Afterfall InSanity PC Game Review
It looks like we’re not gonna survive December 2012 no matter what we do. If the end of the Mayan calendar doesn’t get us on 12/21/2012, then the accidental detonation of a fusion bomb on the same date will surely put most of us toes-up, according to indie developer Intoxicate Studios’ debut shooter, Afterfall: InSanity. This post-apocalyptic mashup of several FPS classics has high ambitions, but falls just short of delivering on its promises.
The world went to hell on Day Zero. Fortunately, Poland’s leaders saw it coming a decade earlier and constructed a series of underground habitats to protect its citizens from the devastation. Twenty-three years after the end of days, psychiatrist Albert Tokaj and two soldiers are sent on a mission to the dark and dangerous lower levels of Shelter Glory to locate missing colonists who are feared to have contracted Confinement Syndrome, an extreme version of cabin fever, which turns its victims insane or worse. This journey leads Dr. Tokaj to make some shattering discoveries about the shelter and the world outside of it.
Afterfall: InSanity can be exasperating for those who’ve played lots of shooters. You can carry three weapons: a pistol, a rifle/shotgun and a melee weapon. But there’s a catch — you are forced to drop your melee weapon when you switch to either of your firearms; apparently there’s no place to store your trusty fireaxe, even though there’s a place for your sawed-off. You start out with a tranquilizer gun, but soon you discover that the shelter is a vast repository of pipes, electric cattle prods, improvised maces and other weapons of personal destruction. Ammo is available but not very plentiful, but once you get the hang of the melee combat system, you might not use the boomsticks very often; I didn’t need to fire very many projectile weapons until the last few chapters of the story. Controls are the standard WASD and mouse, although there is no jumping, taking cover or crouching. And items you can use or acquire are easy to find; a large tool tip appears on each one of them as you approach.
The game begins in the sterile corridors of the shelter; lots of white walls and nothing much of any interest to see. As Dr. Tokaj goes deeper into the bunker, the visuals get more menacing and much more atmospheric. But Intoxicate gets the most out of their Unreal Engine 3 license with the outdoor levels, in which the utter devastation of the decades-old nuclear catastrophe is effectively seen. Gameplay-wise, the pace is fast and unfettered by secrets to find or trophies to uncover, so you always know where you’re going and why you’re going there. Some of the enemies you find are smart enough to not come at you in a straight line, especially near the end, when you come up against the game’s version of the Serious Samscreaming suicide bombers. And the story contains a number of interesting twists and turns that make you want to keep going, just to see how it all turns out.
But like many games, it’s the little things that areAfterfall‘s undoing. It starts with the install itself: I found that the game won’t start unless you’ve installed it on the same hard drive that contains your operating system. This forced me to uninstall it from an external drive (my root drive didn’t have enough available space) and install on my second internal drive; if I didn’t have a dual-boot PC I would’ve never been able to play. There are quite a few really bad typos, even on the opening menus, although that could be the result of localization from the original Polish; text that appears on in-game monitors all displays in the native tongue, and the English voice acting is universally bad. The chapters set in the lower levels of the shelter have attributes obviously lifted from the Doom 3 playbook, including an old favorite — monster closets. As for your playable character, Dr. Tokaj is the psychiatrist equivalent of physicist Gordon Freeman. But even without Gordo’s handy hazard suit, Tokaj somehow manages to keep himself alive; he soaks up a huge amount of damage (at least when you play at normal difficulty), he curb stomps like a Gears of War Cog, and he bulks up from scrawny doc to muscle-bound space marine before the final act. In fact, villains are so in awe of the nasty shrink that they stand back and watch as he turns their comrades’ heads into face pizza. Story progression is perhaps the most linear I’ve seen in a long time; it’s like the developers are herding you through a six-hour cattle chute, with no backtracking and no distractions. You lose your weapons numerous times during the journey, for no apparent reason (thankfully, there are always plenty lying around to acquire). Your character’s PDA is not very useful. It contains information about the various characters and objects and a list of your objectives, but I only accessed it when I had to hack locked doors, and I didn’t use it at all in the last third of the campaign. And the boss battles are underwhelming to say the least.
The end-of-the-world scenario is my favorite plot, both in games and movies, so Afterfall: InSanity hits me right where I live. It gets more and more interesting to watch and play as the story progresses, the pace is brisk and there’s just enough meat on the game’s bones to keep you satisfied until the twisty ending. There are way too many little things wrong to rank it among the better indie shooters, but this is the first entry in a promised series, so hopefully Intoxicate will get the bugs hammered out in the sequel.