The Sufferingby Stephen Cameron
January 13, 2004
At 2am and all the lights are out in the house. The only light is from the flickering of the game on the screen in front of you. Wait… did that sound come from the game, or is there someone opening the door to the house? You quickly go check, but everything is fine. The controller seems a bit sweaty, and your heart is racing. All of these things are good signs when you are talking about a horror style game. These all were happening as I was previewing this copy of The Suffering from Midway.
The Suffering is an action/adventure horror style game set in a maximum security prison. You are Torque a convicted killer who is sent to wait out his sentence in Abbott Penitentiary, convicted of killing his family. It is not apparent if you have really done the things that you are accused of, but it seems that the choices you make during the game will help decide what has happened in the past. The developer, Surreal Software, has mentioned that there are a number of endings, which one you get to see depends on the way you play the game.
The first thing I noticed about this game was the incredibly immersive sound. You find yourself turning madly in circles trying to locate the source of a sound, or gripping the controller tighter and tighter as the volume increases. Excellent voices teamed with good environmental sounds have you straining to hear the next scrape of a blade to announce arrival of another demon. Dark, dreary lighting and an even darker and more twisted world really drag you into the story.
This game is not for the light of heart, I found myself pleasantly repulsed at a number of times during the story. There are more decapitated bodies in this game than there are pointy ears at a Star Trek convention. Blood abounds, and gruesomely executed guards and prisoners is the norm. But, just like that car crash on the side of the road, no matter how nasty the game gets, you still slow down and crane your neck to get another look. The Suffering does not seem to have endless types of creatures, but the ones that were there were creepy. The “Needle Demons” as I called them, throw needles as its ranged weapons, and then when it gets close enough to pounce, it attempts to jab the needles into your neck. (See movie) And once you get to see the “Knife Demons” running on the ceilings and walls like spiders your stress level begins to rise.
One of the things that help separate Torque from the rest of the prisoners in Abbott Penitentiary is that you have something going on inside of you. You have had blackouts for most of your life, and you are never really sure what has happened during these lost hours. Throughout the game you have psychotic flashes, hearing voices, hallucinations to just name a few. After killing all manners of otherworldly creatures, how is a prisoner to relax? Well, when your rage meter is full, you have the ability to change into a massive, hulking demon. You end up being nastier than most of the creatures you are fighting, and also making it feel strange and stressful while you are in this creature form with screen motion and heartbeat sounds etc.
In some horror games you are the only person around. Left to wander a mostly empty world alone, and doing nothing but fighting hoard of monsters. While the suffering has times of loneliness, many other times you have human backup, and get to see interaction between other people and monsters. Some of this is done using cut scenes, but others are during live play, and you can intervene if you see fit. It certainly helps get you immersed in the game.
It did take me a short while to get the camera control down, but once I did it seem to get easier as time went on. I did find myself using the first person camera when I knew that there might be some sniping needed. Be warned however that the monsters easily get behind you in this game, so make sure you are back to a wall before you start using that first person on a regular basis.
If you like the Horror genre, or are a Lovecraft Cthulhu fan you should look into this game. I can only hope that this game comes packaged with some extra pairs of underwear, because they may be necessary.