Agony is a survival horror game that’s created in the same mould as Alien: Isolation. The story is pretty simple, you’re a soul who has been banished to hell, the deepest pits no less and it’s up to you to escape. The story is set via quite a visual cinematic which looks great and sets the game up pretty well. But that’s about as good as it gets because once that’s finished, you’re left with the worst version of hell I’ve had the misfortune to experience.
Madmind Studios have played the age-old trick of filling the game with all things that could be seen as controversial like gore. Literally everywhere. The walls shimmer and shine with blood and gore it’s like you’re walking through the inside of spleen or something similar. Fetuses hang from the ceiling, still breathing humans dangle lifeless all the while demons have orgies and monsters prowl. It all sounds rather exciting, kind of like a night out down my local. The trouble is most of it is thrown in your face from the off and soon you get desensitised by it all and once you do, you don’t even notice anymore robbing the game of a world that the developers clearly spent a lot of time creating.
This whole in your face approach goes a little too far when you’re asked to rip babies heads off, experience a rape scene and witness childbirth all of which have been censored from the game. Rightly or wrongly is open to debate, but I do wish the developers had spent more time on the game itself rather than desperately trying to shock people with disturbing imagery and cheap scares.
So onto the game then. Well, it’s an FPS of the most miserable kind. You walk around the dark levels at a pace that would make an arthritic tortoise look speedy. Not to fear though as for the most part you’ll be jumping from one weak soul to another using each one to find your way around the dark world until your host body is killed. When this happens you have to jump to another body and continue on your dark journey. At times you can use these bodies to bypass obstacles but for the most, they’re just a vessel to allow you to scramble around the dark and the ill thought out dark levels and hide from monsters.
You’ll have no trouble hiding from monsters though because there is plenty of darkness (have I mentioned dark?). When I say darkness I mean the levels are nigh on pitch black so if you have any hope of seeing anything in the dark you’ll have to turn the brightness of your TV up to almost maximum and play in a room with no light source at all. Do this and you might, just might be able to see where you’re going. Unfortunately doing this, rids the level of any fear, leaving you to see the reality of the terrible graphics and that the levels are the same repetitive slimy blood-drenched walls pretty much used throughout the game.
It’s after about I dunno 10 minutes maybe that reality sets in and you realise you’re in for a dull receptive slog. Enemies patrol the dark levels on the lookout for you but when I say levels you could refer to them as small dark rooms, as the area they patrol is tiny leaving you not much scope for hiding. To avoid these beasts, you can hide, and/or hold your breath and hope that they pass you by. Sounds ok, but when enemies run into you as the game gives you no other place to go you feel cheated and survival of these confrontations is more down to chance than skill. The enemies are also repetitive with like 4 or five enemy types which is pathetic. Then there is the AI which is terrible. The creatures that prowl the levels are blind but are gifted with a heightened sense of hearing, although it’s more like a superpower, seeing as they can hear you when you hold your breath. Also. despite supposedly being blind they can see you from the other end of a corridor. Shocking.
With poor level design, poor A.I and poor lighting things just aren’t looking even slightly good for Agony. The start of the game doesn’t exactly entice you in either. It’s a kind of maze affair so you have to stumble around in near darkness using your spiritual guide thing to not only show you the way but to provide just a glimmer of light so you can see your surroundings. The trouble is you can’t use this too often (why??). Can you imagine completing a maze in pitch darkness? No, I rest my case. To make matters even worse, you have to find bleeding hearts (fucking hearts as I came to call them) you need these to unlock doors so the resulting scavenger hunt, was a mixture of looking at the ground and pressing R3 to bring up your glowing guide thing. If that wasn’t bad enough there a number of bugs in this game, ranging from frame rate drops to being stuck in scenery to dying and not being able to move. It seems the game wants you to experience hell for real as opposed to their virtual version on screen.
Agony is a game that’s just so painful to play. I’m sure there is a solid case of irony there given the name but this game is truly awful. It might have been worth all the crap if the story was compelling but it isn’t. Aside from the opening cinematic Agony descends deeper and deeper into a pit of steaming turd with some terrible voice acting to boot.
Agony is game that tries really hard to produce a disturbing and scary version of hell. But it fails on both counts. Had the developer Madmind spent more time on the gameplay instead of getting butt physics correct (yes you read that correctly) we might have something here that could pass for a game. The desperate attempts to add shock with the now infamous censored scenes are just schoolboy tricks in a bid to generate hype and ultimately end up a moot point given just how terrible the rest of the game is.
Any fear or disgust is lost in the first 10 minutes when you realise the ‘Agony’ of wasting good money on this pile of toilet.
Agony is available on PlayStation 4 (reviewed) Xbox One and Steam
Developer: Madmind Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a copy of the game from the publisher. For our full review policy please go here.