Gaming History 101

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The Countdown Obscura Horror – Day 3: The Suffering

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the_suffering_boxDay 3: The Suffering

A prison, what an ideal location for horror and dread. Several games have visited this locale, the most infamous being Batman’s Arkham series and the recent Prison Simulator on PC, a game I’m surprised was not released 2 years ago. When it comes to horror Surreal Software took the prison as there main location and created something special with the 2004 release of The Suffering.

the_suffering_2I first played this game with a friend at university one night and just remember loving the first impression this game delivered. You play as a mute prisoner called Torque, who has been imprisoned for the supposed murder of his wife and kids. Before even taking control the environment looks dirty and sinister, you can just feel this is somewhere you really don’t want to be. It doesn’t take long though before these monster made out of knives start murdering literally everyone, prisoners as well as guards. By some luck your prison door just decides to fall down and you can now make your escape. So far you’re an unarmed man trying to escape an unknown monster, it feels pretty terrifying. There are some truly great moments at the start of the game you can switch on the security camera and see flashes of the monsters appearing in and out of static images. You also regularly hear sounds echoing through the dark prison corridors. The feeling of isolation and vulnerability is really effective. Then I found a pistol, by this point I think it makes sense, something to defend yourself with. But, then its not too long before you find a friggin Tommy gun, its at this point any fear I feel has completely drained away because once you get that assault rifle the game pretty much becomes a shooter from there until the end.

the_suffering_4Despite this major issue, the design of the game holds up very well for the entire experience. The game continues to throw creative enemies at you, all of which are inspired by execution methods used in history. You have the creepy Golem looking enemy that has several syringes stuck all over its body, they then proceed to attempt to stick you with one of them obviously inspired by lethal injection. There is also a large juggernaut of a monster with several rifles on its back supposed to represent a firing squad. Yeah, some of the monsters do become obscure but its a clever idea which fits in with the theme of the game. Hell, your main character later unlocks the ability to turn into a dam monster which is kinda weird. Well the real reason for this is the game also employs a morality system. This was a feature that was certainly common place at the time in gaming but the stakes behind it in The Suffering felt quite effective. Throughout the game you will encounter moments where you can choose to help someone or possible make the situation worse for them. For example early in the game you can choose to execute a character by the electric chair. Before you choose you will be haunted by voices from your dead wife pleading with you to save them followed by a demonic voice encouraging you to kill the character. Being nice in the game will lead to your character looking more human and your family photo which you hold onto looking cleaner whereas being a nasty man will make you more monstrous and cause the photo to look more bloodied and hard to see. Unlike a lot of games at the time you could choose to be neutral and just flat out ignore people which was also quite refreshing. Choosing one of these three paths will deliver you one of three endings at the climax of the game.

the_suffering_3

There are also lots of little attentions to detail I love in this game. For example, I love how when you interact with prison bars Torque will resemble a man incarcerated. Its also impressive how mentally challenged your character is. Torque is constantly being tormented by voices you kinda wonder if the game experience occurs in his head but then again if you go the nice route in the game that would not seem the case. Even though your carrying around an arsenal of weapons the game delivers this sense of hopelessness as you try to make your escape from the prison and when I personally revisited the game it even made me question at times “does Torque deserve to escape?” It’s designs like this that make it a lot easier to overlook the flaws in the game.

The Suffering has a great design and great ideas which impress throughout the experience of the game. The game focuses far too much on shooting but as you’ll see from all the games in the Horror Obscura series all these games are far from faultless. Look through these errors and appreciate the attention to detail in this game. This game will make you want to probably be a good person and avoid prison at all costs.

The Verdict: No parole until finished

Written by jamalais

October 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

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