It’s common knowledge that a prison is somewhere you don’t want to end up. While some do deserve to go there, I don’t know if I would want anyone to end up in the Carnate Penitentiary; one really horrible prison. You play as Torque, a man convicted of having murdered his wife and kids. During the opening sequence, you move into your cell, meet a few of the inmates, and witness them all suddenly being torn apart by spider-like monsters, armed with razor sharp blades. Right from the start it’s questioned whether you really did commit the heinous crimes, but you also have recurring flashbacks, most of which are violent ones.
The Suffering is essentially about you fighting your way out of the prison, exploring the bizarre island of Carnate (located somewhere in Maryland), beating the crap out of whatever evil things you find and maybe even unraveling the truth about yourself and your past. Story-wise the game certainly seems to borrow elements from games like Max Payne, another excellent third-person action game, but it’s more than just that. The Suffering has a significantly more “twisted” feel to it than for instance Max Payne, which is very much evident in the amount of blood, limbs all over the place, decapitation, electrocution, lethal injections, and much, much more. Also, during your journey - if you could call it that - you’ll run into mental images of your wife and your kids. While the story isn’t unraveled as quickly as in Max Payne, the developers still kept the game interesting – so you won’t JUST be running around shooting stuff.
It’s also fun how when you’re playing the game it feels like there are some really major facts you don’t know yet. You see, the guy you play as isn’t just handy with ranged and melee weapons, he can also transform into one big, pissed off, hulk-ish monster. When you kill monsters you fill up a meter in the bottom left part of the screen, and when this “pissed-off-ometer” is filled up you can unleash your “Mr Hyde”, which typically lasts for about 15 seconds or so. If you forget to transform back before the meter is empty then it could kill you, but it’s usually something you don’t forget. When in this mode you can attack in some pretty fun ways, where you pretty much rip apart anything in your path. Unfortunately, some tiny monsters armed with lethal injections can force you to transfer back, so there’s always a balance between who you can kill, and in what way. For instance, strong light can be very effective against some kinds of monsters, so you’ll quickly learn to turn on the light-switches, run into in bright areas, and keep a flashlight handy.
The weapons are obviously essential in a game like this. You’ll have a pretty impressive arsenal at your disposal, and you usually tend to have plenty of ammo. Most of the weapons are ranged, such as a revolver, dual revolvers, Tommy-gun, shotgun, a flamethrower, and plenty more. You can also use various throwing weapons, such as a flashbang grenade, TNT, and a few other things. Because of their splash damage these can be quite useful against groups, or to weaken stronger enemies. Finally you have melee weapons, which there are even less of. You start with a blade of sorts, which is also a good stabbing weapon, but after a while you’ll find a fire axe among other things.
The environment is actually a little dynamic. Even though the physics aren’t much to brag about, you’ll be blowing up walls, smashing things with huge rocks, etc. Of course, these are just scripted things, but they add to the entertainment. Those of you who have played the Painkiller demo may remember the excellent physics. The Suffering is another game with people hanging from ceilings, but they don’t really respond in a really good way. Plenty of wooden objects can be broken with your melee weapons, but again I wish more things responded realistically to shotgun shots, and such. And to nitpick even more, I could mention that the dynamic shadows, which do look quite good, have various bugs, making them move very strangely when multiple lights are involved or when you’re by a steep ledge.
The Suffering is certainly a game that’s made to scare you. To do so the sounds play an absolutely crucial role. The recurring flashbacks for instance, which often only last for a split second, can definitely make you jump in your chair. The sound effects in general are actually very good. Each and every monster, explosion, weapon and item have realistic sounds. Plenty of bass is used, and fairly dramatic music is used to further the tension when fighting monsters. It can however get a bit monotonous when you’re not really risking your life, but still fighting for several minutes. Also, the voice overs are for the most part very well done. The voice talents seem to have put a lot of feeling into their work, but I do wish more people had been used, because it’s quite easy to notice several in-game characters being voiced by the same person.
From the main menu you can also look into an archive, which consists of two books. When you play the game and encounter a new monster, or enter a new section of the island these two books will be filled with text and photos, explaining some of the history and interesting facts. Besides that you can also look at two kinds of behind the scenes footage, which is also an interesting plus.
There aren’t exactly few third-person action games out there. An interesting story and setting can help a game tremendously. The Suffering may not be overly original in every way, but it places you in an interesting scenario, where you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, and where you’re constantly blowing up monsters. The Suffering certainly doesn’t reinvent the genre, but it’s a perfectly solid action game in every way, except multiplayer.
The Suffering isn’t without its faults, because it does have moments where it’s not incredibly fun, like when you’re solving some of its weirder puzzles, but the action and general “twisted” nature makes up for it.
Also, the idea of your alter ego, if you can call it that, could’ve been expanded further, and the selection of monsters could’ve been richer.
If you already own Ninja Gaiden and want something different then The Suffering might be just the thing for you.