By Chris Commodore |
Ryan Lennox is so pissed off his arm catches on fire. He's an angel, or at least he was, and now he's working for Hell to blow apart a secret heavenly outfit called EtherLight. As the main playable character in Infernal, a third-person action game from Eidos, it seems like a promising setup. Turns out it isn't.
They really tried for a snappy style of dialogue in this game; attempted to cobble together a wise-cracking, angel-turned-hellish-mercenary attitude. While you'll occasionally hear a sharp quip, such instances are stranded in a lake of convention and contrived one-liners. But the story isn't the main reason you're here, as unfortunately seems to be the case with most games.
Lennox has a bunch of tattoos, short spiky hair, and a tendency to kill things of angelic persuasions. He's supposed to be a badass. His feeble dialogue and utterly stereotypical enemies do a fine job of making sure Infernal's personality never strays from the mundane. But what about the one girl enemy whose skin-tight outfit has nipple outlines on it? She's cool, right? She and Lennox have a strained relationship but there's sexual tension writhing underneath. We've never seen that before.
Gameplay falls into the dialogue's mold: a few noteworthy sparks glittering over an expanse of cardboard. The demon powers can be entertaining for a short while though the level designs built to test your ability to implement them aren't particularly challenging. The weapons, enemy AI, and cover mechanics all suffer from awkwardness, uselessness, and blandness, in no particular order.
For each fighting area, enemies spawn in front of Lennox and on platforms of varying verticality. Depending on which weapon is being used, be it pistol, machine gun, or welder gun, you can unleash a different super-powered attack that consumes chunks of mana. To recharge your magical energy, you kill enemies or wait around for an extended period of time. This actually works well, forcing you to mow down foes to ensure the super abilities are available.
The shooting mechanics aren't that interesting, though. Foes display a decent amount of AI, helping to keep things engaging for at least a little while (like 10 minutes). Most of those who walk on the ground perform backflips, even when you're not shooting at them. At other times they'll do small head dodges, run from rooms, move into cover spots, and resist the temptation to charge through doorways directly into your gun barrel. You get flying enemies too, though they float around in generally the same spot. A few of the tougher enemies require more precise maneuvers to take down. The impossibly armored welders, for example, are only vulnerable in their backpacks (ingenious!).
Then there's the cover system, which is too slow to be useful. By pressing against a wall, which happens too often by accident, you can peek around corners to fire your weaponry. The issue is when you actually fire, Lennox steps entirely out of cover at a painfully slow rate. It's such a ponderous process that during a firefight, it's far more useful to just stay in the free-roaming WASD mode to dispatch your opponents.
Lennox can demonically siphon health and ammo from killed enemies by standing over them and hitting a key. It requires several seconds of charge time to complete, which can get aggravating. It makes sense in battle - if enemies are still around it challenges the player to strategically select which bodies can be safely drained. However, out of combat, you still have to feed on the fallen for a few seconds resulting in frequent lulls in an otherwise fast-paced game. Why not just switch the feed mechanic to instant-trigger after a room is cleared of bogeys? As it stands, the feeding or soul-sucking or whatever you want to call it is like dumping molasses on an ant.
There are some good ideas here to make the gameplay somewhat interesting. Lennox can move objects and enemies around with a telekinesis ability, for instance. There's a teleport ability not only useful for solving puzzles, but also to warp forward on the battlefield and shoot enemies from behind for a brief moment. You still take damage, but it at least gives you a better vantage point. Had this kind of gameplay mechanism been more tightly interwoven with the core gameplay, and the fighting arenas been filled with more interesting opponents, this game could have been worth playing. As it is, it's more just a flashy graphical package drowned in pounding rock music you've probably heard in hundreds of other action games like this.