For this week’s special Halloween review, I’m taking a look at a game I spent a lot of time on when it initially released. Is it still scary? Let’s find out!
The Suffering was published by Midway software back in 2004 for XBox and Playstation 2, it came to PC later that year. Its creatures were designed by the legendary Stan Winston, who had a hand in such films as: Iron Man, Jurassic Park, the first two Terminator films, and a slew of others. A few years after release, the US Air Force somehow released it as freeware. Not sure how or why that happened, but their download has since been removed.
That doesn’t mean you can’t still get it, though. Like the Halloween Harry review, I’ll be putting a link at the bottom of the page to a legitimate, and legal, place to grab the game!
Death Row For The Questionable
As the game opens up, we find ourselves in the midst of a new inmate arrival at Abbott State Penitentiary on Carnate Island off the coast of Maryland. This new silent arrival is Torque, our main character.
Sentenced to death row for the murder of his wife and two sons, no one believes that Torque is innocent due to his claims of “blacking out” during the incident. Of course, the guards escorting him to his cell give him all sorts of hassle and smack talk along the way. The other inmates question whether or not he actually did black out; some even saying that he ought to be killed for it. Mind you, these are some crazy bastards on death row and even they think what happened calls for Torque to die.
Oddly enough, as soon as Torque gets settled into his cell, the lights flicker, the entire prison shakes, and people start screaming and dying. From there the game starts and you’re tossed into a world of demons, madmen, and insanity.
Yea, No, “Covered In Blood” Is A Great Look For You
Anyone who played any of the games Midway published in the early 2000’s will instantly recognize that look. The look of just about every Midway game released that generation, and it still looks damn good.
The creature designs are awesome. They look like something straight out of Hellraiser, and you can tell they mean business when they skitter after you in a crab-walking fashion on their shiv legs and hands or aim an entire spinal column of assault rifles in your direction.
The music also adds to the intensity of the atmosphere. It’s legitimately creepy and chilling. The screams you hear off in the distance, the disembodied voices floating around, and the music will all help to keep you on your toes. The game got me good once early on when I decided to check a bathroom stall for ammo, flashlight batteries, or health kits and kicked up one of its events wherein I was surrounded by about 8 of the aforementioned shiv-creepers. Scared the shit out of me thanks to the chilling sounds and music accompanying it.
Aside from all of that auditory insanity, occasionally Torque will hear the voice of his dead wife and…something else, trying to sway his actions as he makes his way out of Abbott.
I do feel like I need to mention that on occasion the game wouldn’t play the sound of my guns firing, and every so often the music would cut out. I imagine this is something that’s specific to the PC version as I’ve got no way to test it on the PS2 or XBox versions.
It’s All In Your Head, Man!
One of the special things about Torque is his unique ability to imitate Bruce Banner. When his Sanity bar is full, Torque can “Hulk out” and transform into a giant beast that tears his enemies to pieces. Literally. He has to be careful though as staying like this for too long can have fatal consequences.
Obviously, our man Torque has some issues floating around in his head. These issues help keep the mystery of whether or not he killed his wife and children fresh until the very end of the game. Throughout the game you’ll be met with choices such as teaming up with the guards who were so quick to say you should be dead; now you get the choice – kill the guard and take his revolver, or team up for safety. You might also run into other inmates that you can team up with for the same reasons.
Friend Or Foe? Who Cares!? We’re On Death-row!
This brings me to one of the downsides of this game – the friendly AI. They’re helpful and damn good shots, but sometimes they tend to get a bit, well, derpy.
During one of my sessions, I met up with a fellow inmate that I wound up taking with me. On a few occasions it seemed like he wanted to get out of the prison more than I did, and he wanted to show me by continually running between me and my targets. Not a good idea when a guy’s letting two revolvers loose into a demon. Y’know? On one of these occasions, I accidentally killed the guy, and trying to play it straight and stay on the good path, I reloaded my save, which wasn’t too far back, thankfully.
Serves him right, I suppose. Bastard shot me in the ass about three times while I was trying to protect him.
One thing you’ll notice about your AI friends is that they love to talk. If you could weaponize idle banter and battle cries of “Yea, fuck him up!” everyone in this game would be a power house. Well, except Torque. He’s got a case of Gordon Freeman Syndrome and says nothing.
As far as the audio and its cues go, this game really kicks ass in the atmopshere department. Yea, I know, I said it earlier, but I felt it needed restating. It really does do a fantastic job at keeping you on your toes, especially at times when you hear the raspy breathing of a Slayer (the shiv-leg and handed guys), but you just can’t find him. Was he there? Was the game just messing with you? You won’t know until you look around.
Did you see that?
Like I stated earlier, the game looks amazing. They really managed to capture what the inside of a prison looks like. Eh? No, I haven’t been to prison, I’ve just seen too many documentaries on them. Anyway.
The inside of the prison is very foreboding. It’s dark, lifeless and can get you feeling trapped pretty easily. This is a good thing, it’s just another detail that adds to the atmosphere of the game. You’re in prison, you should feel like it. This makes it even more rewarding when you finally get to the out-door segments. After being cooped up, it’s nice to get out and see the outside every once in a while.
That’s not to say the outside is any less dreary or foreboding, though. It’s dark and raining most of the time, which can still lead to a sense of oppression from the evil forces playing havoc with Abbott State Penn. It also really adds to the chaos when you’re running through the yard and see other inmates, and even guards, fighting the demons that are tearing the prison apart.
The Suffering is a wonderfully done bit of visual chaos and oppression. Anytime you feel like you’re safe, or like you’ve reached a point to cool off, you better think again.
There is one thing that comes to mind that needs mentioning before I go and give the game any kind of reward for being amazing looking, and that is that sometimes it doesn’t load all the textures so you’ll be left with an MG-42 with a black barrel instead of a normal looking one.
It’s not game breaking or too distracting, but it’s worth noting.
Why Can’t We Be Friends?
The demons aren’t always the only enemies you’ll come across. In one particular instance, you’ll have to fight off a bunch of guards led by one of the head guards.
Doesn’t sound to bad, right? Just fight as usual and you’re good. Wrong. The head guard gets a machine gun nest to hold you at bay, and when you get too close, he’ll come deal with you personally while the other guards take pot shots at you.
This does lead me to wonder what exactly they’re feeding some of these guards as most of them took more than a full clip from the revolver to drop.
I really enjoyed this sequence as it was a nice break from slogging through the normal baddies, but I was not ready for what came after it. See, I thought I was safe, I’d taken out all the hostile guards and the big guy so I relaxed a bit.
This was a mistake. Just like the rest of the prison and it’s creatures and creepers, I wasn’t expecting a horde of Slayers to drop in from the ceiling. On the flip side, they weren’t expecting me to occupy an MG nest either, so I guess it’s all good.
In the end, is The Suffering a good, entertaining experience? Hell. Yes.
Does it have some faults and flaws? Yes, but very minor cosmetic ones.
It’s every bit as enjoyable, scary, and entertaining as it was the first time I played it nearly a decade ago. With amazingly crafted action sequences and wonderfully paced down times, the game will probably drive you as nuts as Torque.
I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of third person shooters, horror games, or psychological thrillers. Even if you don’t like it, what’ve you really lost? It’s free now!
That’s all from me for now.
You folks have fun, take care, and I’ll see you next time!