|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Metropolis||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Playlogic||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 30, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
The 2007 PC game Infernal told the tale of Ryan Lennox, a fallen angel who teams with the devil when he discovers Heaven's secret police (his former employers) are trying to kill him. Given that it's a third-person shooter with a cover mechanic, bringing it to the Xbox 360 should have not been a problem: rip off (ahem, "borrow") the control scheme from Gears of War, Grand Theft Auto IV, or Rainbow Six Vegas, and you're good to go.
Instead, when porting the game (and adding a subtitle, "Hell's Vengeance"), the developers reinvented the wheel, coming up with a setup that makes the game feel incredibly clunky and imprecise. Meanwhile, the problems that brought down the original version are still here, as are the title's few-but-notable good attributes. This isn't an awful game, but it faces a lot more competition on the 360 in 2009 than it did on computers in 2007, and thus there's little reason to play it.
The controls and cover mechanic harbor the biggest flaws here, and to understand how the developers got it wrong, it helps to play Infernal back-to-back with one of the aforementioned recent shooters. We went with Gears of War. In Gears, the aiming sensitivity is perfect by default; in Infernal, even after adjustment, your crosshairs always jump around either too slowly to track nearby running enemies or too quickly to aim with precision. In Gears, the left joystick exists solely for the purpose of movement, with the A button reserved for various tactical maneuvers; in Infernal, the left joystick does almost everything, meaning that you can get sucked into cover by just walking past it, and that you can execute an evasive roll by accident (you roll by tapping the same direction twice on the joystick). In Gears, your character hunkers down behind cover well enough that he rarely takes damage, and you can lean out to shoot quickly and efficiently; in Infernal, you get hit in cover a lot, and when you lean out it takes forever to get a shot off, giving your super-accurate enemies plenty of time to knock some health off your life bar.
Add all this together, and Gears feels incredibly natural, while Infernal feels awkward and dated. The transition from PC to console was the perfect opportunity to perfect Infernal's controls (which drew fire from reviewers even in their PC incarnation), and the developers completely blew it.
The other problems with the original title are back as well. You have the ability to crouch down and walk quietly, but when you do so, the enemies still see and shoot you almost instantly. The story is still shallow (and not entirely coherent). Every single fight scene still occurs to the tune of an annoying, repetitive heavy-metal riff. Your ultra-powerful demon-dude still dies whenever he falls more than a few feet. There are still bizarre inconsistencies when it comes to which parts of the environment you can destroy, which doors you can open, and which walls you can take cover behind. The level design is still almost completely linear, and the puzzles are still painfully easy (find keycard, put in door). In addition, there's no autosave feature, a fact we discovered when we died for the first time, after playing for about an hour. The good news is that while Infernal's problems weren't fixed, its laudable qualities weren't removed, either.
Infernal augments its shooting action by giving Ryan a variety of supernatural abilities. None of these abilities radically affects the gameplay, but they offer a break from the arcade-style shooting action. The one you'll use most is soul-sucking. When you come upon a dead body, you can drain its spirit, which gives you life (and also frisks the body for guns, ammo, and keys). This adds a level of strategy to the bigger battles, because you have to figure out which bodies you can get health from without getting shot. The downside is that most of the time there's no need to drain the bodies before the shooting is over, so soul-sucking becomes a tedious chore to perform before heading to the next room. It's also frustrating when bodies disappear before you can get the health from them.