21 February 2016

ON EARTH, NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SIGH...


In the market for a mediocre rip-off of the Dead Space franchise?  Boy, have we got just the game for YOU!  It doesn't get much more mediocre than this:  Mediocre voice acting, mediocre graphics, mediocre story, mediocre combat, mediocre gore, mediocre puzzles, mediocre mini-games...this game has got it all!!  Which isn't to say it's all that  bad...I mean, if you've played all the Dead Space games to death, and feel like something obviously aspiring to such heights and largely failing to reach them, you could surely do worse.  Probably.  If there was a single other game in existence trying so hard  to be Dead Space, that is!  Which I suspect there isn't, but I don't make it my life's quest to be an expert in such matters.  If I ever do  find a game more blatantly guilty of such plagiaristic ambition, I'll be sure to let you all know...

 

 

SETTING AND GAMEPLAY


Actually, that's not fair.  Obviously, this game also owes a great deal to the highly influential Resident Evil 4, as did, er...ahem...Dead Space.  It also steadily transforms from a survival-horror-game-in-a-sci-fi-bunker to a post-apocalyptic, Mad-Max-meets-Escape-From-New-York action game with undertones of horror, so at least the setting changes things up a tad.    
 
So what about the gameplay?  Hmmm...well, this is where we start to fall down quite a bit.  No one, least of all my dear self, would be complaining if this was as good  as Dead Space.  Now, we all know that ever since the original Resident Evil on the PlayStation 1, third-person survival horror games have often depended upon somewhat "clunky" and/or "tank-like" character control systems to accentuate that feeling of helplessness, by way of rendering your character not too  competent an action-hero.  Resident Evil 5 then dropped the ball a bit by boasting an only-slightly-less sluggish control system, whilst throwing hordes of fast-moving bad guys at the player...all the while assuring, of course, that your character was at least ten times as agile in all the cut scenes, begging the question as to why they were suddenly so incompetent the second the player took control of them again.
 
Afterfall: InSanity takes such clumsy heroics to new heights, at least until the player adequately acclimatises themselves to the awkward controls.  There's also other small problems, such as the fact that the wide array of melee weapons seem to handle almost identically, and switching from hand-to-hand to ranged weapons is anything but smooth sailing.  Add to this a plethora of God-awful quick-time events, especially in the game's latter half, and you have an agonisingly over-long game which - despite having loads of atmosphere and plenty of decent ideas -  you probably deserve a medal for seeing through to its thoroughly idiotic conclusion.
 

 

BUT IS IT SCARY?


Simple answer: No, not really.  Especially after you've played a few hours into its ten-hour-plus running time.  Essentially, it's a bit like this: Nice-'n'-eerie set-up, some suitably scary-by-way-of-being-clumsy combat sequences, extremely repetitive and predictable gameplay for the next handful of hours, then an almost jarring change of scenery once we go outside into the fresh night air and get constantly assailed by post-apocalyptic mutant freaks.  Whatever else they got right, the makers of Afterfall: InSanity definitely didn't understand what makes a game consistently suspenseful, and thereby genuinely frightening.  Even the "jump-scares" barely even qualify as such.  It's an action game with a spooky setting and "dark" story.  Period.
 

 

CONCLUSION

 
I would only recommend this game to people who've played all the Dead Space games - yes, even Dead Space 3! - a few too many times.  Taking a break from those games to play this one is perhaps comparable to taking a brief break from five-star restaurants to sample the glory of McDonalds for a while.  It's a shame, too...in better hands, this could have easily been something of a "classic".  Alas, it's more of a morbidly fascinating failure:  Something to be put on display in glass cabinets in second-hand stores and procrastinated about at length, despite the fact that it's on sale for only five dollars.  When all is said and done, it really is that  underwhelming. 

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Michael B.

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