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Infernal: Hell’s Vengeance Review [360]

30 Jul 2009  by   Paul Younger
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Sometimes game developers do themselves no favours. If you’re going to call your game “Infernal” – and it turns out to be rubbish – then you’re leaving yourself open to some wordplay abuse in the reviews. It’s like a band called The Unbelievably Shits releasing an album called “Ran Out Of Ideas.” Of course, if the game is up to scratch, then this isn’t a problem. Unfortunately, Infernal: Hell’s Vengeance is not. It is, in fact, diabolically bad (see, I told you). Originally a PC game, this port to the 360 has been two years in the making – two years apparently spent plumbing new depths of tedium.And yet, the central premise of the game isn’t that bad. You play Ryan Lennox, an ex-hitman for God’s Etherlight agency who, stripped of his powers, is recruited by Hell’s rival agency, The Abyss. Lennox is offered a deal by the evil Lucius Black; stop Etherlight from deploying a worldwide mind control device and he’ll get some pretty swanky supernatural powers to mess about with.  Unfortunately, any interest you have in the narrative rapidly drains away as soon as the dialogue starts.Sporting some of the worst voice acting we’ve heard since Secret Files 2, Infernal’s cutscenes are laughably bad.The voice talent (and the word ‘talent’ is used generously here) is interesting to say the least, the script is hammier than a pig farm and it stinks just as bad. It’s riddled with clichés – from Lennox’s irreverent wise-ass attitude (ripped directly from every single bad action film of the last 30 years) to the wacky mad scientist and haughty British b***, every character in the game is utterly predictable and completely unlikeable. It also doesn’t help that the actors occasionally mispronounce words or that the dialogue frequently makes very little sense. We particularly enjoyed the enemy grunt who starts a radio conversation with the word “over.” It’s indicative of the level of polish in Infernal and, unfortunately, this applies to the gameplay as well.Somehow, developer Metropolis Software has managed to make the gameplay basics in Infernal so amazingly awkward that the game begins to feel like a chore almost immediately.  Firstly, for a game which sells itself as a shooter, the shooting mechanics are woefully bad.  The aiming reticule seems to play a purely decorative role and bears little relation to the placement of your bullets. There is also no zoom/precision aim (at least until you find the sniper rifle later in the game) which, to be fair, is probably a good move as it would serve only to highlight the criminally shonky hit detection. Player movement is, sadly, just as bad and this is due to some very dodgy control decisions. For instance, Lennox can dive out of the way of enemy bullets but Metropolis has mapped this move to a double tap on the left stick. Yes, the stick you use for regular movement. This means you’ll frequently find yourself diving and rolling when you don’t want to which can get a little troublesome when facing multiple enemies. And, you’ll be glad to know, the clunky movement is complemented perfectly by a, frankly, demented cover system.{PAGE TITLE=Infernal: Hell’s Vengeance Review Page 2}In order to enter cover you simply have to push the left stick towards a piece of scenery. Or at least that’s how it works in theory. In practice it involves standing in front of scenery for a good few seconds, repeatedly pushing the left stick until the game finally realises what you’re trying to do. Once you’re in cover, things get even worse.  Now, call me a traditionalist, but I’ve been under the impression that the point of a cover system is to minimise your exposure to bullets. Not so in Infernal. Nope, when you’re in cover and you decide to pop off a couple of shots at the enemy, Lennox moves a couple of feet away from the cover, fires his shot and then remains stationary for a moment giving the enemy just enough time to riddle him with bullets. It’s an utterly pointless system and you’re likely to lose more health from using cover than you would if you just strafed around a bit.It wouldn’t be so bad if recovering health wasn’t such a tedious process. One of Lennox’s shiny new Hell powers is the ability to drain dead bodies of their energy to recover health and mana (the special move meter). Unfortunately, this takes around five seconds each time you do it which becomes an enormous, throbbing pain in the arse, especially when you’re surrounded by enemies and desperately need some health.  Not to mention that most enemies disappear pretty quickly after they hit the floor. It’s yet another basic gameplay annoyance that could have been easily avoided.Even when Metropolis has a potentially good idea, it’s horribly implemented. For example Lennox’s Infernal Powers almost threaten to make the game interesting – the Teleport power (Lennox can teleport himself around temporarily), had it been used for more than just operating switches behind locked doors , could have added some gameplay depth to the game. Even when you gain the power to teleport objects other than yourself you’ll find the controls so unfathomably frustrating that you’ll avoid using it until you’re forced to.However, the award for the most arse-brained design decision in Infernal goes to…the lack of autosave. Yes, Infernal features neither checkpoint nor autosave systems meaning that should you die (and you haven’t manually saved the game) you will potentially lose hours of gameplay. And for a title in which the central gameplay experience is about as enjoyable as having your genitals removed with some rusty pliers, this is absolutely unforgiveable.  It’s enough to convince you that Metropolis Games actually has an evil agenda.When held up against the 360’s impressive array of third person shooters, Infernal does not compare well. For a game which is essentially Max Payne with superpowers, Infernal manages to pale in comparison to its eight year old inspiration. Of course, some will probably still maintain that it’s an acceptable slice of throwaway fun but those searching for a brief action fix should pick up a copy of Wanted. It’s cheaper than anger-management therapy. 

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