afterfall-insanity-review

Afterfall: InSanity is one of those games that seemingly grew out of nowhere. With humble beginnings as an homage to games like Fallout and S.T.A.L.K.E.R., this Unreal Engine-powered project became professionalized by Nicolas Entertainment Group partway through 2008.

As a title rooted in adulation, Afterfall: InSanity does little to expand on its obvious influences, but manages to take a footing in what could evolve into a successful franchise, should the development team not lose sight of the goal.

This introduction to the Afterfall universe is, I hate to say it, disappointing at best. As a title with oodles of inspiration from the best places possible, calling Afterfall: InSanity uninspired is a pretty accurate assessment.InSanity is simply too derivative to stand on its own and is bogged down by several other factors that turn what would be an average game into a subpar game.

For background purposes, Afterfall: InSanity takes place in the year 2032, twenty years after World War III. The war between the United States, Germany and Soviet Union left the world a nuclear wasteland, riddled with radiation and no habitable locations above ground. Mankind, as an adaptable species, began to live underground in bunkers to escape the harsh conditions, but as bad luck would have it, threat follows the survivors in the form of mercenaries and grotesque mutants.

Your protagonist, Albert Tokaj, is a psychologist whom which we know little about. He’s charged with keeping the fugitives’ mental stability, but it seems his own sanity is slipping away in the process. Living under a militaristic regime has to be stressful for him and others in the situation, and to keep humanity alive, some have to take charge in what could be considered a ruthless manner.

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In any case, weird things start to happen in the underground—some of the citizens in one of the lower levels act erratically and insane (possibly due to a strange virus some doctors found, OOOOH!) and the local government becomes tight-lipped about its actions, a little of this happens, a little of that happens. Just…whatever.

That’s where InSanity runs into its first problem—you aren’t compelled to care about the characters in the least. Wooden voice acting, bland designs, little to no development of important characters; everything about this aspect screams mediocrity. There’s General Whatshisface who is rude and orders people around, seemingly the head of the government, and then Blank Slate girl who is Albert’s love interest.

Even Albert is a barren shell, despite being your main character, and little of him is revealed through the course of play. No internal monologues to divulge and evolve, little contact with other characters to flesh out interactions; just cursing expressions or the far-between yelp of danger.

In addition to characters you couldn’t give a damn about, InSanity‘s gameplay doesn’t fare much better. Slow-paced, clunky, unimaginative—Albert can carry around a handgun, a larger gun, a small melee weapon, and a fourth weapon which he will drop if you either pick up a new weapon or draw one from your inventory. These fourth weapons can either be guns or large melee weapons.

While decent in functionality, combat itself is lifeless. Enemies will predictably run at you without a semblance of caution, occasionally taking the time to dodge your physical blows, while you swing away with your oversized melee weapon or riddle them with bullets. The AI isn’t intelligent and enemies won’t try to dodge your firearm, and despite seemingly limited ammo, they go down within a couple of shots, no matter how “terrifying” they might appear.

Surprisingly, Albert is well-versed with weapons, wielding even the most sophisticated guns with ease without the slightest hint of drawback. Though, in unlit areas or with several enemies present, aiming becomes erratic as your “insanity” increases, but this doesn’t affect your overpowered melee attacks. That said, Albert puts his back into it with even the largest weapons, swinging around massive monkey wrenches without a hint of fatigue.

Enemies go down easily enough, regardless of your weapon of choice. I played through the game barely using guns outside of a change of pace. The sledgehammer, as my choice weapon, smashed many heads in, and thanks to regenerating health, I never found myself in danger of being overcome by the insane, deformed, or sadistic which plague the underground facilities. InSanity barely qualifies as being harder than Candy Land.

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Admittedly, the controls are responsive enough to the point where you can navigate the game, and improved due to the wired 360 controller compatibility, but having a wider scope of control options does not a great game make. Enemies and protagonist are slow-paced, battles flow without any sort of tension, and simply with how easily enemies fall, the game presents little challenge, even at higher difficulties.

After the wooden voice acting on all accounts, InSanity‘s overall sound scheme doesn’t do the atmosphere justice. While Intoxicate make good use of the Unreal Engine, even employing excellent lighting effects in some scenarios, the distant sound or ominous rumbling that foretell danger are underused, taking little prominence in situations that direly need them.

As such, Afterfall: InSanity becomes a predictable “borefest,” recycling situations where enemies will rush at you, never surprising or attacking you from the darkness. A lot of cues in environments, such as closed quarters and narrow hallways have been implemented from Visceral‘s Dead Space series, but the idea of actually scaring the player is never fully realized.

Not once was I scared. Not. Once.

And that’s the biggest failing of Afterfall: InSanity. The game is presented as a survival/horror title, but there’s no challenge here and no scare factor. What we’re left with is a decent-looking, predictable third-person adventure game that has some really dark hallways sometimes.

Intoxicate’s first endeavor struggles to find footing, and in reality, I feel terrible for saying nasty things about the title. There are some really great ideas here, but the execution is a paltry imitation of games that have simply done these exact same things better. Should they continue with Afterfall as a series, but implement better mechanics, I truly believe later titles can shine.

I was hoping to be blown away by Afterfall: InSanity, but instead it just blows.

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A digital copy of this game was provided to Save/Continue by the publisher for review purposes.

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