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The Suffering

Review By:  Nick Arvites

Developer:  Surreal Software
Publisher:  Midway
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Survival Horror
ESRB:  Mature
Online:  No
Accessories:  HDTV 480p
Date Posted: 

4-7-04

Horror games, like horror movies, tend to be either extremely good or extremely bad. I personally havenít enjoyed the genre since the earlier Resident Evil games. The slow pace present in many horror games wouldnít hold my interest, especially if I got stuck with an extremely difficult puzzle and/or bad controls (Evil Dead for the Dreamcast, Iím looking at you). Even then, most horror games were clichťd, taking way too many notes from zombie movies and the Resident Evil series. With all of these preconceptions, a copy of The Suffering from Midway landed on my desk.

The Suffering immediately changed the pace. You donít play a likable guy in a city or old mansion. You play as Torque, a man on death row for killing his wife and two children. The game begins as Torque is transferred to death row. You get the immediate prison feel by the massive amounts of profanity in the opening cut scene. About one minute into the cut scene, the power goes out and your fellow death row inmates are slaughtered by semi-visible creatures. Torque gets out of his cell and starts exploring the prison. The game is pretty uneventful for the first fifteen minutes, only seeing mutilated guards, prisoners, and trails of blood throughout the prison. However, you soon encounter the first of the twisted creatures present in this game, and they donít let up for the rest of the game.

The creatures present in this game are twisted representations of execution methods on the bodies of the living dead. The creature design was done by Stan Winston Studios. If that name sounds familiar, you might remember it as the studio responsible for creating the look of characters in Terminator, Predator, and Aliens (among other projects). The end results are some of the most hideous horror creatures in any video game or movie. The creature design separates this game from almost every other horror game out there, and adds to the overall disturbing and often disgusting atmosphere of The Suffering.

The gameplay of The Suffering is more akin to Evil Dead: Fistful of Boomstick. If you havenít played that game, it basically means that youíll be walking around annihilating hordes of undead while trying to stay alive. Granted, you wonít see nearly as many on the screen as you did in Evil Dead, but itís the same concept. Almost. See, The Suffering has a twist. Torque isnít exactly mentally stable. He doesnít remember murdering his family and has a history of blackouts. His instability is augmented by the constant voices shooting through his head telling him to be merciful or cruel, as well as flashbacks and visions of his family and inner demons. These inner demons are materialized by the insanity meter. When that meter fills up, Torque can turn into a giant monster that tears through everything. However, this special attack is limited and can only last as long as the insanity meter still has some juice in it. What you do in various situations determines which ending you get. These situations range from wasting a potential lackey/extra gunman to executing people or indiscriminately killing people who arenít attacking you.

The extreme and gratuitous violence in The Suffering may keep some people away. Blood is rampant, heads fly off, and mutilated bodies missing limbs litter the entire game. Some of the cut scenes are enough to make even the most hardcore horror fan cringe, and some of the creatures and situations will make you jump. The entire creepy environment is enhanced by the island prison that youíre on. This island has it all: graveyards, a prison, an old asylum, and a long history of supernatural horrific events. Weapons were fairly limited in my opinion. Sure, they have the standard pistols, shotguns, machineguns, and explosives, but thatís about it. Granted, the inclusion of the shiv (or shank) as the initial weapon gives this game a further prison feel. 

The difficulty of this game isnít really that bad. It sort of reminded me of Max Payne, whereas if you managed your painkiller use and knew how to gun down everything before it killed you, you shouldnít die unless you run out of ammo or get swarmed. However, unlike Max Payne, your enemies generally wonít have firearms (with the exception of a few undead with projectiles and the occasional group of prison guards). Skillful players can decimate enemies from long distance. The hardest parts of the game usually entail being stuck in a certain room while being swarmed by waves of enemies. In a few instances, you have to figure out a stupid puzzle to get out of the room while fending off attackers. Overall, the game generally becomes frustrating once every couple of levels and this usually happens when the pace slows down (meaning some form of a puzzle). The puzzles arenít hard, but they arenít clear either. The slower paced areas seem to disrupt the flow of the game. If youíre going to have a progressive pace that involves fragging creature after creature, you donít want to suddenly change that pace and, inadvertently, style of the game for a certain amount of time.

The sound is excellent. The atmospheric sounds, voices, and music fit perfectly. Prisoners and guards sound like they belong there, the voices in your head have a distinct real-yet-not-real feeling, and the ambient sounds set up a perfectly scary atmosphere. My only major problem with the sound of this game is the lack of surround sound support. This game screams for 5.1 Surround Sound. Utilizing surround sound would make the game even scarier.

The controls feel average, albeit slightly awkward in certain situations. The learning curve is generally about five minutes, although switching weapons and items is harder than it should be. If an enemy gets alongside you, it feels really awkward trying to turn to fight him. They need polish, but the controls arenít horrible. One interesting feature is the ability to switch from 3rd to 1st person views. Changing the view can be useful if youíre trying to precisely shoot something, but I generally stuck in 3rd person view because the controls in 1st person view were far too sluggish and the view was far too limited for my tastes.

Highs:

  • Creature design is amazing
  • Faster pace for a horror game
  • Perfect Horror Atmosphere
  • A needed breath of fresh air for the horror genre
  • Beautifully disturbing

Lows:

  • No 5.1 Surround Sound support
  • Controls need to be polished
  • Pace can get erratic
  • The game can get monotonous after awhile

Final Verdict: 

The Suffering is a breath of fresh air for the horror genre. Far too many games took the route of Resident Evil or Parasite Eve and made the genre far too slow and too focused on conserving ammo. Thankfully, The Suffering changes the pace completely through an almost Max Payne pace.

The main problem many people will have with The Suffering is the massive justification for the M rating. Profanities are almost as rampant as the mutilated corpses, as one might expect from a group of people fighting and running from horrible legions of the undead. The violence is pretty extreme. While not as bad as something like Manhunt, the violence level in The Suffering is about a 9 on a 10 point scale. If you canít stomach extreme violence and profanity or you plan on buying this for a younger child, you may want to reconsider this game. However, if you love horror and action games, definitely check out The Suffering for one of the best horror-action experiences the genre has seen in years.

Overall Score: 7.9

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