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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Midway

 

Developer

Surreal Software

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q1 2004

 

 

- Perfectly creepy storyline draws you into the game and keeps you transfixed there until the end
- Plenty of unexpected scares throughout the entire game combined with accompanying deathly spine-chilling music create a frightening aura that push this into the ranks of the horror game classics

 

 

- Whatever the unofficial record for most cusswords in a video game was before, this game totally annihilates it
- Bucket upon bucket of blood and overall murderous mayhem not for the weak of heart or stomach
- Controls can get difficult to handle efficiently when confronted by enemies like Slayers that attack quickly and from all directions

 

 

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The Suffering

Score: 8.7 / 10

 

the suffering xbox review          the suffering xbox review

 

There are many monsters locked away in the prisons of America. The crimes these inmates have committed are so vile and so heinous, they have become in the eyes of many as now less-than-human -- a monstrosity caged away, never allowed to be free amongst the general population again. After a while, it’s not hard to imagine that the very walls of the frightening penitentiaries that contain these evil men become themselves evil, giving solid form to an unseen entity: the inherent evil that lies deep down within every man and woman, even if it never violently surfaces in most of us.

This is what makes the setting of the Abbott State Penitentiary on Carnate Island in the horror title, The Suffering, so fitting. But it’s not the inmates who are the monsters here: there’s real supernatural beasts rampaging through this penal complex, and they don’t take prisoners. Instead, they’re hell-bent on explicit bloody carnage, intent on killing until there’s no one left to kill. These monsters aren’t choosy, either, wiping out both inmates and the guards and authorities that run the

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penitentiary.

You’ll be placed in the shoes of Torque, who has just been sent to Abbott State for the crime of murdering his wife and two young sons. Torque is the perfect anti-hero in the mold of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City’s Tommy Vercetti. Torque’s apparently done the crime, so he’s doing the time. Unfortunately, Torque’s has the bad luck of having his the first five minutes of his

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arrival to Abbott State see the arrival of complete murderous slaughter at the hands of supernatural forces. The only chance Torque has to survive the onslaught is to escape Abbott State, a seemingly impossible task considering how everybody else in the joint is being systematically eliminated by increasingly ghoulishly and gory means. Even worse, to start out the only weapon of defense you have against these creatures is a shiv pulled from one of the bodies of your would-be inmate companions. On top of that Torque isn’t exactly in an emotionally and mentally stable state.

Throughout the game, Torque never speaks one line of dialogue. But the story of how Torque found himself a resident of Abbott State is told through grisly flashbacks recollecting the death of his family. It’s done well, too, because until the very end it is unclear if Torque is really guilty or not.

And that was done purposely, because depending on how you interact with non-playable characters you encounter during your escape attempt affects the ending of the game. If you give in to the insanity of the situation and off every NPC you meet you’ll get the “bad” ending.

Try to help the NPCs as much as possible, and you’ll get the “good” ending. There’ also an in-between ending. In another interesting twist you have sort of devil-on-one-shoulder, angel-on-the-other voices in your head when you come across other characters. The “devil” tells you to do evil, the “angel” (the voice of your dead wife) tells you to do good. It’s up to you to choose which voice to listen to, but take some advice: a few of the NPCs absolutely must be followed and cooperated with to advance in the game. If you kill them like the “devil” tells you to do, then you will be forced to restart from a point prior to their death at your hands.

 

the suffering xbox review         the suffering xbox review


There are also plenty of bizarre, insane visions of bloody death and mayhem, supernatural beings, and Doctor Killjoy, which is the ghostly apparition responsible for the current evil state of affairs at Abbott State.

The voice acting of Killjoy is done well, and so are the voices of Torque’s deceased wife and children, who are just creepy enough to give you more-than-occasional chills. But much of the other voice acting in the game, especially the prison guards and inmates you run into, are below average. Another warning here: this game isn’t for the virginal ears of youngsters. Don’t let Senator Joe Lieberman in on this, but The Suffering by far has got to hold the all-time record for most cusswords ever heard in a video game. It almost seems that every single line of dialogue has some sort of cussword in it. I’m talking about the worst of the worst too. F-bombs explode all over The Suffering so much so that it would even make George Carlin blush. Put it this way: every single of Carlin’s infamous “seven dirty words” is heard in The Suffering except the tamest one, which is a crass way of describing a woman’s breast. A rough estimate is around 300 utterances of cusswords that fall within the “dirty word” classification. The Suffering is definitely not a game you want to be playing while young ears are within hearing distance.

Even considering the sometimes-weak voice work, The Suffering does an amazing job using sound to create a scary game. Hearing and then seeing a huge, colossal beast running down a dark hallway, the closer-and-closer scraping of the deadly metal appendages of the nasty creatures filling the prison inside and out, and out-of-nowhere flashbacks accompanied by appropriately frightening music means plenty of sound-induced scares will be had by all. There are those heartbeat-increasing frights that only the best games of the horror genre have had. Remember the classic moment in the original Resident Evil when the two mutated dogs jump through the window and scare the hell out of you? The Suffering contains plenty of that, especially while you are still trapped inside the prison. If you like really scary games, you’ll unquestionably enjoy The Suffering in that regard.

Visually, The Suffering has an unbelievable amount of gore and blood. Decapitations, impalings, and practically any kind of overly-bloody killing method possible occurs in the game. (The Suffering really does earn its “M”-rating – keep out of reach of children!) The character models of the inmates and prison employees are okay, but it’s Torque and the supernatural evildoers that are done particularly well. And that’s due in large part to the influence of famed Hollywood creature designer Stan Winston, who uses his Tinseltown experience in monster-making to breathe life into The Suffering’s creature roster, including the impressively rendered vaporous deadly-gas boss character and the final large and imposing Hell’s Gate-looking beast of deathly burden. The creatures are unique from each other, and each is based on a ghastly form of execution, from firing squad to lethal injection, to the scorching apparitions that are the ethereal form of young girls burned at the stake for being witches.

Another notable visual is the “monster” within Torque himself. The game tracks a “rage” meter for Torque. If he gets sufficiently enraged to fill the meter, then you can turn Torque into a hulking, razor-clawed killing machine that not even the strongest of The Suffering’s enemies can defeat. This is supposed to be an only-in-Torque’s-mind transformation, so although you aren’t actually that “monster” running around killing everything, you have superhuman strength. But you have to be careful, because if Torque stays in his “monster” state too long (when the rage meter runs out) then you will die.

Also, the nine environments that comprise the saturated evil that is Abbott State Penitentiary are ridiculously unnerving. The Suffering is at its scary best while you are inside the prison and in the asylum outside the prison grounds, and having everything dark and fog-covered just adds more bloodcurdling drama to the overall mood of the game.

The mechanisms in place to control Torque are the most uneven aspect of The Suffering. Although you can play the game in either first-person or third-person perspective (the default setting is third-person), I played the entire game in third-person because it was much easier to gauge the placement of enemies, particularly when you where under attack from a multitude of crazed killing creatures at once. Fortunately, you’re given a full arsenal of weapons including double pistols, machine guns, axes, shotguns and incendiary devices like Molotov cocktails to take out the forces of evil. And there’s more than enough health restores and ammo lying around that you never have to worry about not having the necessary equipment in order to kill efficiently.

I really would have liked to see a control scheme that allowed you to move in one direction while shooting in another a la Hunter: The Reckoning, because it would have made battling those you are trying to kill you a lot less stressful, especially considering how long-lasting the gameplay hours add up in The Suffering. It will easily take you over 15-20 hours to finish the entire game. The only regret is that the last few levels fizzle out on the scare meter until the last great boss battle finally ends your quest for escape.

One last mention, concerning the extra features included on the game disc. There is a mini-documentary detailing the supposedly most-haunted former prison around, Eastern State Penitentiary in the Philadelphia area. The documentary talks about many of the frightening ghost sightings that have taken place since the prison was shut down just a few decades ago. Even though there are tours of the facility to this day, even the bravest of the brave tour guides wouldn’t be caught dead in Eastern State Penitentiary after dark. What’s especially unsettling to me is that I live just a mere 30 minutes away from this sinister structure. I’m not ashamed to admit I haven’t dared toured the place and, after watching the documentary on The Suffering, I don’t plan to anytime soon.

Yes, The Suffering is one downright frightening game, taking you for a long-lasting and not-for-the-weak-of-heart horror ride that is scarily enjoyable right from the start until it regrettably loses steam in its latter stages. The Suffering isn’t as good an action game as it is a horror game, but despite some stumbles in its composition it still provides some incredible horror and scare moments that only a rare few games have been able to bestow to the horror genre.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(April 25, 2004)
 

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