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Afterfall: Insanity (PC) artwork

Afterfall: Insanity (PC) review

"It's like a playable Mad Max sequel..... directed by Uwe Boll."

Afterfall: Insanity (PC) image

Psychiatrist Albert Tokaj hates his job.

I know this because he makes his distaste bloody apparent throughout Afterfall: Insanity's campaign. Early on, Tokaj meets with his girlfriend Karolina at a bar. You'd expect the man to light up at the sight of his love, and for the pair to embrace and commence small talk. However, the two of them never touch. Tokaj also seems less than enthused during the scene, as if he is hanging out with an acquaintance and not his partner. They stand side by side while Tokaj groans about how he fell asleep during a consultation and expresses his animosity towards his superior, the colonel. They unceremoniously part ways after a few minutes of chatter, and Tokaj returning to work with a harrumph. Meanwhile, the player shrugs.

Their anticlimactic meeting hints at possible future development for Tokaj, perhaps even a transformation. However, Afterfall fails to flesh out Tokaj as a likable protagonist, even during the game's overlong introductory sequence. He exudes the qualities of a typical video game hero, but doesn't employ them in any meaningful way. There is no reason for players to invest in him, and thus to fear for his safety when horror elements finally arrive.

You could easily write off Tokaj's angst as just another day in a nuclear war bunker. You see, Afterfall is a post-apocalyptic tale, and Tokaj and company dwell within a radiation resistant domicile called a vault shelter. Prolonged confinement has instilled jaded attitudes in everyone living within the shelter, Tokaj included. Even so, Albert should exhibit more than abhorrence for his job and a lackadaisical love interest. The best the game manages is separation from Karolina, following a major story event that sends them both into the forbidding world above the shelter. In other words, Afterfall wants us to care about Tokaj because he can't locate his girlfriend.

Afterfall: Insanity (PC) image

Wooden voice acting doesn't do the character any favors, either. Tokaj's emotions don't always jibe with the current situation, as seen in one instance where a key character dies. During this scene, Tokaj describes the man's passing as if it's a bad day at the office. Sadly, his actor isn't the only one missing the mark. His superior, the colonel, ridiculously over-emphasizes half the words he speaks. Afterfall doesn't paint the colonel as a menace, instead portraying him as an accidental comic relief.

Tokaj eventually finds a true reason to despise his line of work. The colonel sends him into the depths of the shelter, where some engineers reported signs of psychopathy among their rank. Upon entering the pit, Tokaj discovers that a mysterious illness has made its way into the air supply, changing mild-mannered engies into murder-thirsty madmen, similar to those seen in movies like "28 Days Later" and "The Crazies."

Thankfully, Tokaj is a skilled combatant and has a fair number of weapons at his disposal. However, a vast portion of them are melee-based, and half of those aren't worth your consideration. Massive sledgehammers and pipe wrenches look brutal, but are a liability because your foes can absorb numerous thumps and thuds before falling. This leaves bladed instruments, which are overpowered in comparison. Where bludgeons merely bruise enemies, axes and sickles decapitate the competition after a few strikes, killing them with ease.

Afterfall: Insanity (PC) image

Afterfall's melee combat is pretty much what you would expect: a lot of mindless clicking and the occasional evasive maneuver. It's not broken, per se, but it's only mildly entertaining. I'll admit that severing heads is a cathartic activity, but the game's reliance on mouse mashing represents a missed opportunity. Because of its simplicity, foes perish without much trouble and lose the viciousness that would have been required in order to maintain Afterfall's scare factor.

Enemy hordes also crop up in predictable, orderly fashion. You enter an area and a fresh batch of baddies rush you from the darkness. You engage them in standard beat 'em up style, or just plug a few bullets into them and call it a day. Exit stage right and begin the process anew. There's no terror, tension or psychologically unnerving content. Afterfall's commitment to structure in the early half of the campaign deprives the experience of legit frights.

Guns improve Afterfall's battles, but not enough to save the experience from overall mediocrity. The game utilizes your average third-person shooter mechanics and a familiar arsenal: shotguns, pistols, machine guns and explosives. Though these are yawn-worthy details, their inclusion also means that Afterfall's gun play feels intuitive. If you've cleared your share of shooters in the last ten years, you already know how to handle a gun in Afterfall.

Don't get too comfortable with your arsennal, though. Weapons tend to disappear after cutscenes, or when loading new sections of a stage. The awesome fireman's axe that saved your butt for the last few battles could suddenly vanish, devoured by an animated plot revelation. I also recall one segment where I rode an elevator and suddenly lost my guns for no discernible reason. I was out of ammo and my blade went MIA. Did everything fall down the shaft or what?

Afterfall: Insanity (PC) image

Afterfall somewhat pulls itself together in the second half, but not enough to make up for its ho-hum primary portion. As you voyage onto the surface in the last few stages, you glimpse some creepy imagery: crafty cannibals, ghostly phenomenon and hulking monstrosities. The worst are humanoid creatures that appear to be charred black mannequins. If you venture close enough to one, it awakens and charges at you, somehow emitting multiple screaming voices. After a few blows, it bloats and explodes, dealing serious damage to nearby targets.

At the same time, the last few levels are infuriating. You have to remain in the shade as much as possible, which is tricky when set pieces feature tiny, nearly imperceptible beams of light. If light touches you, a pesky white phantom pursues you until you shoot it, putting a strain on your limited ammo. It's a brilliant way for the developers to add challenge, to be sure, but also an irritating constraint.

Sadly, the game concludes with a slew of eye roll-worthy cutscenes. Afterfall: Insanity hedges its bet on a predictable plot twist that seasoned horror fans will likely call before they're even one-third of the way through the campaign. It's the kind of conclusion that leaves you questioning whether the game was worth the six to eight hours you spent on it. Granted, there are a lot worse survival-horror titles out there, but that doesn't diminish the sense that Afterfall is merely a conglomeration of cliches and borrowed concepts that fail to add up to anything exciting or frightening. As was the case with its banal lead character, it's hard to give a damn about a game as plain as Afterfall.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (October 18, 2017)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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