Platform: PS2 (Also on Xbox)
If I had to pick a top horror game based on scariness, I’d have to go with the Silent Hill series. There’s just something about those games that stress me out when I’m playing them. I’m ready to drop a load in my pants every time that static-y radio goes off. But if I had to pick a top horror game based on fun, The Suffering is my new number one.
Midway was smart when it came to what they wanted out of this game. Basically they took all the grit of Silent Hill, all the monsters of Resident Evil, and all the killing spree glee of today’s top shooters and fused it all together. What they chose to wisely leave out are those stupid puzzles that slow down most horror survival games. In fact, this isn’t really survival/horror; it’s a horror/shooter based on a survival premise. It’s still 3rd person, but it moves fast and the controls are practical.
Let’s start with the story. You play as Torque, a badass killer on death row for murdering your family. Only you don’t remember murdering your family as you were blacked out when it happened. No sooner are you moved to your new cell than inmates start screaming and disappearing in gouts of blood. Suddenly you’re very alone in an unfriendly place without clue one as to what the hell’s going on. So you’re not only concerned with a) getting the hell out of there, and b) figuring out what’s going on, but also c) did you really kill your family. And the answer to that is dependent on the choices you make during the game.
As you rush about the jail and the island it resides on, you’ll experience flashes of what could be your memory coming back to you or just insane visions. Bursts of your mangled kid and murdered wife lying in blood, snippets of the torture they did, or didn’t, go through. And like a horror film, you’ll see things out of the corner of your eye, get jumped by ghoulies, and taunted by shadows. It all makes for a tense experience.
The story quickly introduces the spirit of a mad scientist whose past execution experiments come to life as monsters and ghosts. Come to find out he’s been at you too and he wants you to utilize the gift he’s given you. Now, when you’re rage meter fills up, you can transform yourself into a blade wielding, leather-skinned, muscle bulging maniac. Of course, you can choose to stick with the guns also, it’s up to you.
The graphics rock for a console game. The creatures were designed by Hollywood monster maker Stan Winston. You know, the guy who designed the Predator, the Terminator, Pumpkinhead and The Thing, to name a few. And I don’t know what lighting engine they used but it’s damn sweet. Shadows shift with the camera, moonlight falls through windows and interacts with the environments. You’ll even see dust motes floating about in lit areas. One of the coolest aspects involves blood splattering on you in relation to the amount of killing you’re doing. Kill one guy, you might stain your shirt. Go on a spree, it looks like you showered in gore. The environments are highly detailed, filled with murderous implements of torture and, since the story revolves around past executions, lots of electric chairs and needles and guillotines and well, whatever homemade execution devices past guards have concocted.
But by far the best thing about The Suffering is the sound. The voice acting is well played, and chock full of prison style profanity. You’ll hear the word “Fuck” at least thirty five times in the opening cut scene alone. Gratuitous? Hell yeah, but fitting as well. The ambient sound is the best I’ve ever heard in a horror game. Random moans, whispers and taunts fill the hallways; creaking doors and clinking chains echo from all around. I routinely found myself looking for the creatures making the noises only to find myself alone. It gave me the heebie jeebies, big time.
If this is where survival/horror is headed, I’m thrilled. The makers of Resident Evil and Silent Hill would do well to take a few note if they want their fans back. Bottom line, this game rocks, and you need to go play it now.