Michael O’Reilly: The villagers in beginning of Resident Evil 4 were really creepy in a holy cow I recognize some of these people sort of way. The village itself seemed a little bit off. And then you add to that the villagers, when you are expecting Zombies. No these are just peasants, modern day versions of those found in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Instead of torches and pitch forks we had explosives and a chainsaw wielding bastard. And all of this was made even worse by the fact that the chainsaw dude looked exactly like my best friends dad. EXACTLY. Let me tell you, I’m never going around his place when he’s pruning his bushes again.
Guy Desmarais: I bought Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles for the Wii after Alex himself gave the game a glowing review. My friend and I started playing through it on a Saturday night. The lights were out, the sound was loud, conditions were perfect. The first stage, set on a train, was a little unnerving, but quickly over. We then moved on to the mansion from the original game, which provided some decent challenge, but made me feel more nostalgic than scared. After a while, we got to the series of stage representing Resident Evil 3, set in the streets of an abandonded Raccoon City. That’s when things got scary.
Compared to the relative tranquility of the past levels, this one was filled with mobs of zombies literally assaulting you from each side. The handgun was obviously not doing the job, but we were also going through our shotgun shells and machine gun ammos way too fast. Since it was our first playthrough, we often missed the secret locations of the extra ammunitions, and to make matters worse, we were horrible shooters, never getting in any fatal headshot, which would eventually become my speciality. Because of our inventory issues, we were often relegated to using grenades, exploding barrels and cars to thin down the herds of undead coming our way. There war fire everywhere, and the continuous explosion sounds gave the whole scene a very surreal, apocalyptic look. We weren’t scared per say, but we were getting really nervous until we finally hit the sewers.
Things didn’t get better at all since the rest of the level consists of being attacked by giant spiders, nearly being ran over by a truck and facing a concrete-digging worm that throws cars like they were baseball. It is probably the most frantic level in the game, and it left me feeling a little tense when I was done with it.
Mark B: Making a level scary isn’t particularly challenging if one is creative. Some folks simply approach the concept with the idea of making something scary from the ground up, and from this we get the hellish expanses of the later levels of Doom or the flesh-and-blood fashioned final stages of Ninja Gaiden 2. Others approach the concept with the idea of making something normal look scary, and from this we get the rotting and decaying landscapes of Silent Hill and the destroyed city blocks and human wreckage of Resident Evil 2. These concepts are both pretty solid; the former places the player into a situation where they are absolutely terrified because they’re not in Kansas anymore, while the latter takes the sorts of places we find “safe” and corrupts them, turning even the safest locations into hellish nightmares.
The most terrifying of locations, however, are the ones that are not corrupted, should be safe, and yet aren’t, not because of demonic intervention or possessed serial killers, but rather, because sometimes bad things just happen. Such is the case in Capital City, the fictional city in Disaster Report, a game in which all of the terror of the experience is derived NOT from hellish monsters or murderous folks, but rather because the environment itself has decided that it’s time for you to die.
This is a city where SKYSCRAPERS can potentially fall on top of you, killing you dead instantly. This is a city where flooding and fires are not only possible, but likely, causes of your demise. The danger of this environment is not the things that live within it, but the very environment itself; your death will come, in most cases, not from gun-toting baddies or murderous monsters, but from the world itself falling in on you as the city falls apart. There are few things more actively terrifying than being crushed under a falling building, swept away by a flood, or falling to your death after part of the building you’re in caves in, sending you plummeting into blackness.
Yeah, the first level in the new Alone in the Dark was cinematic, and sure, it had its moments of raw terror, but it needed demonic forces to make that concept work; Disaster Report did it with nothing more than the raw power of nature itself, and was infinitely more amazing as a result. You can play any game and rationalize that demons and zombies don’t exist, but try telling yourself the same thing about floods, earthquakes, and tidal waves, and see how successful you are. A giant wall of flesh or a rotting classroom is scary, sure, but in the end, being in a whole city that’s falling down around your ears? That’s real terror.
Matt Yaeger: Carnate Island, home of Abbott State Prison that was featured in The Suffering. Violence has seemed to have happened on every square inch of that island, and the setting was perfect for the game.
Alexander Lucard: I have to second Matt on Carnate Island. In 2004, The Suffering was the runner up for my Game of the Year and it remains one of the best 3-D survival horror games I have ever played.
It takes a lot to creep me out. I’ve had the opportunity to spend the night in some of the most haunted places in the world. 95% of the time, I went through with it and thought nothing of it. Horror movies do nothing to me, save for VERY rare exceptions. Video games are even rarer. I can count on one hand the number of games to have ever made me jump. Whenever I hear Scissorsman’s music start up, my adrenaline and heart beat increase. But I’m not scared. I’m just loving the game and being chased by one of the best bad guys in the history of gaming. The Fatal Frame series? Not scary. Freaky games that I love to play, but not scary. Silent Hill? Snore. But The Suffering? It gave me nightmares. The game itself didn’t scare me, but the imagery and incredible story lodged in my subconscious after each session of playing it. It gave me some funky ass dreams. That alone deserves major props for its surrealism. If there is one thing I know I can take without the slightest flinch, it is horror. This is the only Horror game ever to make me go “Wow. That’s some fucked up shit right there.”
When we first did the Game Cube feature, I wanted this on the list, but then we decided to only feature exclusives to the system, and then the Cube version of the game was cancelled anyway. Dammit all. I was literally salivating over the game. Even though no one else had heard aboutThe Suffering, Chuck was tempted enough to pre-order this game just because I had this instinct it was going to be something special. NO game had triggered that in me for a couple of years. Just like with Disgaea, with Dark Alliance 2, and Pokemon Channel, I said, “OMGWTF!!!!11!! This game is incredible!” and members of the Kliq hesitantly trusted me, and found themselves loving the games big time. Just ask Bebito after finally getting to own Lunar Legends what game was his crack pipe of 2004. So trust me when I say: this game is just amazing. You won’t regret it for a second.
So what’s the plot of this game? Well, it’s modern day. You play as Torque, a man sentenced to death by lethal injection after eviscerating his wife and two children. Yes ladies and gentlemen: this is your protagonist! Torque is brought to Abbot State Penitentiary on Carnate Island in Maryland; an island with a terrible history that curses the very soil and all those dwelling within it to this day.
Almost immediately after Torque is locked up, strange things begin to occur on the island. The power goes out, Torque watches as a strange host of creatures begin to slaughter the other prisoners and guards one by one. For some reason, Torque is left untouched. But why? Why is he spared? Both Torque and yourself will come to learn the truths of not only Abbot, but Torque himself as you play through the game.
The plot is hands down one of the best I have ever seen in a video game. Although Torque does not talk, he doesn’t need to. His actions dictate his personality. And Torque can be as good or sadistic as you want him to be. You can save the few survivors that remain alive on the island with you, or you can butcher them like hogs. Do you want to portray Torque as a wrongly accused man who not only had his family murdered but now pays for the deeds instead of the one who committed them? Or is Torque a powder keg of hate and wrath, truly deserving of a sentence of death? It’s your call. But just remember, the path you force Torque to take says something about your own hidden psyche.
With three endings, each distinct and unnerving, one can play the game multiple times and view the happenings on Abbott in completely different ways. When you beat the game and then start a “New Game,” you are treated to a brand new opening, one that reveals a whole new twist to the plot of the game. How many other games give you this?
The characters are memorable; even though the best ones never reveal their name. The ghostly doctor, of whom you’re never quite sure as to if he is friend or foe, is straight out of the remake of House on Haunted Hill, and is simply brilliant. The people who Torque can befriend and help on his journey are fleshed out, even with tiny bits of game time. Even the wife and children of Torque are portrayed very well. And they’re dead. You can’t beat that. If you play your games for plot, The Suffering is a game that’s going to immediately come to mind years later when people are discussing the best stories ever in the history of video gaming.
The graphics of The Suffering aren’t the most incredible ever, but they are still impressive in their own right. Although I don’t find the monsters frightening, the design and originality behind each one deserves a lot of respect. Each creature is based on a specific form of torture and/or death and you can see the original muse that fueled the designers from Hellraiser to Lovecraft’s writings.
One thing I feel should be brought up is that the graphics add a blur or slowdown effect at certain times in the game. And it’s completely intentional. I am very impressed by how it is done and how it never occurs at any other point in the game.
The backgrounds of the game are stunning. The prison holds so many interesting hidden things to see and interact with. Flushing the toilet, reading insane gibberish on walls, seeing old celluloid style footage interact with the rest of the game; these are all possible. A lot of the game takes place in areas that are just as beautiful to look at. The Victorian insane asylum is fantastic and quite accurate in regards to how they were actually laid out. In fact, everything but the actual characters themselves are wonderfully detailed in every way. But the monsters and humans? They’re good, but not great. We’ve seen better, but the plot and everything else about the game is so wonderful, it’s hard to quibble on this tiniest of details.
The sound of The Suffering makes this game. No matter what I type onto my screen, the words just can’t convey how incredible the game is in regards to this aspect.
Let’s start with voice acting. This game has by far some of the best I have heard in gaming hands down. Clem’s voice is perfect. The Doctor. The Green Gas Ghost. Torque’s wife and kids. EVERYONE is perfect and I can’t imagine a better voice actor for any character. These characters are living the hell that takes place in The Suffering, and it shows with each syllable they utter.
Music and sound effects? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s the best in regards to a Survival Horror game EVER. The music is primal and simple, yet god awful in its ability to creep you out. It’s always fitting. It never takes away from the game. It consistently adds to the suspense, adrenaline rush and fear factor. If I could, I would outright buy the soundtrack because it’s that sublime in the eeriness.
The things the developers have managed to convey with simple instruments and the minutest of sounds. A few piano keys, a jug of water, a steady rhythmic drum beat. It shows the people at Surreal have either imaginations far and above those of the average person, or they’re just completely mad.
The sound effects are crisp and precise. You can hear Torque pop the lid of his Xombium containers and pour them out before eating them. Each weapon has its own individual sound. The screeches, the footsteps, the breathing and screams of unholy agony. It’s frightening how good this game is in terms of what you hear. Even if you were blind and stuck in a room where someone was playing this game, it would un-nerve you. It’s that good.
Finally, let’s touch on the control scheme. Guess what? Another BEST EVER for this genre. The controls in the Suffering on the Xbox are flawless. I never once had a camera angle problem. That’s right! A 3-D game where there’s no bitching and moaning about controlling the view or how hard it is to align the sight angles. The Suffering is quick and painless in letting you see whatever you need to.
Little things: You can play in first or third person mode, although I advise not switching between the two frequently. I do prefer third person mode if only because I like the wider vision that comes with it. And I can watch Torque’s back.
The designers of the game paid specific attention to the physics of blood splattering. How ingenious is that? Depending on where Torque is while he fires away on monsters, he could become coated in gore and ichor, or stay relatively clean. I was amazed while they talked about this in the “Making Of” extra that came with this game.
I’m mainly a Fighter/2-D shooter/RPG gamer that is still anachronistic in his dislike of 99% of 3-D games. But The Suffering? Wow, I still can’t believe how wonderful the controls are. They don’t make me want to have seizures from the god awful controls Capcom came up with for Resident Evil that have sadly been copied by games like Curse. Whether you’re solving a puzzle like the fires in the break room, or having to gun down half a dozen monsters coming at you from all sides, the controls and thus Torque are seamless in their brilliance. Every other game in the genre just needs to outright copy this engine, because this is going to be the standard bearer from now on.
Finally, I have to admit the folklorist and cultural anthropologist in me was easily suckered in to loving the haunted prison documentary on this disc. It is by far the best extra feature I have ever seen on a video game, if only because if gives you a great bit of non fiction. It’s not the most professional documentary ever made, but to have them include this on a video game? INCREDIBLE! They didn’t need to film a single second of this footage. It has nothing to do with the game, and they could have easily included some other extra crap in its place. But instead, they made a documentary that I would certainly recommend watching before playing the game at all.
The two journals, the two documentaries, the constant nods to classic horror and terror icons from yesteryear, and all the other extras thrown in have easily cemented The Suffering as a game I have to consider the best overall Survival Horror game ever made. It manages to have a plot as original as Eternal Darkness, to have all the little things done right as Koudelka did, to have the fear factor inherent in Fatal Frame, and the IT factor that can not be described, only felt, that Hell Night possessed. There are no real flaws in this game, except that it just might be too sophisticated for its target audience of blood N’ gore freaks, or perhaps overlooked for a plethora of reasons all involving an end result of the average gamer needing a clawhammer to the temple again and again and again while they scream out begging for sweet release, but you aren’t answering their prayers, but instead those of a dark and squammous thing inside you demanding you give into your most loathsome and foul desires.