"The Suffering set players into the boots of Torque, a prisoner on death row. One day, Torque accidentally killed his wife and two sons. He didnít remember doing it, but ignorance wasn't an excuse the jury would accept. Torque was sent to Carnate Island, Maryland. Since The Suffering is a video game, Abbot Penitentiary was the worst correctional facility imaginable. Unspeakable evils were committed there for hundreds of years, but through a bizarre set of circumstances involving gho..."
The Suffering set players into the boots of Torque, a prisoner on death row. One day, Torque accidentally killed his wife and two sons. He didnít remember doing it, but ignorance wasn't an excuse the jury would accept. Torque was sent to Carnate Island, Maryland. Since The Suffering is a video game, Abbot Penitentiary was the worst correctional facility imaginable. Unspeakable evils were committed there for hundreds of years, but through a bizarre set of circumstances involving ghosts, demons and lots of ammunition, Torque escaped his hopeless situation and set a course for the mainland. The thing about video games is that they usually spawn sequels. For Torque, that means that his break is just about to end. The mainland his little boat is destined for will make him wish he was back in Abbot.
Ties That Bind opens up with a prequel level that shows us Torque sitting in a prison. The prison isn't Abbot, but the one in Baltimore that he was sentenced at. It's the prison he was in when his wife served him with divorce papers. Itís here that you find out (for the first time between both games) that Torqueís wife may have left him because of a mysterious man known as ďBlackmore.Ē
In traditional Suffering fashion, this revelation is presented to you by a group of thugs that are trying to kick Torque's ass. Ties That Bind never fucks around with long cutscenes that go nowhere. You might be left wondering at the end of a cutscene, like future plot developments, but the game only stops the action for a short period of time and then throws you right back in. This might not sound important, but I really appreciated the action focus.
So reader, welcome to The Suffering: Ties That Bind. Torque's nightmarish life continues in much the same way as it did before, except instead of wandering through prison corridors, you now have to wander through the streets of Baltimore. The city has been overrun by vicious demons and of course, the local law enforcement agencies can't stop them. Thankfully for the people of Baltimore, their savior has just floated ashore and he's ready to kick some demon ass.
If you were lucky enough to have played The Suffering, you loved the enemies. I have to hand it to the developers of this series for their creativity. I mean, would you expect anything but a needle-throwing demon in a lethal injection room? Ties That Bind is no different. Maryland was a slave-state way back in the day, so the developers took that history and created mutated dogs to represent the dogs used to track runaway slaves. These like to chase you around when you're running through parts of the Underground Railroad. A lot of enemies from The Suffering also make appearances, but now they have different backgrounds to fit into the city. For example, the needle-throwing demons have made a comeback, but youíll find them around drug users since lethal injection chambers are pretty rare in cities.
While the new enemies, like the previously mentioned slave dogs are fun, they don't seem quite as balanced in Ties That Bind. Sometimes I kicked ass with no problem, but in a couple of situations (where I was a clear favorite for victory), I got killed for pretty lamely. Some enemies just do too much damage and others not enough. This was a bit irritating to say the least. This is offset by a solid checkpoint system and a save-anywhere feature, which puts you right back in the action if you do die, but still, dying with just a few enemies to go is never very fun.
Another change that I wasnít particularly fond of was the way the health system was reworked. In The Suffering, you could carry a few bottles of painkillers to help you out when you needed them, but that feature has been removed in Ties That Bind. When youíre in battles now, you need to hunt for randomly scattered bottles. This really isnít any different than most games, but I think it removes some of the realism in this type of game. Raiding a medicine cabinet or a locker room in the first game and finding a few bottles made sense, but wandering through an abandoned movie theater and finding scattered pill bottles lying around aimlessly is a little less realistic.
Even if I hated the revamped health system, I did like the adaptation of a Halo style weapons system. Instead of having an arsenal of weapons that youíll never use, you can only carry two weapons at a time in Ties That Bind. Not only is this a more believable inclusion, but it also creates more tension. As you run low on ammo and have to rely on your melee and dodge abilities to survive situations, youíll find yourself hunched over and on the edge of your seat, which really ratchets up the tension. Youíll also find yourself utilizing your rage mode (which essentially turns Torque into his enemies for a brief period of time) a lot more than you did in the last game. In some cases enemies canít be killed without it, which is nice because I felt that it was underutilized in The Suffering.
One particular awesome brawl took place outside of a movie theater. I crawled out of a store and walked into an intense battle brewing between police and demons. The police officers died rather quickly and I was left alone to fight off a small army of foes. I was armed with a melee weapon and a shotgun and I was left to roll, duck, and rage my way through crowds of enemies. I smashed my blunt object against any skulls that got in my way and if too many enemies got close inside, I pushed them back with my mighty boomstick. I finally stood alone as the victor. I came away from that battle with a fraction of health left but felt like I really accomplished something.
Ties That Bind feels like a much more refined sequel and it is. Effort was put into making this game better and for the most part, it paid off. The story is lacking and there are a few irritating objectives, but the whole game feels like it was cleaned up and rethought. There are a lot less box moving puzzles, a lot fewer stupid deaths, and at times that action is intense. This is a rare sequel that actually manages to surpass the original. Donít hesitate on picking this one up if youíve played the first one already, and if you havenít played The Suffering, it just might be time to jump on board.
Community review by asherdeus (February 25, 2006)
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