STAFF REVIEW of The Suffering (Xbox)

Monday, April 12, 2004.
by Chewy

The Suffering Box art Remember all of those crazy thoughts you had when your parents put you to bed at night? That shadow on the wall that looked like a hunchback? The noise that you were sure came from your closet? The feeling that you were being watched? Surreal Software has bottled all of those feelings and mashed them into a game. First I have a disclaimer for parents. The Suffering IS NOT FOR YOUNGER GAMERS!!! I would like to make sure that people realize this in advance. If you are squeamish at all, or get weak in the knees at the sight of blood this is a game you should avoid. If you like action/horror games or are a gore fan you are going to love this game.

In the Suffering you play Torque a man convicted of murdering his wife and family. Torque has no memory of the murders at all and the way you play the game will actually determine what happened to your family. After you are escorted to your cell the other inmates begin talking about you and your crimes. Just as things get going there is a huge earthquake and all hell brakes loose. Monsters slaughter your fellow inmates and begin to trash the entire prison. You manage to get armed with a knife that you pull out of a still warm inmate and get ready to face the horrors of Abbotsford Penitentiary.

And what horrors you have to face. Monsters abound in this thriller. You find yourself leaning forward on your seat after just 20 minutes of playing anticipating the next creature leaping from the darkness. This game completely sucks you in and immerses you into Torque?s world. Everything from the sound, the fantastic lighting and the pacing of the game does everything to make you forget about the couch you are sitting on and gets you caught up in the action.

All along during the game you can access the penitentiary security camera. Some of these play out attack by creatures on guards; others let you see ghosts that aren?t really there. There is a ghost of a past doctor that worked at the jail that talks to you directly. I won?t tell you anymore as I don?t want to spoil any of the story. The story that follows the past of the Abbotsford Penitentiary, giving you insight into the lives of the past tortured souls that inhabited the prison.

This is both a first person shooter, and a third person adventure game. What is that he says, both first and third person? No my mind has not been completely turned to pudding from too many hours of The Suffering; the game actually lets you switch easily and quickly between the two viewing modes. The first person mode works well with the guns and without much peripheral vision makes the game even scarier than it already is. The third person is a great running around mode as well as working better when you are attacking with hand to hand weapons. In third person mode the camera is completely controlled by the right thumb stick. The control is nice and simple and easy to use and very intuitive.

The game is much faster paced than a lot of the survival horror games that you may have played before. There are a fair number of monsters that not only do a great job of attacking, but also do a great job of hiding in the middle of an attack. So after you have shot a creature once it might take off and hide, only to attack moments later. And let me tell you, when you have almost no health or ammo left, looking for that last monster that got away is awfully stressful.

The usual puzzles are here to solve, but they are fairly simple, and tend to not force you to run back and forth across maps in a strange scavenger hunt that some games resort to. The NPC?s that you come across in this game help you find your way through the large levels, and get you to the exit points faster. You have two ways of dealing with the other humans you come across. Help them out, and they will help you, or blast them in the melon with a shotgun and go through their pockets. This is one of the really different areas of this game. As you deal with NPC that you meet you will hear two voices in your head pulling you indifferent directions. It is like the good cop/bad cop thing. The good cop is Torque?s wife telling you to help the people, while this other evil, nasty voice is telling you they are wastes of skin and to kill them off. You choose.

As you suffer more and more horrors you gain an ability that you never knew you had. You can change into this monstrous beast that dispatches everything in its path with ease. But be wary of using it too much, you never know where this dark path may lead.

The visuals on this game are well done. Great dark shadows, moody lighting everything you could possibly want in an action/horror game. The prison, and the other locals, are all fantastically done. Small details like radio on desks, and blood streaks on the floors once again drag you deeper into the game. While it might not have lots of shiny reflective surfaces for you to oohh and aww over the game does a great job of putting you in a dark, dirty, nasty prison that you are more than happy to try and escape from.

Monsters, creatures, whatever you would like to call them are off the hook. When the first Mainliner (a creature packed full of potassium chloride needles) jumps onto you and tries to stick his needle into your neck you are going to see what I mean. Their motion is seamless and just the look of them makes your skin crawl. They do everything you can think of. The Slayers (a decapitated creature with is hands and feet replaced by massive blades) are capable of running up the walls and along the ceiling. Trying to shoot on of them off a poorly lit ceiling is just one of the difficulties you will have saying alive.

Staying alive isn\'t the only issue either, staying sane should be high on your list as well. Sometimes when you enter an area that has an horrific scenes laid out, you have some type of strange flashback. I think Torque may have done a bit too much acid in the 70\'s and is paying the price now.

The sound is very well done in this game. The voice acting is terrific, and if you are piping your sound through your surround sound stereo you are going to be hearing the baddies creeping up from behind you. One thing that I really noticed is the matching of the voices to the actions the characters are taking in the games. There are no stuttering characters who are not matching the sound coming out of your speakers. This applies to both the cut scenes, and the in game dialog that you get with some of the other inmates or guards. The Suffering also does a good job of volume changes. I know it sounds silly but if you have been creeping along, only with ambient noises then there is a crash of broken glass and a body flies past your nose, it scares the liver out of you.

I have one very simple comment for the makers of the Suffering. If you put the amount of work, thought and polish into every game you make you are going to be turning out hit after hit. Good job Surreal.

Overall: 10.0 / 10
Gameplay: 10.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.6 / 10
Sound: 9.8 / 10


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