.
One morning, you’re called into a meeting with the Corporal, head honcho in the shelter. You’re notified of some strange disturbances with the people on the lower sublevels of the bunker, and are sent to check them out. As it turns out, people on the lower levels are acting as strange as reported, shouting nonsense and attacking armed guards. You soon come to find out that an infection has spread, supposedly from an internal leak in the filtration system, and it’s causing affected citizens of the shelter to lose control and transform into blood thirsty mutants.
Now, stories of infection and disease outbreak are a dime a dozen, and Afterfall doesn’t really do much to differentiate itself in that regard. While the introduction of the surface world and the tease of other possible civilizations outside the bunker are refreshing, it’s still fairly plain.
Additionally, there were some cut scenes early on that go completely unexplained. While I won’t describe any in detail, it should be mentioned that these scenes, while very few, are never referenced later. It feels like a branch in the story that abruptly ends before it even begins.
However, I will say that towards the middle of the game, the plot really starts to find its voice and pace. Some characters become more fleshed out, some become more mysterious, and it all leads to a climactic cliffhanger that surprisingly had my jaw on the floor.
Like many games in the horror genre, Afterfall: Insanity is about walking down long, creepy tunnels and hallways, fighting off monsters with limited supplies and weaponry, and solving puzzles in breaks between the action.
For the most part, these activities are simple and enjoyable. Unfortunately, it’s the simplicity that ends up taking away from what could’ve been a more diverse combat system. You’ll spend your time hacking away at mutants and monsters with an assortment of pipes, hammers, and monkey wrenches that you find lying around the bunker. In addition to a basic set of melee weapons at your disposal, you can find much more useful firearms scattered throughout the levels. Pistols, shotguns, and assault rifles are the main contenders here.
As mentioned prior, the combat is basic. When the monster swings at you, it’s best to block their attack. You do so with a swift right-click of the mouse. When they leave themselves open post-swing, you mash that attack button. You can swing quick and with less power while wielding smaller weapons, or you can draw back your giant fire ax and swing for the fences on that mutant.
If you knock an opponent to his knees instead of fully killing him, you can swing once more for a finishing move. Unlike most games that have an assortment of final, bone crushing kills, there is only one finishing move in this game, which has your character mercilessly bashing in the skull of his victim. It’s bloody, gruesome, and satisfying.
After the 50th time, however, it gets old.
While it’s fun in the beginning, the combat never varies throughout the game. You’ll still be hacking the same mutants , over and over, just in different locales.
The puzzles, on the other hand, feel evenly spaced out, offering a much needed break from the terror of skulking through hallways, trigger at the ready. While some puzzles were more frustrating to figure out than others, I never found myself hopelessly stuck in a rut.
PRESENTATION & SOUND
What Afterfall does right, among many things, is the environmental tone. From the moment I made my first descent into complete and utter darkness, I could feel my heart rate increasing. You’ll depend heavily on the pathetically dim stream of light pouring out of the flashlight onto the cracked steel walls ahead.
To the right, the sound of pitter- patter, possibly footsteps, just meters away, inches closer with each step. The quiet footsteps turn into a frightening sprint, followed by a piercing scream of insanity.
That’s what one of the best moments in Afterfall feels like. While these instances are not constant throughout the gameplay, they are extremely effective as substantial heart rate amplifiers.
What is constant, however, is the downright supreme lighting in Afterfall. From the shafts of light that pour in from the windows, to the beams and lens flares that bounce off the metallic walls, the game is lit very, very well.
However, not everything is executed as well as the lighting system. The animated cut scenes, while usually commendable, are sometimes jerky and unappealing. The cinematography and diversity of camera angles is outstanding at times, but there are occasions where the game will let the lens focus run wild, generating some disorientating sequences. The character models look good, but it’s not a rarity to see a lack of sync between the moving of lips and the output of voice, as it’s sometimes staggered.
As for the voice acting, it ranges from sub-par to appreciable, but nothing groundbreaking or overly impressive.
There’s no getting around it, I have some complaints with Afterfall. One or two early scenes go completely unexplained; the two boss fights don’t really make total sense, and changes that the characters experience can be confusing and hard to follow.
But, I still had a good time with it.
Afterfall: Insanity gives fans of gritty, horror-action games a whole helping of what they enjoy. Despite its issues with a simplistic combat system and sometimes unintentionally comical cut scenes, the game is otherwise considerably solid.
If you enjoy games of this genre, give Afterfall a shot.