After the release of Outlast by Red Barrel Games, there was an abundance of this hide-and-seek horror style being created. In comparison, there were few that elevated and evolved the experience, making it worthwhile to dive in. Most cases had it feeling like there was something missing or that the tricks they played on the character were just ploys to make our character feel weaker. So when Ad Infinitum came into the fray, I was interested to see where it would fall in by mixing World War I into the equation.
Ad Infinitum follows a German soldier who, during a flashback, had heard over the radio of his friends and fellow Germans being slaughtered by some force and then blasted back to reality by an explosion. What follows is an exciting tale of two lives. One is the man waking up in his family mansion, left decrepit by years of solitude. While you traverse the estate, you will come across notes and puzzles that, when completed, reveal more and more of the war’s effect on the family.
This is easily the more intimate and tense section of the game, as with each step you take in the manor, you can feel a presence in there with you. Even during the early sections of Ad Infinitum, which are generally the safer parts of a horror game, you catch glimpses of figures or hear sounds throughout the house.
There is a specific part very early on when you are getting a foothold on the mansion’s layout and need to collect these candles and matches to have a séance. You will turn corners to prominent looming figures disappearing around bends or into rooms. Not to mention, the séance itself creates such a good sense of tension and horror. Even though you can quickly gather what is about to happen, it managed to get me good, and it just sets the stage for the creepier horror set pieces that occur later on.
“…Ad Infinitum did environmental puzzles and storytelling great.”
Then, there are the No Man’s Land sections of Ad Infinitum that take place during World War I. This is where the game stumbles a little, but only in the introduction of this part of the world. The first time you visit No Man’s Land, you will eventually encounter these little goblin-like demons who are blind but hear incredibly well. So running or activating noise traps will bring them swarming to your location. While it does do a decent job of introducing you to what will mostly be a hide-and-seek horror experience in No Man’s Land, I feel like the first hour or so doesn’t do this part of the game justice.
I found myself pretty checked out of Ad Infinitum, until you come across a pilot who had just previously crashed trying to flag you down. In typical horror fashion, as you get close, he gets pulled out by one of these blind monsters and gets dragged off into the distance, screaming, “Oh my god, I know what they are.” It was that exact second I started rethinking how I felt about the Silent Hill-esque nature of the World War I side of things.
You see, during this first hour of Ad Infinitum, it is a very boilerplate sneak-your-way-through the spooky trenches. You’ll even eventually come across what looks like the mother figure of these blinded demon creatures, a very tall imposing figure that just let me know, at some point, I am going to either have to fight or run away from that thing. Up to this point, even the notes strewn across the battlefield were pretty uninteresting, and some might even say downright dull.
I will give it to the puzzling on this side. Even the first one you really get to run into is solving Morse code to call over the creatures, so you can sneak past them. That kind of puzzle solving in games, if done right, will always get praise from me, and Ad Infinitum did environmental puzzles and storytelling great. After this, I also came across these exciting letters and dog tags of soldiers who were wounded and bound by barbed wire or horrendously tortured by gas.
“…during this first hour of Ad Infinitum, it is a very boilerplate sneak-your-way-through the spooky trenches.”
But, it was after I got told almost to my face that there is and could be more profound meaning, and almost like the creatures are not only manifestations of the horror of war but could also be stemming from the horrible things soldiers had to do during the war to give them studious amounts of guilt and mental issues. It added another complex layer to what I was experiencing, and even though I would have played it through for this review, this realization and intuitive way to make the player realize that made me eager to play through it.
While I have mostly only talked about the first two-ish hours of the game, I really do think that this game is something that fans of Silent Hill or other multilayered horror games would really enjoy. There is a lot of connective tissue that connects these two worlds in the game that mentioning one could potentially spoil another, and it is worth it to dive into Ad Infinitum yourself to uncover not only if one or both of these realities are real but to experience these fantastic and downright creepy monster designs.
Overall, Ad Infinitum doesn’t do its best job showcasing what the experience is all about in the first hour. But, after that, it really takes off and soars. Especially the creature design, and while I am not a massive fan of the hide-and-seek horror, it plays it well here, and you truly get lost in the trenches. The sound design and voice acting aren’t the best, but it is passable enough. My biggest issue is that I had quite a bit of technical difficulties. Even when I turned the graphics setting to low, I was still experiencing framerate drops and quite a bit of screen tearing. I even managed to clip through some ladders a few times.