The survival horror genre is, ironically, in serious danger of dying on its arse. The seemingly never-ending slew of Resident Evil and Silent Hill games have proven to be little more than globs of increasingly prettier graphics wrapped around the same clunky and limited control mechanism, with a handful of shit puzzles thrown in. So, you'd be forgiven for running a mile as soon as you learn that.
The Suffering is not only from this less-than-venerable genre, but is also a (grits teeth) console port. Don't be so hasty though - it's actually pretty damn hot.
You see, unlike the aforementioned titles, The Suffering does away with everything that works against you. No more clunky controls, obtuse puzzles, two bullets to last you the whole game and, the worst offender of all, fixed camera views designed to hide half of the action. Instead, this title offers a fast and fluent control system that could've been made for the mouse and keyboard, and heaps of violent, gun-toting action, yet still manages to preserve strong horror elements.
The adventure is set in the dingy Abbott State Penitentiary, an Alcatraz-style maximum security facility located on the isolated Carnate Island. A new pnsoner, Torque, is led into his temporary residence in death row - an honour attributable to being convicted for the murder of his family, despite him having no memory of the events that took place. An earthquake then triggers the start of a nightmare as the lights flicker out, and the all-swearing cast start dying in the dark.
You jump into the shoes of Torque, at least until he takes them off so he can run around in a dirty vest and bare feet in the truest Die Hard fashion. The opening portion of the game plays out like Half-Life, but with considerably ramped up gore. The first weapon you find is even a crowbar, although Gordon Freeman never had to pull his out of the chest of a convict, prompting the hapless soul to scream in agony before choking and dying.
Several set-pieces play out, gradually cranking up the tension M before introducing the first of the splendidly-designed monsters that were created by Hollywood's Stan Winston. Your first encounter is with a Slayer -a hideous beast with razorsharp swords for arms and legs that make a chilling chink against any surface they scuttle against. You're later introduced to such beauties as the Mainliners - pathetic creatures who leap up and stab you with a poisoned syringe given half the chance - along with Riflemen, Hangmen and Burrowers.
Thankfully, you've got more than a mean-looking pair of overlong sideburns to point at them. In addition to dualrevolvers, a tommy-gun and a meaty shotgun, on all but the hardest difficulty levels you also find loads of ammo to keep the hordes at bay. There's also the odd machine-gun emplacement dotted around which you'd be a fool not to jump onto quickly, as they're usually positioned next to mass spawn points.
The Suffering relies on more than waves of monsters to provide its thrills, though. Using a clever combination of graphic and sound tricks coupled with atmospheric set-pieces, an air of foreboding is quickly built and never relents until the finale. For example, Torque's sanity is far from stable throughout much of the adventure, as indicated by unsettling hallucinations of his dead wife and children popping up and crying out for his help.
Another stroke of genius is evident in the interaction with other characters. For example, when you encounter a nervous prison guard who suggests you team up with him, a soothing female voice whispers through the left speakers: "He's frightened and he needs your help." However, then an evil voice rasps through the right speakers: "He's a weak coward and deserves to die -kill him now!" If you let the people you meet live, they sometimes help you out by showing you short-cuts and by providing covering fire. Your choices in this respect hold even deeper ramifications though, as they help to determine which of the three endings you see - and there are plenty of decisions that affect this throughout the game.
You play The Suffering predominantly in third-person - you can switch to first-person, but we wouldn't recommend it (see Missed Opportunity', left). In third-person it draws a lot of parallels with Max Payne 2, right down to using bottles of painkillers to replenish health, but such inspirations certainly don't count against it. The graphics are solid throughout, belying their console origins with a decent set of gloomy lighting effects (particularly from your torch) and well-detailed textures.
Let's Hear It For The Game
As far as atmosphere goes, it's the sound that seals the deal. Hearing the familiar metalscraping sound of a Slayer scuttling around the ceiling out of your torch's cone of light is unnerving in the extreme. Plus, there are countless little scrapings and scratchings in the game that make you whip around and empty your gun (as well as your bowels), only to find there's nothing there. If ever a game is screaming out for a surround sound set-up, this is it - and then some. As great as The Suffering is though, it's not completely devoid of problems. We encountered the odd glitch -one where we managed to get stuck on a piece of scenery, prompting a reload. The controls also don't feel quite as smooth as those of Mr Payne's masterpieces, although this is only really noticeable during the needlessly awkward jumping and climbing sections.
Probably the biggest problem, however, lies in the lack of variety in the game's enemies and locations. A feeling of repetitiveness definitely creeps in during the final third, and this is a real downer if you're replaying for alternate endings. Nevertheless, The Suffering remains a triumph. By managing to be both genuinely scary (a phrase over-used but well-deserved here) and full of hugely enjoyable trigger-happy action, it plants a shiny size-15 boot right up the arse of the survival-horror genre. The Suffering is gory, foul-mouthed fun and deadlier than a package deal to Basra.
When A Really Big Gun Just Isn't Enough
As well as having access to some serious weaponry, a short way into the game you find out that Torque has another little trick up the sleeves of his, erm, vest. As you dispose of the enemy, a small insanity meter' fills in the corner of the screen. When full, pushing C transforms Torque into a hulking great demon capable of tearing apart anything in its path. You have to remember to keep an eye on the insanity meter as it ticks back down though, as not transforming back into human form results in death. How Torque acquired such an interesting ability is only lightly touched upon, but has something to do with his beast within' and all that nonsense. Excessive use of the demon can affect which ending you get when it's all over, but it's pretty easy to get through the game without using it too much if you don't want to.
Download The Suffering
The Suffering Came at a time when survival horror games seemed hobbled, as the deliberately stifling control system of Silent Hill and the predictably claustrophobic camera angles of Resident Evil bound together with a dreary shortage of bullets. The Suffering may not have been a re-invention on the scale of Resi 4, but it had everything we wanted: exciting gunplay, stitched-up gimps that could have been drawn by Clive Barker and atmosphere that came as much through the level and character design as the number of bullets you had.
With your sanity teetering on the edge, visual and aural hallucinations plague you through the game, and there's also a fair slice of swearing, which is what grown-ups do when lunged at with a bloody syringe.
The Suffering suffers from contemporary comparisons, but this is one survival horror action game that wasn't horribly mutated on its journey from consoles to PC. Well worth the tenner they're asking.
In this upcoming horror-adventure game, you play a convict sentenced to walk the green mile of a dilapidated, post-WWII-era prison. But the corroded pipes and decaying walls are the least of this particular institution's problems. While you ruminate on the murders of your wife and son, horrible things begin to happen-- mysterious decapitations, eviscerations, and even some good ol' fashion gougings. Suddenly, prisoners and guards alike start getting murdered by half-seen assailants. Then the door to your cell swings open....
Your job, like it or not, is to figure out what's happening and why. As you roam the prison, you'll meet monsters based on various methods of execution. Sometimes, you'll only see them dash into the darkness; others, you'll fight them with weapons like tommy guns, stun grenades, or a prison-yard shiv. Since you don't know whether your character is guilty (did you murder your kin?), you can play as either a model prisoner or someone who could use a week in The Box, and the story changes depending on your actions. Slashing the throat of a helpful guard? Probably evil. But aiding him could mean a commuted sentence. Expect gallons of blood, plenty of shocks, and enough cussing to scorch your virgin ears.
Prison can be a pretty rough and scary place. Between the undesirable company, humiliating rituals of everyday life, and constant threat of becoming someone's bitch, a maximum security penitentiary fits the definition of survival-horror even without mass-murdering meat puppets with blades for limbs skittering around Action-horror newcomer The Suffering simply throws the lattein for good measure.
Found guilty for murdering his own wife and son, hardened inmate Torque sits on death row while other prisoners banter back and forth with wincingly harsh profan ity. When an earthquake rocks the prison, abominations (whose designs are fittingly inspired by various execution methods) break loose and start raising hell.
Ouring your tension-filled escape, you'll deal pain using weapons like a makeshift shiv or a shotgun borrowed from the body of a mutilated corrections officer. And if you get really pissed off, you'll explode with rage and transform momentarily into a hulking, violent man-beast. 'We want the player to feel empowered in the game world." says Lead Designer Richard Rouse III, 'but still terrified by the disturbing events that take place and the constant feeling that death could be waiting around every corner.'
No matter what the method, you'll be seeing a lot ot red as you take the game's fiends apart piece by piece And with the cleaning staff probably eviscerated and hanging from meat hooks somewhere, bloodstains will stay on the wall and the corpses (or chunks thereof) will stay where they fall We just hope The Suffering end up being as scary as it is messy.
Abbott State Penitentiarys executed convicts are staging a good or haunted prison riot theyre eviscerating guards, inmates, and any other lollygaggers on the premises. As the violent and laconic Torque, you slay your way out of prison, shooting demons and transforming into an abomination yourself now and then, if the mood strikes. With layers of gore and lots of creepy sound effects, The Suffering creates an unrelentingly grim playground for bloody gun battles. The guns themselves are fun to wield: effective, accurate, and powerful. Each monster is based on a method of capital punishment a gimmick, sure, but a very well-done gimmick, thanks to interesting character designs and convincing animation. But whats with the paper-thin story? Torque was convicted of murdering his ex-wife and two kids, but he cant remember if he did it. Thats it. The monster transformation thing is also hokey as hell, but for those of you who dont care about the whys and wherefores if you just want to blast your way through some viscera, heres your game.
Were I a member of The Suffering's parole board, Id recommend a few more months of state-sponsored rehabilitation. While the haunted penitentiary setting and Sam Winstons (The Thing, Predator) creature creations are satisfyingly freaky, this horror show has a few key shortcomings: The story loses steam about two-thirds of the way through; solving puzzles, which are few and far between, requires little brainpower; and its far too easy to survive your sentence with so much free ammo and health lying around.
This haunted prison epic doesnt drop the soap in the proverbial shower; it merely fumbles it and deftly recovers. A standard run-n-gun first- and third-person shooter, The Suffering drapes itself in gore and foul language, but theres hardly a sense that any of it means anything. As horror, the best the game can do is throw up grotesqueries in wave after wave. As an adventure, it demands switch pulling and crate shoving barely worthy of a haunted taco stand. It does, however, provide a modicum of challenge and hold enough intrigue to win it a well-deserved stay of execution.
You've played Resident Evil and were horrified by the wastelands filled with zombies, and you were likely also terrified by the horrific controls. You've played Silent Hill and were terrified by the haunting visuals, while also being haunted by the less than engaging gameplay. Chances are, you've played them both (or at least heard of them), but now it's time to make room for a new contender in the horror genre: The Suffering.
If the title wasn't any indication, then know that The Suffering isn't filled with bunnies and rainbows. Put the kids to bed, it's time for some mature and bloody fun because after seeing the opening cinematic, where blood is aplenty and cussing is in great excess, it's evident to see what audience The Suffering is aimed at.
While just about every horror game aims to create tension through various methods, largely forgoing enjoyable gameplay, The Suffering ditches that line of thought completely and instead focuses on action that manages to be fun. It's mainly straight-up shoot-em action, with some Resident Evil-esque puzzle elements thrown in. In addition however, its fun and switches things up enough to keep things interesting. Unlike most horror games that will separate the bouts of action to create a sense of tension, The Suffering throws enemies at you by the pack, ensuring you'll never be far from action. Unfortunately, the action in The Suffering is hampered by the imprecise controls of the aiming system. It's certainly controls better than Resident Evil or Silent Hill, but it takes a while to get used to and never really feels completely accurate.
Fret not horror fans, The Suffering is still creepy despite its emphasis on action ' it's just creepy in a different sort of way. In horror titles, there are two scare tactics: the so-scary-it-screws-with-your-head scares and the cheaper, shock-based scares. The Suffering goes for the latter, but that's not to say it doesn't work. It's kind of like comparing the scares of your typical slasher flick like Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street to that of a psychologically freaky film like The Ring or Silence of the Lambs ' they both work, but in different ways. However, like those slasher flicks, the scares can sometimes become predictable, but I'm a big enough sissy to get scared anyways.
Like the content, the visuals in The Suffering are dark. Everything has an unmistakable ominous feeling to it that works really well when combined with some of the impressive technical feats of the game, like the lighting and shadow effects. Likewise, the music and voice-acting is top-notch, helping to setup the tense and mysterious atmosphere.
Whether you like horror games or not, there's no denying that The Suffering is a tight and polished package all-around. It's also a bit different from the typical survival horror games, so action aficionados have something to look forward to as well. And despite the name, there won't be much suffering on your part while playing through The Suffering.
Snapshots and Media
- Ao Oni
- Blair Witch: Volume I - Rustin Parr
- Blair Witch: Volume II - La légende de Coffin Rock
- Carrier: The Next Mutation
- The House of The Dead
- The Legacy: Realm of Terror
- The Quivering
- Doom 3
- Doom 64
- Onimusha Warlords
- Resident Evil 4
- Resident Evil: Outbreak
- Resident Evil: Survivor
- Ultimate Doom
- Ghost Master
- Shade: Wrath of Angels
- Silent Hill 4 The Room