The Suffering: Ties That Bind


Ouch! Talk about overkill.

Discover the horror that is Baltimore.

A horror/crime game set in Baltimore isn’t such a strange idea, right? Maybe. Unfortunately, about halfway through The Suffering: Ties that Bind, it switches from being a moderately interesting, creepy and weird game to being a seriously bad mindless action game. Once the gunfire becomes more intense, the gameplay becomes more mundane, frustrating, and unsatisfying. Its ultimate failure as a game isn’t for lack of effort. Developer Surreal Software tries and tries and tries some more to build an edgy and scary version of Baltimore.

While the first Suffering was an underrated gem, its claustrophobic prison setting gave it a stronger focus. Ties That Bind picks up where its predecessor ended, starting in the same prison but then heading out to the contrived and linear streets of a Baltimore that has a minor problem with demons hanging out in various downtown locations. Despite its setting, Surreal is never able to establish much of a sense of place. It’s more like “Generic Dock Area #12†and “Sewer #197†than an interesting tour of a decrepit city with a dark past.

As in the original game, you control a character named Torque, and you’re having another really bad day. When you’re not being shivved in prison, you’re constantly having terrible flashbacks to how you abandoned your family and how they were killed by crime kingpin Caleb Blackmore. As you explore various locations in the city, you experience flashbacks to its sordid history, full of serial killers and white racists (scenes of bygone lynchings are the order of the day).

The game is overly linear and scripted, with monsters constantly respawning to let you know you need to do something else to trigger the next scene or open a new location. You can play in either first or third person, but neither is ideal. The heavy combat sequences are better played in first person, but almost every time you do some sort of non-combat activity (climb, manipulate objects in the environment), you’re abruptly shifted back to third person. You’re limited to two weapons at all times, which seems like a cop-out but forces you to make interesting decisions about which tools of death you’ll need.

As before, Torque can transform himself into a physical manifestation of his rage; a monstrous killing machine. Had the game played more with this mechanic – it’s more of a cheap power-up than something that actually matters – and stuck with its initial creepy Silent Hill-like vibe instead of veering into generic military action, it might have been more noteworthy.

System Requirements: P III 1Ghz, 256 MB RAM, 4 GB HDD, 32 MB Video, Win98

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