There are a large number of books, films, and games based on World War II available on the market year after year, but very few works that follow the turmoil that preceded it. The global crisis, which left unimaginable horror and trauma across generations, is still a somewhat taboo topic and, in general, difficult to deal with. German game studio Hecate’s debut release, Ad Infinitum, wades through the muddy ditch with a psychological horror approach.
The transmitter in the boots, which received the attack order via telegraph, transmitted directly from the command center of his trench to the front line. Moving through mud, barbed wire, guts and blood, the prologue immediately shows the audience that this time the allure of war is not glorified in any way. The cry for help of a soldier who has lost most of his limbs in artillery fire is a most horrifying sight, as blood and fragments of teeth emerge from the depths of his torn jaw amid screams. At the same time, Ad Infinitum immediately waves your hand and tells you that there are no pretty stories to tell on this battlefield. After a cold start, the main character, who wakes up from his bed at home, breathes a sigh of relief: maybe it was all just a bad dream. The war is already over and the horrors are but a memory. However, something indescribable seems to be roaming the corridors of the deserted mansion. Harrowing noises are also coming from the attic.
While investigating strange things happening in the rooms and corridors of the mansion, the player jumps back into the battlefield in the form of flashbacks and hallucinations to deal with the issues left behind. Metaphorically, the work dealing with the trauma of war never underlines or sidesteps its subjects, but relies strongly on the experiencer’s own ability to draw conclusions from the real side of events. To understand the deeper levels of the story, it still assumes that the person sitting at the screen has at least some basic level of knowledge about the events and technologies of World War I.
Ad Infinitum works on its subject matter without succumbing to images. The story, which contains a considerable number of meta-levels, sidesteps lighter themes such as post-traumatic stress syndrome, psychosis, a problematic father relationship, toxic masculinity, cross-generational trauma, racism and homophobia. The lead pedaling and dark verses don’t let the listener walk away easily. Content warnings, often ignored as useless nonsense, are fully deserved this time.
In terms of mechanics, it is practically a walking simulator equipped with functional parts and light puzzle elements. Seen from a first-person perspective, the process is pretty cool. The limited structure of the small development team is effectively hidden under the professional implementation. The puzzles along the way are exceptionally well-planned and, above all, logical. There is no surreal satire familiar from Monkey Islands, but all of the story’s puzzles can be solved with the help of the tools you always have in front of you, basic reasoning abilities, and the clues provided.
Although on paper Ad Infinitum is classified as a horror game, at no point is it particularly scary. From time to time, a cold shiver runs down my spine, but this work, which relies more on the psychological aspects of fear, is like a slow-acting poison. The environment that slowly sinks its claws under the skin uses its horror imagery more as a means of effectiveness than as an independent value. The ups and downs of the story are scary, but not that scary. Thematically and stylistically, the film borrows somewhat from Jacob’s Nightmare, which inspired the Silent Hill series, among other films. So those who embrace junk closets and quick-releases should look elsewhere.
The audio-visual implementation is at passel level in all respects. The massive Unreal Engine draws quite impressive looking visuals on screen, and the terrifying monsters made of iron and flesh in particular impress with their presence. The exceptionally fine orchestral musical track also deserves its sunshine. Often, the music track manages to completely elevate the events on screen to its scope. It’s not easy to imagine trenches filled with blood, gore, mud and even literal filth, but it supports the difficult story wonderfully.
On all three test machines, the game was easy to get going with an update rate of over 60 frames per second, which is more than enough for a slowly moving atmospheric work of art. With the powerful beast, the speed of the 3,440 x 1,440 resolution screen was easily locked to a 144Hz refresh rate thanks to DLSS support. With Beauty, which uses AMD hardware, the graphical shortcomings had to be compromised a bit, but by no means to a disturbing extent. With the Temptress equipped with an Arc graphics card, the lack of XeSS support was the worst seen, but the screen refresh rate still didn’t drop below 70 frames per second in tests, even in the heaviest scenes.
Divided into three songs, a prologue and an epilogue, the entire piece sweeps its entire eight-hour duration like wings. Choices made during the story also lead to one of three different endings, so there’s a good amount of replay value as well. The narrative forces the player to reflect on their experience exceptionally strongly. After scrolling through the end credits screen I found myself reflecting on some scenes I had watched for a long time. That, if anything, is a sign of a successful job.
Available: PC (tested), PS5, Xbox Series
Age Limit: PEGI 16 (graphic violence, language, horror)
A psychological horror experience that doesn’t succumb to images, leaving players unsettled. This bloody tale, which goes deeper than the surface, tackles taboos and difficult subjects with such aplomb that it’s hard to believe the end result is the debut work of a small indie studio. One of the highlights of the year’s game releases that anyone interested in the topic should not miss.
Used Review Machines:
Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D
Central Memory: 32 GB 6,000 MHz DDR5
Video Card: Nvidia RTX 4070 Ti 12GB OC
Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 5600
Central Memory: 32 GB 3,600 MHz DDR4
Video Card: AMD Radeon 7600
Processor: Intel Core i5 12600K
Central Memory: 32GB 3200MHz DDR4
Video Card: Intel Arc 770
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