I’m a gamer. A HUGE gamer. And while my preference of film is largely in the realm of Drama, particularly the kind that rip your heart out and make you question why you even watched the film to begin with, my favorite video games have always been horror. The main reason for that is because, through the works of video game art, we’re allowed a deeper, more thoughtful connection with the characters of a horror game, something horror films usually fail to do. With a game, you’re given hours on end to explore and learn about them, whilst a film is given roughly an hour and a half.
My love of video games started at the age of 5, when I played the very first Silent Hill. Should I have been playing it? No. But did I enjoy it? Yes. I grasped the characters with all of my 5-year-old mind and became undoubtedly attached to Harry. Through the years, my attachment to Silent Hill grew, and it became an integral part of my existence. It even helped make me some amazing friends along the way.
But when P.T., also known as Silent Hills came out, I was less than enthused. It didn’t fit the Silent Hill vibe. It didn’t feel like I was in a cramped hallway with Pyramid Head, running for my life as I heard Maria cry for help from behind me. It didn’t seem as though I was going to start hearing sirens and see an entire amusement park go up in blood and rust. It took me a long time to figure out why I didn’t like Silent Hills, and it finally hit me. Ghosts don’t fit with Silent Hill. Sure, they were present in Silent Hill 4: The Room, but… I mean, does anyone consider that the best one of the series?
When Silent Hills fizzled, I was a little relieved. Only it didn’t stop. The market was flooded with knockoffs the moment Silent Hills’ pulse stopped. And I’ve played my fair share of those knockoffs, as I’m a horror game aficionado and owe it to myself and others to give my thoughts. Layers of Fear was a snorefest. Soma was lackluster. Even Amnesia failed to ever bring forth any sort of reaction aside from an exasperated groan. In my tiresome trek through countless efforts to capture fear through a walking simulator, I’ve come across a scarce few gems.
And one of those is Infliction: Extended Cut.
Infliction tells the story of a man named Gary as he arrives at his seemingly abandoned home in search of his wife’s plane tickets. You can walk around the house, get a feel for the layout, even rummage through countless drawers and cabinets to read letters and get to know the private interworkings of Gary and his family, comprised of his talented painter wife, Sarah, his rebellious, rock music-loving daughter, Maggie, and his baby boy, Michael. Everything appears normal. Well, except for Massimo, who is obviously not Italian.
That is, until things aren’t normal anymore…
From the outset, I wasn’t expecting much. The graphics were a little on the lackluster side, and I was once again plodding my way through a house that was inexplicably deserted, only able to view the remains of what was seemingly a happy family. But when the tension started, it didn’t stop.
For the first time since Outlast, I found myself wrought with a sense of dread, the hair on the back of my neck prickled with terror, and my body jolting with every tiny noise or disturbance. There was an air of tension, a feeling of being watched constantly, and enough unique effects and happenings that I felt like, for the first time, I wasn’t playing something that was trying to be Silent Hills. Instead, it felt inspired, and I could feel the developers passion for the game in every tiny detail.
Mixing in obvious heavy references to Hellraiser (a favorite horror film of mine) and Fatal Frame (another excellent game series), it managed to take tiny pieces of all my favorite horror tropes and blend them into something that felt entirely fresh and original. There was a disturbing variety of monstrosities, eery sound effects, and an overwhelming dread with each new detail you learn along the way.
Leaning heavily on the occult and Satanic worship, on which I am highly educated, it never felt like an insult to those things, and rather fleshed out an intricate backstory for this family that left me with tears in my eyes at one point because it hit so close to home. There’s acknowledgement of alcoholism, domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, and tragedy, that all culminate to a powerful story where we aren’t meant to know every tiny detail. And that is the beauty of Infliction.
Much like Silent Hill games of the past, Infliction leaves you with a few questions. They aren’t big ones, the kind that leave you flummoxed with confusion and eventually aggravate you to the point that you dislike the game as a whole. But rather the ones that you can put together on your own. Notebooks and other memories gathered throughout the course of the roughly 4-hour game help to flesh out events of the past, albeit out of sequence, and they paint a very graphic picture (no pun intended) of what went on. The only thing still chewing at me is what the numbers sprinkled throughout the final portions of the game meant. I know they have a meaning, but I haven’t figured it out just yet. Oh, and what in the literal hell was Massimo cooking in that pan?
(UPDATE) After replaying the game and making note of the numbers both Massimo as well as the voice on the radio say in repetition, I found that they correspond to letters of the alphabet. For those of you interested, plug these following numbers into an online deciphering key, or figure it out for yourself by whatever means you choose. Either way, it’s an incredibly interesting moment to see a video game keep me guessing for days as to the hidden meaning behind something.
The numbers are: 25 15 21 4 9 4 20 8 9 19
The game doesn’t drag along until you become sick of any of the locations, and there’s always something new to see each time you revisit a place. If you’re like me and you enjoy poring over every tiny detail, then you’ll love what Infliction has to offer. With cool visuals, like taking a trip inside a painting, and an ending that left me feeling unsettled and disturbed in my core because it touched on a serious fear that resides in every one of us, it quickly became something I wanted to immediately replay and see what I missed. And, as an added bonus, there’s some cool stuff still to see after the credits.
All in all, I enjoyed everything Infliction had to offer. I was on edge the entire time I played and felt an odd connection to the family through my own trauma. It’s certainly worth a play if you get the chance. I promise you’ll be glad you did.
Infliction: Extended Cut is currently available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
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