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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Dec 16, 2011

Review – Afterfall: InSanity (PC)

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Product Information

MSRP: $34.90
Developer: Intoxicate Studios Publisher: Nicholas Games Entertainment
Platforms: PC ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Genre: Action/Survival Horror/Shooter

Since 2008 Intoxicate Studios had been working on a game that really wowed players. Staying true to the vein of games like the Fallout and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, Afterfall: InSanity introduces players into yet another world that’s seen destruction after a nuclear event. The game has received a lot of hype, and its pre-order campaign helped ramp up the game even more though the main goal was left unreached. Poking your head into the world of Afterfall will leave you asking questions, making sure the lights stay on, and checking around every corner with a watchful eye. I’ve looked forward to jumping into this survival horror title, and now that I’ve done so with making it back alive, here’s what I found.

Story and Graphics

Along the ways of a storyline, Afterfall: InSanity has it in the bag. One thing Intoxicate did well was come up with a story that allows the game to fall in line with some of our other favorites, though sets it apart in its own unique way. The game takes place twenty years after World War III in the year 2032. This war was waged between Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States. A truce had been reached between the nations after the war, but by 2012 it had reached an unimaginable end and the world had been brought through a nuclear war.

In order to make all available attempts to survive this holocaust, humanity fled underground from the surface that was left contaminated. They found refuge in giant underground bunkers, which serve as a haven of sorts as well as a battleground against horrible mutants and bloodthirsty mercenaries. Players take the role of Albert Tokaj, a psychiatrist in one of the safehouse bunkers. Tokaj gets chosen to accompany a team of medical scientists in monitoring the mental stability of denizens in the bunker, and keep a watchful eye out for any health risks.

It’s not too long before some odd things start to happen. Tokaj begins to suffer from chronic nightmares accompanied by headaches. A new type of mental case has been diagnosed underground and becomes known as “confinement syndrome.” This instability sees patents becoming claustrophobic and very agitated, sometimes leading them to commit violent acts against one another. As Tokaj, players must search the bunkers for threats, all while surviving by any means necessary while they see the doctor become his greatest patient.

The storyline is rich, and has a great set of ideas behind it. It’s written well enough to keep players interested, though it becomes a bit twisted as time goes on. The player will come across NPCs that sometimes can be a big influence on what happens in the game, and other times can mean nothing at all. The plot line sometimes becomes lost in threaded cutscenes and broken dialogue. I feel that the developers really put some thought into a great story, but somewhere along the way things became muddled.

When it comes to graphics, Afterfall looks like a game that can stand in this age. Character models are polished, scenery has a certain level of detail, and everything seems to move with fluidity. At least, that’s how it looks on the outside. When you get into the game, however, some things become choppy.

Character models do look polished, with the right textures and lighting, but when they interact either in the world or with one another all of that is almost lost. There’s no eye contact during conversations, and character movements come out like robotic clockwork. In the beginning of the game some NPCs are dancing around in a bar. Now I understand that things like this run on a loop, but the models were shuffling back like poor robots. The bar scene wasn’t the only place where this was seen, however. It traveled on to other NPCs across the rest of the game.

Perhaps my biggest issue with the graphics dealt with the collision detection. While the cutscenes in the game were relieving, they came off like pre-rendered video. I always felt like I was waiting for a final version of what I was seeing. Let me give an example. In the early stages of the game, Albert stumbles into a room with a large laser beam shooting through it. A scientist sits at a computer punching commands into a screen. All of a sudden, after watching 5 long seconds of Albert staring off into the distance the scene shifts to a cargo container being carried along a zip line. For whatever reason, the container passes through the beam, and is essentially cut from its tie. When this happens, there’s an explosion that, instead of slicing the container or blowing the sides off, emits from the front of the container like a store-bought firework. The container then falls, retaining its block form and lands in a cesspool of water. There’s no splash, no water displacement, nothing. I’ll remind you that my graphics were set to the best possible setting.

Now, I may just be nitpicking, but these issues legitimately made the game seem out of touch with itself. For a game in development for three years plus, and releasing on the PC platform in 2011, I expected more from the presentation. Still, there were plenty of moments where I was impressed with how the game looked. Like I mentioned, on the surface, Afterfall is a great-looking game.

Gameplay

At its core, Afterfall performs as an action shooter with survival horror elements mixed in. Players will need to search for weapons and ammunition, fend off crazed psychopaths and mutants, and solve puzzles within the game’s world. The game uses a foreboding atmosphere to pull the player in, making them feel imprisoned and restricted. There’s enough mix of different types of gameplay to keep things moving along at a nice pace.

Character interactions are brief, and have little to no effect on the player as a whole. This short span makes it hard for the player to become emotionally attached to anyone or anything they come in contact with. This leads to uneasy progression for the simple fact that players start playing the game because it tells them to – not because they feel empowered to. This is saved only by the story being interesting and fueling the player to see what happens next.

Combat takes a huge role throughout the game, and it becomes apparent early on that you’ll need to fight to survive. Merciless patients and hulking mutants roam the corridors of the shelters, waiting to tear the player limb from limb. In order to make it out alive, these threats will need to be dealt with. For the larger part of the game you’ll be employing the use of melee weapons. Items such as fire axes, pipes, and hammers can be found lying around all over the place, and they can all be put to use. The problem here is the overall presentation of combat as a whole. In Afterfall, you need to stay on your toes in order to keep a one-up on the enemy. This is completely shot down by clunky and slow battle controls. It seems like it takes forever to swing a weapon, and recovery time will almost always ensure that you’ll take damage and be halted. Sometimes enemies attack in combos that leave you a sitting duck to the punishment. Of course you can block, which helps, but enemies can fight through your defense. On top of this, it’s possible to get flanked and outnumbered. This can spell disaster, and most of the time ends in death.

The most frustrating aspect of the combat is its length. Skirmishes can last for minutes at a time, and sometimes the game can glitch out, which makes it stumble on longer. Many times the game would freak out on me and while in combat I couldn’t hit the enemy. My swings would pass straight through them while they’d swing and unload on me. It quickly became frustrating.

You’ll find weapons as well throughout your journey, and they perform well. Each weapon fires on spot, aims well, and the reload times are relatively low, especially considering they’re being fired by an amateur. Ammunition for these weapons are limited, though, so you have to use them sparingly.

When it comes to puzzles, they work out in a simple manner. You’ll either be running between locations hitting buttons, hacking into doors/systems by spinning cogs with the “WASD” keys, or entering correct codes to get into certain sections of the level. At one point in the final act of the game you’ll even need to create paths for travel using pieces of the world around you. These elements come together to help keep the game interesting and inclusive.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that Afterfall: InSanity is a fun game to play. The problem is that it’s a bit hard to overlook the game’s speed bumps. Combat is slow and disengaging, which is upsetting considering you’ll spend most of your time fending off enemies. With a slow start and bleak character interactions, it’s difficult to stay emotionally involved with any person you meet. Graphical errors make playersfeel a bit let down as you expect more. Still, with these issues in place Afterfall finds a way to perform well and keeping you in your seat for the long haul. There’s a lot of good buried beneath the game’s hard surface, you’ve just got to dig for it. I can’t recommend paying the full $34.90 for the game, but if it’s on sale, you’d better snag it.

The Good

  • atmosphere makes for true “scare moments”
  • interesting and gripping storyline
  • gameplay remains fun and diverse

The Bad

  • clunky combat becomes frustrating and slow
  • graphics could see some work
  • voice acting is off-par
  • character interactions are brief and carry little to no emotion

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