Surreal Softwareâ€™s The Suffering wholeheartedly embraces modern survival horror clichÃ©s – itâ€™s all rust and jagged metal and splattered blood everywhere, with a distinct look that weds the elaborate mythology of Lovecraft with the gritiness of a maximum security prison. You take on the role of â€œTorque,â€ a convicted man sent to die in the fictional prison of Carnate Isle where, as anticipated, a whole lot of bad business has gone down in the past and the souls are restless.
As with all horror offerings of this particular sensibility, the general visual theme is piles of rusting metal, rotting wood, and mutilated corpses by the metric ton.Fortunately, clever storytelling and scripting, as well as a much-appreciated sense of gravitas, transcend this potentially painful retread of the â€œhaunted asylumâ€ theme to generate a good level of immersion.
Death In Carnate
The gameâ€™s strengths lie first in the carefully crafted levels, throughout which you can find many optional events that reveal the isleâ€™s long and storied history of evil. Picking up a phone call, blundering down a deserted path in the woods, or breaking down a cracked wall invariably leads to some small insight into the gameâ€™s surprisingly well-built back story. The sound direction in these dark halls is second-to-none, with the crazy voices in Torqueâ€™s head conflictingâ€”quite audiblyâ€”with the noisy carnage occurring around him. Itâ€™s good, twisted stuff.
The visual artistry that sustains the atmosphere is a bit hit-and-miss. Screenshots do not do the ambient effects in this game justice. Blooming ethereal lights, clever filter effects, and superior sound work all combine to create a convincing home for the supernatural. The crazy denizens of Carnate Isleâ€”pierced and stitched atrocities each representing a particular style of executionâ€”are decidedly gruesome, albeit in a predictable Hellraiser sort of way. But the enemies lack any sense of weight. They simply flit or glide about in a mechanical fashion, and even the bigger foes are a little less imposing because of it.
The gameplay is standard shooter fare, with a smattering of simple puzzles thrown in to color the experience. In many ways, this game is very much like Undying, save that the pacing is more consistent throughout and ammunition for the gameâ€™s many firearms is quite easily found. The Suffering is not really a game of suspense; rather, itâ€™s a game of tactical tension, where the surprise lies not in anticipating the assaults but in surviving them.
This approach is taken to the extreme during the gameâ€™s few boss battles, where the key is to solve a puzzle while under fire rather then unload your entire arsenal in return. Unfortunately, this design becomes problematic when faced with the gameâ€™s biggest shortcoming: a distinct lack of enemy variety.
But if thereâ€™s a compelling reason to pay a visit to Carnate Isle, itâ€™s simply to revenge yourself for all of the horror titles where your player avatar was at the mercy of the bad guys. Now, youâ€™re ostensibly one of them, with all the firepower to match.
System Requirements: Pentium III 700 Mhz, 128 MB RAM, 32 MB Video, Win98 SE