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Back then, I used to have a bootleg console.  You know, the one which had “9999 games in 1”. But I do remember having fun while playing Contra on it, and it was around the same time when peak masculinity rocked Hollywood with its guns-blazing action movies. Plots weren’t that matured back then, be it movies or games, it was almost all about one-man-infiltration into enemy territories where you sneak in like a Snake (pun intended) and exit like a Rambo.

Intravenous is reminiscent of the movies of that era – a ‘seemingly’ perfect mixture of stealth and gun-trotting action akin to Hotline Miami. But is it really a love letter to the tactical stealth action games like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear?  Read below to find out.

“Sssh, quiet!”

Just like every other stealth game, you emerge from the darkness into the illuminated pools under street lights. A silenced pistol in one hand and a knife in the holster, you crawl your way to that lonely guard taking a cigar break. A sudden choke, a vain gasp for breath, and the guard is down. You haul him up over your shoulder and dump him in the nearby garbage bin. But these are the same drug addicts who killed your brother, do they really need to live? You take out your combat knife and make short work of him. Now unto the next target. Need to follow the lead so that you can finally exact revenge upon the guy who connected your brother to god’s Wi-Fi. The narrative goes like this – you and your brother wandered into a ramshackle part of town inhabited by the scums of the society. Some men hold you at gunpoint, but you both being the swaggering macho you are, tell them to ‘F’ themselves. A fight breaks out and your brother is shot, landing in a coma and subsequent death. You swear vengeance and to your luck, a mysterious benefactor calls you saying his goal aligns with yours. He leaves his hideout and loads of guns at your expense instigating you to go on a warpath while helping you by providing leads to the main target.

At first glance, Intravenous appears like a top-down, pixel-art, stealth-focused game similar to the MSX era Metal Gear games. Heavy emphasis on environment lighting and noise generated appears to be borrowed directly from the early Splinter Cell games, including adjusting your walking speed using the mouse wheel. You’ve got a silenced pistol and a tranquilizer rifle, have the option to distract guards by throwing bottles (and this time they don’t say “hmm, must be the wind”), and can even shoot out lights or simply flick a switch (if there’s one) and switch to good ol’ night vision.

But other than that, there’s nothing “stealthy” about it. In fact, despite being silenced weapons, any noise generated by your pistol would penetrate right through the adjacent walls into the ears of the guy taking a dump in the commode. Even reloading generates enough noise to wake up everyone from deep slumber within a 10 m radius. And good luck once the patrolling starts because they would hardly give up looking for you. Same result if you try to lure someone away from his guard post by throwing a soda can into the darkness. And that’s not it, they will call their friends, families, neighbor’s dogs, even distant relatives to look for you. Everyone becomes a highly organized armed patrol despite all of them being drunkards, drug peddlers, and squatters occupying rundown apartment complexes. Who gives them the money for imported munitions? And above all, for a stealth game, there’s no crouching – it’s either stand or crawl (sigh).

Guns go brr!

One mistake and the enemies zero in on your location from all across the map like a coordinated militia. And in a matter of seconds, Intravenous goes from Splinter Cell to Hotline Miami as you are forced to John Wick your way to the exfil point. At the start of each level you’re given an option for noisy guns and armor – the bigger the armor the more protection but more the noise generated – and I usually went with the most chonkiest bulletproof jacket, only to be downed by a single shot. Because once the shooting starts, you’re going to die a lot unless you do gymnastics with your KBM. But quick mouse aim and rapid character movements will only take you so far as the enemies can shoot you down even from offscreen. You’ll need to predict (or after continuous death, know for certain) from where the enemies will approach. At least the level design is decent enough allowing you to take cover when you’re in a pickle. Also, you can always escape via the windows instead of bashing through the front doors.

Visual, Performance and Sound

Intravenous’s pixel aesthetic neatly portrays a noir environment of the early ’20s where a hardboiled cop is out for vengeance. All dialogues are textually spoken via detailed pixel portraits of the characters and cutscenes are aesthetic pixel artworks. The sound design is serviceable, like the soothing ambient OST that plays in your hideout, the stealth music that keeps you on your toes and the combat music that gets your blood pumping once the firing starts. But there’s no variety – the same set of tracks play across all levels. There’s practically no performance issue because of the minimal system requirements

Real Talk

For an action game, Intravenous ‘might’ be a good substitute for Hotline Miami, only if the dev (it’s just one guy – Roman Glebenkov) tones down the enemy A.I, which is completely incoherent with the locations the game takes place and the kind of people you’re supposed to run into there. But for a stealth game, it’s a frustrating trial of patience and constant retries. If only the plot were a bit better, but corny dialogues designed to cater to fans of 90’s action flicks are a tad letdown. For passing the time, Intravenous is a good choice, but for serious indulgence, there are better alternatives.

Final Review : Not Recommended


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