The Suffering Review

Review Format:

Playstation 2

Until now, the horror genre has been defined by titles that concentrate more on elaborate puzzle solving, then heart-pounding gameplay. Midway Games (of Mortal Kombat fame) are set to change all this with their own stab at the genre in ‘The Suffering’. Best described as a mix between ‘Resident Evil’, ‘Max Payne’ and an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, ‘The Suffering’ is an action-packed, psychological horror from start to finish.

On death row, a Neanderthal named Torque breaks free from his cell when the prison is overrun with ghostly reincarnations of tortured prisoners. Both inmates and prison guards get butchered around you as they desperately attempt to escape their confines. Armed initially with only with a knife, you must carve your way through the prison while trying to discover the true history of your incarceration. As you progress through the game, sudden disturbing visions hint at past atrocities that you may, or may not have committed. You can play through the game in either first, or third person views, dependent on your preference.

Sidestepping the traditional zombies and giant spiders, Midway have injected some inspired originality into their demonic creations. Based on designs by Academy Award winning special effects Artist Stan Winston (Jurassic Park, Terminator 3, and Aliens), each monster is based on a form of execution. For example, the lethal injection inspired Mainliner is covered in glowing needles, which even protrude from its eye sockets. The beheading based Slayer has massive blades for limbs, and can run along walls and ceilings with lightening speed. Marksmen are huge beasts with several automatic machine guns attached to their backs. Hangmen fall from the ceiling, grab you by the throat and try and pull you back up with them. Burrowers on the other hand burst through the floor, swinging steel chains maniacally. These are only a few of the insane creations seeking to end your life in the most barbaric ways ever known to man.

The creatures display signs of intelligence, getting into a defensive position to deflect potential gunfire, or retreating back in order to regroup. Each beast has an entirely different attack pattern, which will keep you on your toes, as multiple enemies will attack at once.

To deal with hordes of the undead, you are equipped with a tasty arsenal of weapons. From a basic axe, duel-revolvers, machine gun or flamethrower, each weapon is useful in different situations. There are also a variety of ranged weapons such as flash grenades, Molotov cocktails and TNT. Most effective, and indeed most funny, is the bizarrely named Gonzo gun. This rare item is in fact a live chicken, which when released, will flap into the nearest enemy and destroy them on impact. Humorously, this unique weapon leaves not a puddle of blood on the floor, but a massive fried egg.

There are a variety of straightforward puzzles to contend with, such as standard lever pulling, pushing a car into a river to make a rudimentary bridge, or wedging a block into a broken door. None of which get in the way of the gameplay, which keeps up a frantic pace throughout. Some of the monsters also need creative thinking in order to rid of them. The pesky Mainliner will spawn continuously near a water supply, but if you can somehow drain the water, or cut off it’s supply, the threat will be no more. Some end-of-level bosses also require more then just heavy gunfire to defeat them, but I’ll leave you to figure that out for yourselves.

For reasons that are initially unclear, Torque has the ability to change into a powerful monster for short periods of time. When the action intensifies, your Hulk-like anger metre fills. Once fully charged, you can transform at will to perform a range of special power based attacks. Maintaining this form takes a lot out of Torque, so be sure to change back before the metre completely diminishes, or it’ll be game over.

To say that ‘The Suffering’ is gory would be an understatement. Blood splatters on walls, mangled limbs lay rotting on the floor, and as enemies perish, you will get covered from head to toe in their remains. Levels are dark, disturbing, and death lurks behind every shadow. Armed with a dimly lit torch and a few flares, being able to see is a privilege only rewarded by keeping your battery supply full. Each of the nine levels builds upon the mystery of the Alcatraz-like prison island. Beginning in a prison cell, your journey will take you to an insane asylum, predator filled woods, lighthouse, underground caverns, while exploring the darkest recesses of your mind.

Like any good horror film, the in-game soundtrack also helps build the tension. Thunderous footsteps of a distant enemy threaten at what’s to come, while something else quietly shuffles on the ceiling above. Voices of your dead family echo down the corridors, and tortured prisoners scream out desperately for help. If the visual details don’t put you on edge, the sound effects definitely will.

The Suffering offers three distinctive endings, based on your actions during the game. There are many scenarios where you are presented with the opportunity to save someone, kill them, or just leave them to get eaten. Will you be tempted to pull the lever next to the electric chair, or release poison into the gas chamber? These moral decisions affect your positive and negative karma, and ultimately, the way the story ends.

Adding to the mystery of the game is a number of DVD style, bonus features. A behind-the-scenes featurette offers interviews with the games developers, early production art, plus an in-depth look into the making of the game. ‘Inside a Haunted Prison’, is a documentary about Eastern state penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Considered to be one of the most haunted prisons in the United States, the feature adds to the mythology regarding ‘The Suffering’. Concluding the special features is a bonus trailer for ‘Psi-Ops: The MindGate Conspiracy’, a forthcoming Midway game.

The Suffering is a deeply violent game set in a nightmarish prison environment. With fantastic character design, over 20 frantic hours of gameplay, and chilling plot, The Suffering is a fun and highly playable title for anyone with a strong stomach.

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