• Infernal: Hell's Vengeance Review Microsoft Xbox360

    Infernal: Hell's Vengeance is a straight port of the PC third person shooter, with a newly added moniker, that sets players slap-bang in the middle of a battle between heaven and hell, as they fight their way through its five long levels. You take on the role of Ryan Reynolds lookalike Ryan Lennox (yes he even shares the same first name), a disgraced agent for heaven's Etherlight organisation, and former angel, who has been cast out and is now living his life amongst mortals. When Etherlight places a hit on Lennox, he finds himself forced to enlist with the Infernal, hell's counter-agency, in order to stay alive.
    Pacing problems crop up throughout the adventure.

    The storyline is well done, it's got a rich premise and as the proceedings play out you are treated to an original take on the age old mythology that retains the core strengths of the iconography whilst keeping things interesting with a decidedly modern twist. It's the kind of tale that would work well in a graphic novel and itís fitting to see the menus presented in a suitably slick, noir-ish style. The one jarring issue, however, is with some of the delivery. Besides the two main characters - Lennox and his demonic handler, Lucius Black - the rest of the cast have terrible, hammy voice acting and the dialogue lines leap all over the place with inconsistent characterisation. It disrupts the tense interplay between the two leads when you have these comically awkward moments interspersed throughout, and does a lot to disrupt the otherwise more sombre tone.
    Infernal: Hell's Vengeance boxshot.
    Graphically Infernal is definitely a mixed bag, there's some strong art design across the board but at times it's hampered by the execution. There are some standouts such as the snow covered mountain-based monastery that is juxtaposed with some sleek, modern electronics within. Towards the end of the game there is a lovely jungle level which leads the player up through a huge stairway of armoured pillars to a vast observatory, but even during these moments there are rough edges on display. While the opening mountain level is stylistically strong, it's plagued by sparklies - little points of white light where the geometry vertexes haven't been aligned properly. At one point it even features a couple of two dimensional bitmaps for trees pressed right up against the edge of the playable area, despite other areas featuring fully modelled foliage with dynamic shadowing. The character models on enemies are a little low detail but Lennox himself looks good, especially when using his infernal shots, which see his arm wreathed in flames. Hell's Vengeance is one of those titles that visually sits half way between the current generation and the last, with an overall solid engine held back by rough areas and enclosed environments.
    The game does have some nice visuals in terms of weapon effects and Infernal powers.

    While thereís some good use of the backdrop in terms of the plot, it's rather underutilised in the form of gameplay mechanics. Beyond the ability to heal themselves by feeding on the souls of dead enemies, the player gains very little in terms of useful powers from their pact with the Infernal. You do get an aforementioned upgraded shot ability, but beyond that the only additional feature of note is the chance to momentarily teleport to up to three separate locations for a few scant seconds each. Primarily this is used on the odd occasion for some rudimentary puzzle solving, typically in the form of multiple switches which must be activated at once. To complete these sections the player must line up two or more of these positions and, upon each teleport, they are given a couple of seconds to spin round, find a tiny control pad and click on it. All while dealing with the warping depth of field effect, which can be both disorientating and frustrating. While this is novel for the first couple of encounters it's not a particularly memorable mechanic and there is little done to further develop this concept as you progress through the game. There are, admittedly, a small handful of locations where it is used to avoid hidden traps, but these are extremely rare and one-trick ponies. There's also some awkward telekinesis, but outside of one particular boss fight you won't be using it.
    Lennox's character design is well done.

    Crucially none of these powers ever really play into the combat in any meaningful way and this is a real missed opportunity. The gunfights themselves aren't much to write home about. First and foremost the cover system is very clunky. When shooting out from behind scenery Lennox performs a wide sweeping turn that is terribly slow and leaves you completely exposed with a long turning arc to return to safety. It also doesn't help that should you let go of the firing trigger for even a fraction of a second he starts to drop back immediately. It makes it almost impossible to line up shots whilst staying connected to the piece of cover and you are always better off staying away from it and manually moving in and out yourself. The end result is a lot of the fighting revolves around awkward angles and cheap shots as the AI is pretty dense and the levels are usually so closed in and claustrophobic that there's not much scope for tactics on the part of the player. Infernal is very much a methodical experience and in that regard the only real challenge is in knowing where the enemies are.
    This picturesque mountain monastery is one of Infernal's standout moments, both in art direction and execution.

    When the designers do try and create specific set moments, be it with specialised enemies or some of the lower tier bosses, the lack of polish becomes even more evident. The lack of helpful feedback can lead to the odd frustrating moment, when the player isn't quite behaving in a specific way that the designer expected them too. That said there are a couple of rather interesting large boss encounters, but these are infrequent and scattered. Worth particular mention are the end game finales where Lennox takes on vast, towering adversaries from both sides of the conflict, which certainly ends the game on a high note. At these moments the game finally gets its flow going with multiple stages to the battles, each with their own weakpoints to target. It's just a shame there aren't more of these sequences on offer, as they finally capture the scope and potential of the setting.

    If there's one final point of note with regards to Infernal, it's that it's one of the buggiest games this reviewer has played in years. It's sometimes possible for the game to completely blank the screen, necessitating a return to the dashboard and also resulting in a corruption of that save slot. Given the fact that there's a PC style manual saving system in place, it's worth keeping this in mind and backing up across multiple slots regularly.

    Ultimately Infernal: Hell's Vengeance is not a good game, it has some great ideas and indeed in places it delivers a reasonable, if mediocre, experience, but there are far too many portions where the clunkyness and rough edges overwhelm the interesting art direction and story. It's not a broken game but for much of the duration it is a very awkward one and as such comes hard to recommend. Check it out if you are interested in the concept behind the premise, but otherwise stay away.

    Score: 4/10
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