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Graphics : 7.0

The strongest point here is the detailed environments that you can explore on Carnate Island. The game is divided into 20 levels that take you to various parts of the prison and the rest of the island. The prison is done well and since I am no expert I would have to plead ignorance as to whether it resembles a real one of its nature or not. The detail given to cause a depressing atmosphere in the prison it is based on the ever present gates that need to be opened, security monitors showing with some neat effects what is going on around the vicinity with glimpses of monsters and even split second shots of ghosts that haunt lonely cell blocks, etc. The outdoors parts of the island are done very well. The forest pathways with trees and surrounding underbrush are some of the most detailed and well thought out renditions of a forest I have seen. Old abandoned places such as the Asylum show their signs of decay on the inside. The older parts of the prison and the abandoned army base do, as well. There are underground tunnels and basements that look straight out of a haunted place in real life. There are so many little touches here and there to make Carnate island feel haunted. One example is in an old building, if you stand by the window, the moonlight showing in will highlight what seem to be hundreds of tiny orbs floating transparently through the air.

Some objects tend to repeat themselves in the same areas, but in a prison most cells would be expected to look more or less the same I suppose. Random things are scrawled in blood on some walls to add variety. Other objects don't seem to have too much detail on them, but it can be tolerated.

The lighting system in this game is nowhere near as mood inducing as in other games in the genre. Long dark shadows are rarely cast and the dark rarely engulfs you in a claustrophobic sense the way other games in the survival horror genre do. There is a flashlight given to you for a reason, though, and you are going to need it to make out details in the dark. Flashbang grenades and flares each have their own unique way of causing neat lighting effects, but don't expect to scream bloody murder in fright when your flashlight battery finally goes out. I would much rather be alone on Carnate Island without a flashlight than in Silent Hill. Actually, in general, don't go to either of these places in real life if you can help it, but you get the idea.

The psychological factor is played up graphically with very quick flashes of hard to discern imagery of blood and gore when walking into certain areas. Some of them are broken memories of Torque while others are the memories of the spirits that may haunt a certain room. At times, Torque's mind will play tricks on him and he will think he sees his young son running away from him and taunting him, which usually leads to a disturbing visual where things occur in slow motion, followed by a trip back to reality where you are ambushed by monsters. The fleeting and fuzzy nature of these hallucinations is well done in a way to add to the scary aspect of the game. It is not as scary as other games of this genre, but it is not without its novelty effect. Torque is well rendered with much attention to detail. When he has just been in a huge battle his blood and the blood of his enemies soaks his clothes along with his weapons. Running around with a tommy gun covered in blood gives you the feeling you are one tough bad ass. The monsters in the game were designed by a company called Stan Winston Studios and their effort into creating some nightmarish beasts shows, but they do not reach the precedent set by the sad and deformed abominations of Silent Hill, and they are certainly not up to caliber with movies like Aliens or Predator. Still, though, they are beyond what your average videogame gives you and some of the things they do, such as cling to ceilings and walk on walls around you, is frightening enough a lot of the time. Another example is a wormlike creature that burrows underground and tries to get you from below with its tentacles.

Other human characters in the game are not rendered as realistically and can look very dull and blocky. Most of the monsters have an overall sense of art put into them but when viewed up close their features lack detail, but it's hard to tell how much of this is intentional. Also, their animations don't seem super fluid, although it is hard to tell with the quicker moving ones. Everything seems basic in the animation department. In this I mean nothing is superb, but it is not painful to watch either.

There don't seem to be many major graphical glitches. I have yet to see a monster fall dead through a wall or my character turn inside out. The third person camera actually does a pretty good job following your character around and the fact that you need to constantly aim your view so that you know where you are firing, anyway, doesn't leave room for the type of people who might complain they can't see all of the enemies around them. In fact, that is the point. You are supposed to be in a dark place where you must make quick movements to always stay on top of your game. Luckily, the camera never seems to get stuck. The first person camera, for me, is a lot harder to work with in combat, but I am sure some veteran FPSer's will want to give it a try, although I am not sure this game was actually designed with these people in mind, even though the control scheme seems to suggest it.

The last thing in the graphical department is the amazing animations of morphing back and forth into Torque's alter ego monster. His face and entire body convulses insanely. Once you are in this state everything around you in the environment appears more dizzying, much like the effects of being drunk or blinded by rage. Happy rampaging.

Sound : 8.0

Let's get the bad out of the way. The musical score (if you could call it a score) is very lacking. When a particularly large horde of monsters attacks you at once a sort of post-modern tribal beat that is rather exciting comes in helps to pump the adrenaline while the action is going down. Unfortunately, it's the same one every time. During other parts of the game there is very quiet music that resembles ambient sound more than anything else, but it is by no means ingenious or deeply unsettling like the masterpieces created for the Silent Hill series. This music does not rise and fall in intensity either when encountering certain places or situations. Also, a lot of enemy combat takes place with no music at all, so I am left wondering if the consistency of the score was even overlooked as an important aspect of the game during development.

Now, to the good aspect of the sound...the actual sound effects. Every time you are struck with a hallucination, a striking and quick disturbing sound will usually hit you as they do in old horror movies when somebody catches a glimpse of something they would much rather have not seen. The voices of your hallucinations sound more like they are coming from your head and have a fuzzy or trippy quality to them. Ghosts whisper and yell random babblings about their time spent at Abbot Prison or describing tortures or injustices they endured. All of this plays together to create the experience imagined by the developers.

Most objects seem to sound like their real counterparts when broken or damaged. Running around on different surfaces sounds differently in the game, and there's a specific sound for opening specific kinds of doors - or for kicking them down.

Most important is the sound of your enemies. The "clinkity clank" sound I described earlier is just one example of the whole "running about in the darkness" feeling you get from them. You know they are there before you can see them and sometimes, when you lose sight of them, they will come up at you from a direction you did not expect. The different weapons have different sounds and the dying sounds your enemies or humans make when you kill them with these weapons are quite sufficient. Snarls and growls along with stomping around by large creatures in the dark will get on your nerves, too. Not much is left out in this department.

Once again, the monster that Torque can turn into is an enhanced experience by the sound department. As he shift's form he will let out a maniacal chorus of screams and while he is in his monster form the trippy effect of the experience is helped out by distorted sounds until you change back.

There are some offensive stereotypes in the game, as a side-note, but nothing worse than your typical movie about prison and be prepared for the foulest language you've heard in a game so far. I kid you not.

There are 4 difficulty settings in which to complete this game. The default setting is medium, which would be the second setting. This is the setting at which I played the game for this review. I am planning on going back and trying out a harder setting, not only because the game is fun enough that I wish to challenge myself, but since the game has 2 more endings, which I also wish to see and don't mind the trouble of going through the game again to see them because of the straightforward nature of the game. The game, although almost fooling you into thinking otherwise at first, is pretty linear, so you will not be exploring these areas back and forth. In fact there is almost always a pretty obvious hint as to where you need to go next. Doors that lead to rooms that have nothing to with the game tend not to open. The game is slightly mazelike, but so little that you probably won't notice more than a few times the first time through, and if you have a good memory like I do then you will make it past any places you got stuck the first time through rather quickly. In this sense, the game is very easy to pick up again if you enjoyed it the first time through and be on your way to splattering more monsters against the wall to uncover more of the story at the end. For me, it is a lot like Max Payne in this way: each level is still fun going through more than once. If this weren't the case, I simply would have given up a lot more easily when being forced to repeat sections of levels when I died. Luckily, this did not seem so much as a chore to me as a regular videogaming experience, unlike in some games where levels are not fun enough to want to keep trying them. There are checkpoints throughout each level so that if you die you will return to that checkpoint without having to go back to the very beginning. Also, when saving a game on the memory card you can resume from the checkpoint as well.

The downsides are that the gameplay doesn't offer much more than I have mentioned above for replay value. There is nothing in the way of secret or hidden areas to find or things to collect more in a second or third time through. Also, unlike Tenchu 3, there is no reason to go back to previous levels to earn more points with any special types of kills or to collect certain weapons. Also, there is no weapon upgrading system or way to enhance your character's abilities throughout the game. This would have been a welcome addition, but the game is worth playing through, nonetheless.

The fact that the game is level based and relatively linear and not so free roaming leaves it in a category in terms of replay value that all games of this type share to some degree, no matter how fun they may be. I can't find any reason to play through the game more than enough times to see all the endings and/or beat most of the difficulty levels. The game is said to have about 12 hours of gameplay, but my speed of play is hard to calculate and I lose track of time, so I really do not know. To me it felt much longer than this. A game worth playing usually does.

Overall Score ( not an average ) : 8.0

The Suffering can almost be argued as a game that doesn't quite fit into the survival horror genre, but as the genre evolves, it will probably break off into sub-categories. As you may already know, Resident Evil is very different from Fatal Frame, for example, in its own right. Being a hardcore Survival Horror gamer, I am more used to what is tried and true for this type of game more or less, but I am always willing to try something different. If you are coming into The Suffering expecting what you would normally expect from a Survival Horror title control and gameplay-wise, you might not get what you wanted. This game will probably end up starting a sub-genre including the implementation of action over the clever use of weakened protagonists to add to the feeling of terror the player gets. Also, those of you looking for a game with lot of time to admire the scenery and ambience will have trouble with this one, too. This game is nerve-racking. The enemies are relentless and don't let up until you've figured out how to move on in a level a lot of the time. It may tire you out if you are used to the usual slower-paced survival horror game.

The graphics and sound are not the best I've seen, but a lot has gone into making all of the aspects combine into a comprehensive whole, making the game in its entirety a very interesting ambient experience that most will enjoy.

It is worth playing all the way through, not to mention more than once, and the storyline is very engrossing, as it seems the writers went through extra trouble to set up a deep background story for Carnate Island which you will come in contact with throughout your adventure. This new action approach in this title is the perfect appetizer for what's next. Silent Hill: The Room will undoubtedly be making you salivate along with Siren and Resident Evil 4. Meanwhile, warm your taste buds with this one, The Suffering. If you are not sure about Horror games in general, give this one a rental first, as for the rest of you who have to have the latest quality horror or action game on your shelf at home, this is a worthy addition to your library.



Page 1: Gameplay

- Redpyramidhead (19 Apr, 2004)


Scores
Gameplay
8.0
Graphics
7.0
Sound
8.0
Replay Value
8.0
Overall Score
8.0



Developer
Surreal Software
Publisher
Midway
Origin
U.S.
Genre
Adventure
Action
Players
1
Peripherals
Dual Shock 2
8MB Memory Card
Release Date
North America
March 9th, 2004
Europe
May 14th, 2004
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More screenshots of The Suffering



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