Ad Infinitum Hands-on Preview – The Horrors of War

If you were to think of a setting not used often in video games, one that could come to mind is World War 1. This isn't to say they're unheard of; one of the earliest PC games I remember playing was Red Ace Squadron when I was a wee boy of just 13. We've had a few since then, but I can only think of two (technically) within the horror genre; Necrovision and the prequel Necrovision: Lost Company which were shooters first and foremost but delved into the mystical and fantastical. Ad Infinitum, the upcoming WW1 horror game by Berlin-based Hekate, is looking to stay grounded.

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As grounded as a horror game can be, anyway. Set in the German and French trenches of WW1, you take the role of a German soldier. To be more precise, you take on the part of the German soldier that has survived WW1, and you be within the manifestations of his PTSD. At least, that's how I understand it. Still, the design of the area I was able to play through - and descriptions from the developer of other things - certainly reflect this, highlighting a blurring of reality for the protagonist.

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From the gameplay trailer at the bottom of this preview, you'll be able to see a lot of what I mean with the blurring of reality. You'll also get a sense of the atmosphere the developers are going for. Utilising things you would have been able to find in the trenches and other areas during the war, they have created macabre areas full of corpses, prosthetics, and barbed wire that not only cuts you but seems to react to you.

During my hands-on with Ad Infinitum, I spoke to a member of Hekate, and there was an indication that your decisions within the game would change how things turn out and the appearance of areas. The developer told me the game will have three different endings, increasing replay value. There will also be several collectables within the game; some are key to your progression, while others are for world-building.

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While playing through the available Ad Infinitum stage, I got a good impression of what the result will feature. It's well worth exploring things found around the levels, helping you to solve puzzles that help you progress. One of the little puzzles here did require me to remember the names of three people, with another requiring me to remember a code for a lock. None of them was overly complex, but I'd recommend a pen and paper if the game has similar aspects within other levels.

On the atmosphere, it was well developed. It was suitably creepy, walking through a room with prosthetics dangling everywhere, just waiting for something to jump out at you. What horror games and films forget is that the anticipation of something terrible happening is far worse than the thing itself. Ad Infinitum appears to understand this, though I must admit this was only one stage, set roughly halfway through what will be the whole game.

Much like other horror titles, there will be a bit of backtracking. Find the correct item to get you through the blocked area. In my case, I needed to find some cutters to get through the snaking barbed wire. You'll also want to use light to your advantage; when you finally come up against the prosthetic monsters - because of course you would do - the only way to stop them is to shine a light on them. Ordinary, even overused in some games, but it worked well here.

All things considered, my time with Ad Infinitum went well. I did get a little stuck with one of the puzzles, but I had limited time due to the nature of playing a game at Gamescom. The fact that I was in a bright and busy room is also why I won't hold the fact that I wasn't scared at all against it. I will keep my eyes out for more information and opportunities with the game, and there'll be time as it's not expected to be released until 2023.

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