Afterfall: InSanity Review
The primary thrust of the game is moving through creepy environments, on the way to completing an important objective like shutting down ventilation systems or cooling reactors or escaping on elevators. Afterfall likes to ambush you with multiple screaming enemies who attack you with melee weapons of their own, and these can be pretty creepy at times, especially when enemies find way to flank you without you knowing they’re there. Combat itself, on the other hand, gets a little more harrowing against larger enemies, but usually just requires some blocking before returning fire with huge swings toward the facial regions of your enemies.
The game also includes a mechanic called “Fearlock,” which is supposed to represent Tokaj’s level of fear at any given moment. If something gruesome or harrowing happens, Tokaj might slip into Fearlock, which makes his attacks more powerful but his aim with firearms much messier. Like much of the combat system, Fearlock feels a little half-baked — it doesn’t really have a major effect on how the game plays or force you to adjust your style much at all. In general, combat in Afterfall feels like a series of good ideas, none of which received full attention. They work, but they don’t work especially cohesively, making most combat just passable.
Afterfall scores points in the atmosphere department, however. Much of the sound design and music composition are extremely good, even if most of those spooky sounds you hear just on the other side of a door or wall never actually pay off. The world feels expansive while claustrophobic, and some of the bigger sequences just sound great.
And there are some moments of Afterfall in which the game is just beautiful. Toward the end, specifically, the art design really opens up and there are a few moments in which I stopped and took stock of my surroundings. There were also some clever uses of light and dark mechanics, especially near the end, that felt brilliantly applied (in fact, that last level in general was pretty great, period). Characters and their animations are usually competent if stilted, but the environments and the graphics that go with them are sometimes borderline breathtaking.
That’s really the story of my experience with Afterfall. From a standpoint of ambition and vision, the game is interesting and gets a pass or two on mechanics that don’t feel as well-conceived. It would be easy to take a more cynical view of the game, and in doing so, pan it; it’s not always a great experience. It’s not always full of triple-A polish.
But considering its origins — the game started as a fan project that was grabbed by Nikolas Games in 2008, it’s an indie, and it’s foreign (which accounts for a lot of some of the weaker voice acting) — Afterfall pushes the envelope and gets some things really right. And you can feel the work and the passion that went into the project. If this were a title that came from Visceral Games, the makers of Dead Space, with EA’s backing, I’d expect more polish and stronger mechanics. But while it’s by no means perfect, Afterfall shows a whole lot of promise and some really smart and interesting design besides.
And at this price and with this background, I find myself excusing many of Afterfall’s faults in favor of its successes. With so much weirdness scattered throughout (and there’s a ton, both cultural, thematic and derived of the plot) and a few interesting chances taken, I’m interested to see where the franchise might go in the future.
- Awesomely atmospheric and fairly spooky
- Great sound design
- Takes some interesting design chances
- Often graphically beautiful (though not really with the characters)
- Really … weird
- Remarkably, admirably ambitious
- Combat can be pretty one-note
- Some weak voice acting and translation
- Story’s a bit derivative and pretty out-there
- Quite a few not-fully-realized design concepts
Final Score: 70/100
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