Review by Old Rooster
"Bloody Hell!" Comment by Mrs. Old Rooster
It takes a good deal for my proper British wife to utter such an
expletive. However, when she gingerly peeked over my gameplaying
shoulder to view a particularly graphic scene from The Suffering,
she just couldn't help herself. And my response was: "Exactly,
I love a pleasant surprise, especially since I've been a bit bored
lately with copycat games. Picking up The Suffering "on
spec" (as the Mrs. would say), I hoped it was more than a Resident
Evil-type gore fest or a prison break-out. The nasty box cover
hints at an electrocuted convict, perhaps coming back to life to
wreak havoc. Ignore that. The Suffering is a wonderful, immersive
"haunted prison island" thriller driven by an involving
story with open paths, good and evil choices, and three different
endings. Sure, there are plenty of monsters to dispatch (this is
a "shooter" by category, after all), but the entire project
is so richly embellished by the overarching storyline that the monster
bashing seems quite secondary to the chilling exploration and desire
to see the next cutscene.
A Nice Place to Visit (Not!)
How about a little flight or boat ride to Carnate Island? Hey,
you could then be "in Carnate"little religious play
on words there; sorry. Only 10 miles off the coast of Maryland,
this fictional vacation haven has a rich history, worthy of your
consideration. Puritans, among my favorite folks, first settled
there in the 17th century, had a few fun witch burnings, but then
encountered an unexplained problem several decades later leading
to the disbanding of the group. Not to be discouraged, a wealthy
family purchased this garden spot in the late 19th century, enjoying
the occasional trauma and strange incident until moving away 20
years later. Within the next few years, the good Dr. Killjoy founded
the Carnate Institution for the Alienated (C.I.A.), using the mansion
and its grounds. This was abandoned in the late 1920s, with unpleasant
rumors remaining about Killjoy's methodology. But I'm sure they're
exaggeratedbarbarism and depravity, indeed. How could that
be? He was a doctor, took the Hippocratic Oath, and must have been
a caring man.
In the 1930s, the Feds stepped in, likely appreciating the scenic
value of Carnate during Maryland springtime. They didn't get out
much, though, using the grounds as a secure POW site, with rumors
of numerous executions abounding. Finally, the State of Maryland
couldn't resist the opportunity to use Carnate for its own purposes.
Employing the real estate maxim of "location, location, location,"
they not only created a maximum security prison for the very worst
offenders of society, but also used several methods of executionranging
from the formalities of electric chair and lethal injection to informal
allowing of prisoners to have at each other. As we said, wouldn't
you like to make a little visit, do some exploring? Talk to the
"natives?" Lots of history. You can take notes, perhaps
write a nice article. C'mon along.
"My First Day on the Island, I Knew My Life Was Over"
We join and play as Torque, a newly arrived prisoner, who has been
convicted of the grisly murder of his wife and children. Our "hero"
has no sooner settled in than an earthquake hits, shaking loose
not only mortar and electrical workings, but also some most unpleasant
denizens not officially enrolled in our holiday retreat. In a fashion
reminiscent of the Half-Life story, but much, much, more
grisly, unnatural spider-like creatures with deadly spikes drop
from the ceilings and spring out from darkened alcoves. Playing
Torque from a third-person perspective (first-person also an option),
you attempt to work your way through and out of Abbott Prison. Not
only is there the challenge of the monsters, guards and other prisoners,
but also there's an underlying mystery to be resolved, not only
about Abbott and Carnate, but also about yourself. You receive messages
from your dead wife and have occasions to make "good"
or "evil" choices, thereby affecting your character and
the game outcome. This has been done before, but not as smoothly
and effectively as with The Suffering.
Even though The Suffering is technically a "port"
from the console version, it plays as if it was designed for the
PC from the beginning. WASD or arrow keys control Torque, with complete
mouse-look and mouse button control. Key controls are minimal (map,
inventory, open), with the screen very uncluttered (health, flashlight
and insanity meters). You begin the game, after the earthquake shakes
open your cell door, by exploring your cell wing and finding a knife
and other soon-to-be-needed itemsbatteries, map, ammunition,
Xombium, shotgun, etc.
"Look at That! Oh, My Goodness, These Are Terribly Frightening!"
Prisoner (Sanitized Comment)
The Suffering has some very foul (or do we say "fowl"
around FFC?) language and is rated "M." Right out of the
gate, you'll hear the "f word" and the kind of rough sexual
and other comments you might expect in this kind of "vacation"
facility. So be warned.
Relatedly, the voice acting is outstanding and professional, aided
by a terrific script. When you hear the kind of audio work done
in The Suffering, you have more of an appreciation for the
importance of this facet of a game, something we sometimes do not
experience with other titles, especially within the adventure genre.
Accompanying this voice work are superb sound effects. Although
the graphics are only moderately good (a likely carryover from console
roots), the full 3D sounds are compelling. While exploring, turning
on switches, gathering items, you'll suddenly hear the nearby scream
of a man who has died horribly. Scraping noises (spider blades on
the floor) approach menacingly from your right speaker, moving closer
and closer, more toward the centerand you! A ringing phone,
overheard exclamations ("Everything's under controlaargh
..."), doors closing, wiring shorting out, your own hallucinations
(or are they?)all of these build tension between your confrontations
with the specters of Abbott Prison.
The Hulk Returns
Depending on choices made throughout the game, Torque has the option
of building up his Insanity Meter. This allows a frightening transformation
to the "bad" Torque, producing a Hulk-like personage capable
of wreaking damage and havoc that's effective but almost out of
control. Sometimes the Hulk, or Mr. Hyde, just needs to come to
the fore. Contributing to the overall delusional setting are three
spirits following our hero, sort of like the Ghosts of Christmas
Past from Dickens, but very twisted and nightmarish.
There are a number of "key-door" puzzles throughout the
game, but the most interesting and thought-provoking dilemmas come
when you need to make the kind of good versus evil choice indicated
abovea choice of your behavior, realizing this may have permanent
effects on your personality and the outcome of your attempted escape.
Interestingly, these different paths also lead to replayability.
I'm currently in my second run-through of the game, on a different
difficulty setting (four are offered), making "nice guy"
choices, taking alternate routes, and finding a contrasting experience.
In terms of choices, and to be a bit more prosaic, I should comment
that The Suffering installs and runs beautifully on my very
moderate system (P4, 1.8, 512 RAM, nVidia 3 video card). There are
sufficient options on the menu available to allow it to be playable
on an even lesser system. Further, although there are console-like
checkpoints for auto saving, you also have the option of saving
anywhere, an important feature for many of us with short attention
"Bollocks, I'm Outta Here!" British Guard
The Suffering comes together as a remarkable survival-horror
game. I used to write reviews with a breakdown of components in
the game (graphics, audio, interface, etc.). But The Suffering
integrates all elements so well into the final product that
I hardly thought about that sort of analysis. With satisfactory
graphics, outstanding audio and acting, involving mystery-like story,
smooth gameplay mechanics, The Suffering moves to the top
ranks, joining such titles as Clive Barker's Undying and
Eternal Darkness. If you can deal with (or maybe enjoy?)
the grisly setting, monster bashing and rough language, the game
comes as highly recommendedan essential purchase, Gold Star
What I Like Most About The Suffering
- Overarching story is compelling;
- Script and audio effects are first class;
- Controls and mechanics are very PC friendly;
- Choices lead to different outcomes.
What I Like Least About The Suffering
- Monsters can get a bit tiresome;
- Rough language may offend some.
Release Date: June 2004
Four Fat Chicks Links
PIII 1.0 (P4 2.0 recommended)
128 MB RAM (512 MB recommended)
32 MB video card (64 MB recommended)
2 GB free hard disk space
Where to Find It
24.90 (PC version) (on backorder as of 7/21/04)
Prices/links current as of 07/21/04
Links provided for informational purposes only.
FFC makes no warranty with regard to any transaction entered into
by any party(ies).