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The Suffering (PlayStation 2) artwork

The Suffering (PlayStation 2) review

"After a certain point in the game, most players will be used to that sort of chaotic action, as The Suffering revels in it. Torque spends much of the game trapped in a lunatic’s nightmare, surrounded by panicking guards and inmates fighting each other, as well as their otherworldly foes."

It doesn’t take long for the casual gamer to realize Torque isn’t the sort of hero the general public will look up to. At The Suffering’s beginning, he’s introduced to the player while being led by a pair of guards to his lonely cell at the end of a maximum-security prison’s death row -- while being besieged by a non-stop barrage of hateful trash talk by one of his escorts.

Perhaps his violent nature is for the best, though. This prison, located on Carnate Island (a fictional off-coast region of Maryland), has a notorious history -- one that’s about to explode as evil spirits manifest themselves to take unholy revenge upon all prisoners and guards unlucky enough to be residing on this cursed soil. To survive, Torque will have to slaughter a few gazillion assorted monstrosities....and perhaps any surviving humans foolish enough to look at him as a source of help.

You see, while it’s up in the air whether Torque actually committed the crime that got him placed on death row (killing his wife and two children), there’s no doubt he’s one seriously messed-up dude. Not only does he suffer from a non-stop series of hallucinations, but whenever he meets another survivor, the guy starts hearing voices. One, belonging to his dearly-departed wife, implores him to help the other person. The other, belonging to Lucifer or some other demon, simply tells him to pick up the weapon of his choice and add to the body count. These decisions aren’t to be taken lightly, as when all is said and done, Torque’s actions determine whether he really was innocent or guilty of the crime that put him on this hellish island.

But there's a lot of work to be done before his verdict is reached. After being the sole death row inmate to avoid premature execution during the initial demon attack, he gets his hands on a shiv and starts looking for a way off Carnate. The creepy atmosphere created by the combination of dark jailhouse corridors and menacing sound effects is enough to make one feel they’ve stepped into a copycat of Silent least until the first of countless Slayers is encountered. While these foes are fond of playing “freak-you-out” mind-games with Torque, scraping the lethal blades that serve as their arms and legs across floors and walls in a very effective attempt at intimidation, it’s their speed that makes them a threat. It won’t take long to figure out Slayers are nothing like those slow-moving zombies common to survival horror games as they sprint with reckless abandon towards Torque before catapulting themselves toward him in a corkscrewing divebomb assault. And they’re among the least of his worries.

Agile midgets spawn from pools of water and blood to fling syringes full of lethal injection fluid at Torque....before leaping on him in an attempt to jam another needle into the burly brute’s neck. Worm-like monsters erupt from the ground, flailing whip-like chains with such viciousness as to make a Belmont cringe. Creepy little girls erupt into flames and do their utmost to burn the sideburns (and skin) off Torque’s face. To have a chance in hell of surviving these and other foes, the player will have to keep their finger glued to the trigger of whatever gun seems to be getting the job done....and that still might not be enough.

While the action is fast-paced and arcade-like, at times almost feeling like a first-person shooter (being able to toggle to a first-person view may have contributed to me getting that impression), there still are a number of old-fashioned survival horror staples in The Suffering. Much like a Resident Evil or Silent Hill game, Torque collects maps to find his way through the jailhouse corridors, as well as a handful of other creepy locations. And, of course, there are the puzzles -- some of which are quite clever.

In attempting to escape the jail, Torque enters a cafeteria, only to watch an explosion result in a wall of flame blocking his planned route of egress. He can activate the sprinkler systems, but the fire isn’t under them, so the water merely trickles through a grate. Ah-ha! By pushing a vending machine over that grate, the sprinkler water will become a small pond capable of putting out the fire. Of course, like I said before, some foes have the bad habit of spawning from substances like water, so while the fire is gone, the player now has another problem to overcome....

After a certain point in the game, most players will be used to that sort of chaotic action, as The Suffering revels in it. Torque spends much of the game trapped in a lunatic’s nightmare, surrounded by panicking guards and inmates fighting each other, as well as their otherworldly foes. Unfortunately, his “quirky” nature plays a big role in creating some of this chaos. In an effort to demonstrate Torque may be of unsound mind, Midway got the bright idea to not only allow him to have visions of his dead family and former atrocities committed on the island, but also to periodically (i.e. near-constantly) suffer from brief hallucinations where the image of a monster or dead person quickly flashes onto the screen. This can (and will) happen at anytime, so prepare to be annoyed during intense battles as Torque has five-second “freak-outs” at random times. An effective way of showing his instability: yes; a good idea: no.

The Suffering also seems to lag a bit during those periods when events lead players outside the confines of the crumbly Carnate buildings. While there are a few effective atmospheric moments in the game’s outdoor regions, I never got the impression they were anything more than bland paths from one important area to the next. Torque would fight a big battle, walk a little farther and fight another battle -- repeating this until reaching his next destination. Compared to the death row block of an imposing prison or a run-down asylum, neither woodland paths nor the caves running through a quarry seemed all that interesting.

Still, it’s hard for me to not like The Suffering. With intense, violent fights (nothing like seeing Torque’s white T-shirt covered with blood -- both his and his enemies’) combined with enough spooky atmosphere to make one think they stumbled into a bizarre combination of a classic, gothic ghost story and one of Lucio Fulci’s more splatter-iffic zombie gore films, this game is a winner. Add in a certain macabre sense of humor that primarily manifests itself in the “interesting” medical techniques implemented by the ghostly Dr. Killjoy (who communicates with Torque via old-timey movie projectors) and this proved to be a game I couldn’t pass up playing.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (July 28, 2006)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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