Intravenous is what you get when you combine the high speed action of a game like Hotline Miami with a sprinkling of stealth mechanics and soul crushing difficulty added on top. It is one of the few games where the default normal setting is too difficult for me.
The game starts off with a brief opening to set the narrative. Your brother is attacked by junkies and now you’re out for blood. A lot of blood. You meet a mysterious accomplice who supplies you with information and an arsenal of lethal weapons. And now you’re on your merry way to teach those junkies a lesson.
Except for one problem, the junkies seem to be a highly armed and organized coalition of riffraffs. I don’t know how the junkies managed this but we’ll roll with it. Jokes aside, the game’s difficulty is no laughing manner; the game is brutally difficult. The slightest mistake, the slightest step in the wrong direction, one noise a decibel too loud and the entire compound will furiously descend upon you. Oftentimes this will result in a quick and timely death.
While the game is difficult, it is by no means unfair or poorly designed. The AI for the enemies is surprisingly well done and realistic. They will notice any doors that were left open when they shouldn’t be, any lights turned off in buildings where they should be on, and so forth. They are extremely attentive to their environment.
You can employ stealth tactics but it takes quite a bit of skill. The silenced pistol is not completely silent and will alert nearby enemies. Getting close to an enemy to execute a stealth take down requires patience and map awareness. And when things go south, which they will in your first couple or dozen attempts, you get some exhilarating action. Even in this part it remains highly tactical. You need to hold advantageous angles because the enemies will not run into you one at a time. Some of them will hold angles while others patrol and attempt to flush you out.
Overall, Intravenous is a refreshing take on game design that doesn’t baby the gamer and treat them like children. There’s no dopamine drip of meaningless grind and progression, only skill based game play. It’s difficult but fun and definitely rewarding. It won’t be for everyone but you may end up pleasantly surprised.