True horror experiences in video games are hard to find—and with the lingering cultural baggage about violence in video games, horror games can be misunderstood by the general public. That misunderstanding got just a little worse this week with the release of Agony, a first-person survival-horror game set in hell.
Agony started life as a crowd-funded effort at being the "most terrifying vision of hell in the history of gaming," and the Poland-based developer Madmind raised around $140,000 in late 2016 to make it happen. As this week's release date neared, rumors started circulating that Agony was about to get the extremely rare Adults Only rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the self-regulating industry group that rates video games. Xbox One and PS4 won't allow games rated Adults Only, and even the predominant PC marketplace, Steam, has an iffy history with explicitly graphic games.
The rumors turned out to be true, as ratings organizations like PEGI and the ESRB were definitely not OK with a video game full of uncensored sex and gore earning anything less than an Adults Only warning. Rather than being unable to release their game at all, Madmind said it cropped out just enough spiked genitals and tentacle porn to get a Mature rating and a wide commercial release. Though the developer said the cut material amounts to "censorship," the loss seems to be pretty minimal. The studio is making the best of things, leaning hard into the ordeal for publicity. In a public statement, the developer assured fans that the game would still feature the following important elements:
- Brutal Sex Scenes
- Lesbian and Gay Sex Scenes
- Genital Physics
- Eye Gouging
- Heart Plucking
- Children Heads Exploding [sic]
- Setting Fire to Martyrs and Demons
- Intense Violence
- Strong Language
Here's what they ended up cutting out:
The video shows a few scenes, including a few minutes of the player stomping on crying babies, a demon queen with a physics-driven simulated jiggle butt, and a first-person view of the player raping a succubus with a two-foot-long tentacle penis.
From its logo to its main demon design, Agony revels in a deeply yanic aesthetic, as though a vagina was the most terrifying thing the developers could imagine after two long years of work. Agony's vision of hell is also weirdly boring in the way it follows Judeo-Christian mythology so strictly it almost feels orthodox. Naked women with tails and wings, fire and blood, and impaled bodies haven't been this edgy since Dante Alighieri published Inferno in 1308.
It's worth noting that the game itself doesn't look very good. Agony may have been explicit enough to piss off regulators, but low-resolution textures, blocky animation, and rough voice acting make these scenes about as edgy as a goth kid's high school video project. A few outlets have published reviews, and so far they have universally panned Agony.