A long time ago there was an archangel that went by the name of Lucifer. He lived in Heaven. He was highly thought of amongst his peers of the cloudy planes, even by God. One day, Lucifer, beset by pride challenged the order of heaven and Lord Almighty himself. Obviously God wasn't going to have that and a battle commenced. War raged and Lucifer was defeated and cast from Heaven to re-enter the world. He paid for his insolence with the clipping of his wings and to this day (should you choose to believe) the battle between God and the Devil still rages indirectly through the minds of men.
Then came Ryan Lennox. Not a typical name given to a warrior in the battle between good and evil: more in keeping with a Channel 5 Sunday night American import show one might think. Infernal's protagonist's proper noun isn't the only thing untoward with this unholy/holy setting: Lennox runs with the dark side. Yes, extremist right-wing Christians unite and picket line Hell's newest recruit - oh and you get to play with him (in a purely none sexual and totally computer game character sort of way).
It's not like Infernal is massively difficult - there are moments of frustration - but if you had the power of Satan I would expect that any challenge in front of you would be surmountable. Instead Lennox spends plenty of time looking for items, keys, switches etc. Why can't he smash through a wall, if he wants to? Why are force fields and locked doors a problem to an agent of hell? And why is it that if he falls more than five feet Lennox is met with instant death? Although he can teleport, but not through walls. He has an arm that sets on fire at will, but this does little else other than make Lennox that tiny bit more powerful. It's not so much that these things blight gameplay, but more add to a feeling of frustration, as Infernal could have been so much more grandiose.
The tag line 'In the Eternal War between Good and Evil... Hell Wants You' is decently supported through the narrative, but the gameplay and action doesn't remain as loyal. For most of the game your arsenal against Good are guns and projectiles, much the same as someone who doesn't have the power of evil coursing through his veins. Perhaps if Playlogic had been more ambitious we would be playing through a more unique gaming experience - where's the demonic possession for instance? Codemaster's 2004 title Second Sight enabled you to take control of any NPC at any time, it was a seamless part of the game and it's frustrating that Infernal is left lacking in this department.
Infernal is almost equally uninspiring to play. It looks a treat, utilising an Ageia PhysX board, some of the effects in the game are purely groundbreaking - as if conjured by the devil himself. At one point, equipped with a flamethrower, I set about turning a room to ash. The flames hit the floor and crept up the wall and to the ceiling just as you would expect; charred walls and furniture left cindered to achieve a level of realism that's comforting for those arsonists looking for a safer way to set fire to things. However despite the joyous visuals, it's difficult to get excited about gameplay that is little more than run and gun. You do need to be careful and take aim, but the cover system doesn't work anywhere near as well as in Gears of War, if indeed it works at all. The enemy, so important for games of this nature, aren't the smoothest bunch of rascals; the age-old problem of suicidal foes standing in the middle of a corridor, rather than behind a barrel or crate adjacent is irritating. However there are moments where decent AI prevails and you're taken down, but the unbalanced nature of your enemies adds to a wholly unsatisfying experience.
Lennox becomes more powerful in the dark and by proxy becomes weaker in direct light. His 'mana' is boosted by remaining in dimly lit areas (as well as draining the souls of recently felled victims) and gaining energy in this way is an on-going element to the gameplay. This does, on occasion, lead to some memorable moments - a battle early on in the game forces you to 'create darkness' by shooting out the lights above you in order to defeat your enemy as he consequently 'relights' the area. However it's not amazingly inspiring, and certainly nothing close to innovative. Graphics aside Infernal is a pretty mediocre third-person shooter in a genre already boasting Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War: given this, and Gears' inevitable arrival on the PC, it's difficult to recommend Infernal.
Also, whatever your religious background might be - forgive the Devil Worshippers - it's hard to sit comfortable and side with those who are dark-sided. I have little faith in anything, but I find it difficult to understand how a game will be received when the niche is that you play the part of the bad guy, rather than the good. Sure, perhaps this might be overlooked - for the ability to forgive is the basis of most western religions - if it weren't for the overtly underwhelming experience that Infernal is.
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