Written by sPINDRAFT 1/4/2014
This title has sat in my “to play” box since I started writing for HAG and I am damn glad that the “new game” button finally got clicked. Developed by Intoxicate Studios of Katowice, Poland ‘Afterfall: Insanity’ was released for PC in Nov of 2011 and what a blessing for the post-apocalytic survival fans out there. Now let me get the little pigeon hole set of tags in a bit more order here, on the website it is listed as a post-apocalyptic horror and on wikipedia as a first person survival shooter. In this fans opinion the only description that is really absolute is the post-apocalytic part with a smattering of the others thrown in at varying percentages throughout the adventure for good measure; I would call it a psychological post-apocalytic drama with claustrophobic tendencies, a vivid imagination and a spicing of horror/shooter to keep you well perched on the edge. If you are the totalitarian type on any of these fronts you will be sadly disappointed but if you like a well made complete experience then ‘Insanity’ is your monster.
When the game started up my first impression (after the start menu screenshot which was pretty gritty) was this looks too clean, too sterile. What was this? You arrive in the setting of the Glory Shelter deep beneath the streets of the Republic in the year 2035 and it looks – nice. Huh? Everything is crisp and clean, there is a large aqaurium along one wall, the beautiful Karolina locked in the room with you, its all just too damn pretty and much too damn sterile. Stick with it my friends, the story kicks in quickly and you will be off on an exciting and sometimes deadly adventure as Doctor Albert Tokaj, the shelter’s pyschologist and ultimately most wanted.
The grit alluded too previously is most definetly here, it lives in the details of the world itself; a masterfully crafted virtual setting displaying critical attention to the smallest of details. From the enameled, brightly finished interior of the shelter’s better days to the grim, industrial feel of the working side of Glory the enviroment is never left to the imagination; it actually looks and feels like you are walking around inside a futuristic, self contained facility. The use of lighting is superb, probably some of the best I have ever seen in a virtual reality; it is so well done that it lends a whole other level to the physical awareness of your surroundings.
When you finally get a peak outside of the shelter you become fully aware of the amount of detail poured into the setting for ‘Insanity’, this is where the art just gets awesome. The main backdrop is that of a huge city with tall, narrow skyscrapers but it is the world that sits in this shadow that is so completely amazing. It has the look of an old shipping wharf (the neon signs here are amazing and well placed); used, battered and bleeding but with an undercurrent of life running through it that is unmistakeable. It feels at once comfortable here, soothing – like a place you are familiar with; but then you brush against its painful side, the side that is fighting for its very survival and it does not wish to accept you as a new liablity. This portion of the game gave me fond memories of how it felt walking around Kaineng City in the ‘Guild Wars’, the location with the towering, corrugated slums.
The gameplay is smooth, directed by a very good and well written story line that leads you along in your quest to discover just went wrong down here in the only world you have ever known. You are Albert Tokaj, Glory’s pysch-analyst, and you have been tasked with treating patients suffering from confinement syndrome. The plot gets all twisted up when it becomes apparent that someone is manipulating these occurences for their own sick goals, the people are dying (the ones who don’t become infected and attack), the Colonol sends his troops after you and your girlfriend doesn’t trust you anymore (didn’t see that one coming right) and on top of it all whoever is responsible escapes to the surface with you.
Gameplay mechanics and interaction are expertly tended to as well; though I felt that player movement was a little awkward at first it did not hinder the ability to react quickly and accurately to any given situation that would arise in game. The hardest part was getting used to the way ‘Afterfall’ allows you to carry weapons. Guns are at a premium and even if you have one ammo is not always forth coming or readily available around the next corner, or on the next corpse for that matter, so learning how to use melee tools becomes vital to your existence. Here is how it works, if you pick up a weapon and take off running into battle it is very likely that the gun either came with very limited ammo or the soldier that was shooting at you before you took it from his cold dead grip used up a good bit of what was available. So here you are in the middle of a gun fight and the damn ammo runs out, no worries right, you have weakened the mob so you will just pull out your trusty fire axe and chop the hell out of them; problem is when you picked up the gun or activated a gun you dropped that fire axe right then and there. The only hope for you now is that you become a damn good boxer and drop one of these goons so you can steal his lead pipe and beat the shit out of the others. Awesome!
The puzzles were pretty cool too, mostly locking mechanisms for one device or another that with a bit of good memory can be solved in just a few tries. There are a couple that stand out though, notably when you you have to equalize the pressure in the nine reactor vessels on a timer, very cool and my absolute favorite – The house with four rooms. This house is above ground in the second portion of the game and it feels like you are tricked into entering it. Once inside you are pretty much stuck, every would be exit only leads you back to another version of the same room; the designers were so intent on the small details that you enter it from a different direction each time giving the illusion that the main house is divided into four equal squares. There is no way in hell I am going to tell you how to get out of there but when I finally tried the only thing I had not tried I was like damn, really. Very, very, cool puzzle that one.
The storyline is thorough, staying on track the entire game. The one main gripe to this is that at times if it were not for captioning I would have no idea what the hell anyone was saying. You would get cut scenes to handle the major points of the story and these were fine from an audio standpoint but many times when dialog took place in the course of game play the background music was so loud (or the dialog pitched so low) that you had to strain to hear it, turning the comp’s volume up does not work so I became thankful for the captions that always tend to screw up the best screen shots. Oh well, if eveything was absolutely perfect we would not have anything to bitch about in chat right?
Overall ‘Afterfall: Insanity’ is a complete experience; a beautifully crafted game world with engaging game play. It is not a straight up horror game (depending on what your view of horror is exactly) but I have found since jumping into this genre full tilt that what is really important is that the game should be dark on some level, addressing fears and ideas that make people uncomfortable or simply placing you in an enviroment that feels creepy and unpredictable. Horror in my opinion does not mean it has to have ghosts, goblins, ghouls and zombies popping up at every turn; there is much more to the adventure of dread than a never ending horde of something’s running at you. ‘Insanity’ finds this moment in every part if its presentation, never giving away what the story has in store for you next until you are right in the thick of it.
HAG Score – 9.5