I love a good horror game me, ever since ol Resident Evil first launched on the classic PlayStation. I’ve come to think of myself a connoisseur of the genre. So I’m always eager to get hands on any new release with promise. Madmind games comes to the scene with Agony, we have been sent the Xbox One version to take a crack at and it has been (unintentional pun) absolute agony, played in first person, a survival horror it claims to be yet there is very little horror or survival to be seen.
From watching the trailers and gameplay footage to reading articles and the official website I was expecting good work here from Madmind studios but what we got was something far below the mark. From the offset, the very first 20 seconds the problems arise in the form of horrific screen tearing, the worst I’ve ever experienced in fact and the audio is just cherry a on the cake. The audio snaps, breaks and the dialogue repeats…very much like a severely broken record. I only really hear the first 3 to 4 words of the cringe-worthy voice acting/dialogue, they repeat four times before the cutscene ends, luckily there are subtitles for me to know what’s going down.
What the hell is going down! I don’t know what’s happening, why am I here? Who am I? Where am I? I purposefully have no memory and I’m in a really, really red place, I’m led to believe it’s hell. A very particular imaging of Christian origin.
My goal? er… push forward. Follow the path to Red Goddess, don’t know why but I have nothing else to do and if it wasn’t for the fact I can summon a little ball of light to follow I would be lost. I am a frail looking man with little to no skin following a voice, a female American voice I might add. Now this I take a little issue with, hearing new world accents in a game of the past, of a historical or biblical nature. It’s like hearing American voices in movies about the dark ages (I’m looking at you, Nicholas Cage/Season of the Witch) – those accents didn’t exist back then, imagine hearing an American Gandalf for example.
As a side note, there is hefty reference here to the old testament, particularly any excerpt that persecutes women as the root of all evils. That they alone are the devils amongst us and Man is just innocent or naive. As a result most of the iconography in-game is targeted at the female form, either to shame it or sexualise it …to attain skill points you must squeeze the juice out of an apple. The forbidden fruit that Eve picked from a tree, but even the apple itself has a clear image of a vulva on its side which needlessly animates appropriately when the fruit is crushed.
After a while (and my first death), I discover that I am not a man – I am a spirit in the husk of a Martyr and can possess other Martyrs providing they aren’t wearing a sack on their head (because, you know …a woven sack prevents all kinds of supernatural tampering. Fact). As I progress I get stronger and are able to possess demons and then larger demons still. Failure to possess anything results in a reset to checkpoint.
So performance wise it’s not looking good so far, but let’s talk about the visuals, the graphics, the textures, the character models …meh. These are a damn far cry from what we saw in them there trailers. To say it would look good for a game that released 8 years ago would be an insult to a game that released 8 years ago. Steps irritated me, stone steps. The texture was repeated on each one shamelessly – 40 step staircase and each one has the same cracks, bloodstains and grime. It’s not good looking and it’s not performing well. Lighting in an environment of this sort is key to create an immersive, believable hell but all I really got was an overactive bloom.
The cutscenes are particularly confusing due to the voice acting audio problems but when you do hear a full sentence (which is rare) the character models in no way reflect the words being spoken. Honestly, the best cutscene was the end credits, travelling at speed down a hole, deeper into hell, passing demons and souls in pain along the way but slowing down to see the floating names of Agony’s creators.
Gameplay is where it’s at, this is where Agony is gonna shine out, this is where the game redeems itself or, maybe not. The mechanics seem dated, as if Madmind have not played a game of the genre in the last 10 years. The simplicity of the controls cause relentless frustration and would be more at home on a mobile slender-man game played from your phone. Getting killed because of a small stone, halting you in your tracks while being chased is infuriating.
There are only two puzzles throughout repeated, either go collect a few hearts or limbs to open secret chambers, or you have to paint the correct symbol using your own bloodied finger on a door/lock thingy, finding the right symbol out of a few already painted on walls in the area. There are a few different aggressors but about 90% of them are easily avoidable. A couple Boss demons thrown in are not even mandatory, you can avoid these too.
The stealth system is more of a hold breath system, the antagonists walk toward noise that you make so you crouch down and hope they pass. But they don’t pass, they continue to walk towards you even though they have no eyes, until you hold your breath, but you run out of breath as they walk away and so begins a mini game of ‘how many times can I make this git walk back an forth’ until he kills me because I can’t move. All movement is clunky, slow and sluggish, and not just as a Martyr but as all things possess-able and I ran into a large amount of bugs and issues.
I play every first person game with look inversion (yeah, yeah, inverted. What ya gonna do about it?) but while entering a narrow passageway and you have to sidestep through it reverts the settings back to default, then the sensitivity changes when walking on some of the gravity defying bridges or depending on what you currently possess. There’s this demon sack of bones that pops up from the ground in some areas but he often pops up clipping your body inside his, making it impossible to escape and the same thing happens to the soul flight because I end up clipping through a wall upon death.
There are a few game modes; Story, Agony and Succubus modes. Story mode goes without saying …literally, you don’t know anything. Agony mode offers you a survival or time attack trial in a procedurally generated level and Succubus mode allows you play as one of the Red Queens thralls following in the footsteps of your story mode ego. Although this mode forces you through the same terrain as the main game you play with a significant physically stronger protagonist countered by losing the ability to possess anything which makes traversal of the game sometimes challenging.
So the frame rate looks like it struggles more than an asthmatic ant with heavy shopping creating the screen tear sensation, the audio sounds like it’s been hamstrung at the start of a race (a race it didn’t know it had entered), the gameplay is broken and it seems as if made to diminish women on a whole …Agony makes for a sadly un-fulfilling jaunt.
From game crippling performance and bugs with the mechanics it’s a real surprise I was able to get through the nightmare. I cannot more strongly suggest giving Agony a wide berth unless some ma-hussive patching gets underway and soon, lest the poor result taints the title for good.
OVERALL: 2/10 – TRAINWRECK
Reviewed by Michael Jones.
(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of Agony for Xbox One, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)