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The Suffering: Ties that Bind (PlayStation 2) artwork

The Suffering: Ties that Bind (PlayStation 2) review


"Hand-to-hand weapons like lead pipes never need reloaded and can cause a good chunk of damage, but, come on! Do you really want to go head-to-head with a gigantic spider-like demon wielding a slew of guns with nothing more than a lead pipe? Going head-to-head with these foes as an enraged monster makes a lot more sense and you will be doing that a lot. In Ties that Bind, it’s a lot more necessary to enter Torque’s rage mode. There are a lot of rooms where his monster form is necessary to smash through walls and a few monsters are invulnerable to everything except being torn limb from limb by a big, psychotic demon."



Even though Torque was able to escape the Carnate Island prison complex, it won’t take long for players to find out in The Suffering: Ties that Bind that he wasn’t able to get away from either the hordes of murderous monsters unleashed at that site or his own personal demons.

In the first game, it was disclosed that Torque had been sent to Carnate due to supposedly killing his wife and two sons. The decisions made by the player as far as keeping other characters alive or snuffing them in cold blood played a huge role in determining if Torque was a sick psycho, a poor fellow who was framed or if he did commit murder.....but accidentally.

Ties that Bind apparently assumes that his route followed the most neutral of the three in the original, as the game starts right where that ending concluded -- with our “hero” (after a brief, yet utterly insane, flashback to one of his stints in the pen) riding towards Baltimore in a stolen boat. As he reaches the docks, he’s immediately captured by members of what seems to be a highly-trained army. Fortunately for ol’ Torque, those monsters that constantly were trying to slaughter him at Carnate make a comeback and the ensuing chaos affords him an opportunity to escape.

As Torque wanders the mean streets of the Baltimore projects, only stopping to occasionally blast a junkie’s head off with a shotgun (yeah, I decided to go pure EEEEEEVIL here), it becomes more and more clear that a shady crime lord named Blackmore has a lot to do with our protagonist’s issues, as his presence played a huge role in Torque’s marital problems which, of course, resulted in him being surrounded by a dead family. And returning to “guide” Torque as he tries to figure out exactly what’s wrong with him is the comically malevolent Dr. Killjoy, who continues to exhort the fellow to unleash his savage beast-like nature on his foes.

It’s a bit less clear what purpose Copperfield and the Creeper play. Much like Horace and Hermes from Carnate Island, these two are ghosts. Copperfield was a racist slave-chaser who had no qualms about setting his ravenous hounds upon those slaves he’d run down. And the Creeper makes him look like a nice guy! This former pimp had a few misfiring synapses in his brain, which caused him to decide that torturing and butchering his “ladies of the night” would be a fine pastime. It’s safe to assume these two will fill Torque’s ears with all sorts of uplifting advice....

Midway did a fine job of making sure that even though Ties that Bind is very similar in premise to the original Suffering, with a hero of questionable sanity having to get morality lessons from ghosts while killing all sorts of disturbing critters, it’s not the same game. A lot of the survival horror elements that were present in the first game seem to have been either minimized or simply eradicated in order to focus on the fast-paced arcade-style of fighting. For virtually the entire time I was playing Ties that Bind, I switched to first-person view simply because the action here was fast and unforgiving, meaning the classic Resident Evil style of play control would ensure that Torque would get slaughtered time and time again while trying to turn around to face whatever was gnawing on his leg.

You can only hold two weapons at any given time, putting a lot of strategy into that fighting. Certain machine guns can hold over 200 bullets at once, but are weak and ineffective against most foes. The shotgun is far more effective at killing most things, but takes forever to reload and needs to be reloaded constantly. Hand-to-hand weapons like lead pipes never need reloaded and can cause a good chunk of damage, but, come on! Do you really want to go head-to-head with a gigantic spider-like demon wielding a slew of guns with nothing more than a lead pipe? Going head-to-head with these foes as an enraged monster makes a lot more sense and you will be doing that a lot. In Ties that Bind, it’s a lot more necessary to enter Torque’s rage mode. There are a lot of rooms where his monster form is necessary to smash through walls and a few monsters are invulnerable to everything except being torn limb from limb by a big, psychotic demon.

Just hope the questionable camera angles you’ll confront when in monster form doesn’t cause some critter to blindside you, as Torque now is unable to store Zombium medicine to use when he needs a health boost. The instant he walks near a bottle, it’s immediately consumed. While that is annoying, I have to admit it adds a lot to the strategy needed to handle certain foes. There are a number of enemies (both new and old) in Ties that Bind that are capable of TEARING Torque up in seconds. Without being able to go to a menu and chug medicine the instant you screw up, you have to learn these monsters’ tendencies.

Take the Suppressor, for example. This fine fellow crawls on the ground with a flashlight embedded into its head. As long as it doesn’t focus the light on Torque, it’s quite passive. The instant it “sees” him, though, that thing’s blasting hot lead with frightening intensity. Obviously, the key is to take these guys out without them seeing Torque....something that can be easier said than done. I remember cowering behind a pillar at one point, only leaving my cover long enough to wing a grenade or two, until one of those beasts was dead. That was a pretty tense situation right there and there are plenty more like that during the course of this game.

Two flaws really keep those tense fights from being what I remember most about Ties that Bind, though. For me, some of the most memorable parts of the first game simply revolved around how genuinely creepy Carnate’s facilities were. Adding to this was the large number of voices that added to this vibe -- both those of living guards and inmates over intercoms and those of ghosts, which broadcast the vast number of horrid events that’d taken place on the island throughout the years. Unfortunately, with this game being more action-oriented, it seems like very few areas really were that captivating. Torque spends a lot of his time going down ghetto streets and through seedy tenements -- but really doesn’t visit the sort of locale that does this sort of game justice until the latter chapters (which, as you might expect, is another prison).

That pales in comparison to the glitches I suffered through while trying to play this game. As I neared the end, it seemed the game would freeze nearly every time I took on certain frenetic boss fights, making advancing past them to be a torturous experience. Of course, since this game lets players save at any time, one might think I could simply save as often as possible, so if the game freezes, I wouldn’t lose too much progress. A great idea, but every once in a while, saving in the middle of a battle or series of fights can cause another glitch where a certain event (like a door opening so you can exit) never gets triggered, essentially ending the game. It seemed to me this game was rushed out to the market before thoroughly play-tested.

Without the glitches -- which, admittedly, may not be a factor for everyone, as a friend of mine commented he’d never had AS MANY freezes as I did -- this would have been a very good, fast-paced game that quite often seemed more reminiscent of Doom than Silent Hill or Resident Evil. With them, by the time I’d gotten to the final few chapters, I was ready to put this one down with utter disgust. While I wouldn’t go as far as to not recommend Ties that Bind, if you pick this one up and find the experience ruined by glitches, don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

Rating: 6/10

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Staff review by Rob Hamilton (June 08, 2007)

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

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