This review was rewritten four times. This happens rarely to me as I usually can express my thoughts and feelings easily; however, The suffering is a special case. This game is so unique in many different ways that it is just impossible to describe it in full in one article. Three different endings, eleven types of weapons (including a secret one), many non-player characters encountered in the game, unusual storyline twists, extraordinary gameplay situations, lack of usual boss fights, seven types of main enemies and more than fifteen different locations – The Suffering can surprise even nowadays. This makes the comparison and evaluation of the game even more interesting than usual as it’s always curious to see how the game has changed through the past sixteen years. If you have not played the game, prepare for minor spoilers, if you did – comment this article in the commentary section below.
The Suffering starts with arrival of the main character, inmate Torque on the Abbot prison’s island, located near to Baltimore (where the second part of the game will take place later). The character was sentenced to the capital punishment for alleged murder of his family – the wife and the two kids. Torque himself does not remember anything; he just accepted the fate and behaves as ordinary inmate sentenced to execution. His thoughts and feelings are interrupted by shortage of power, then the lights go off, his guard gets killed by something unknown and weirdly looking and the game starts.
The first moment to which you pay attention is abstract realism of the game. You can kill as many enemies here as possible and the more you do the dirtier and bloodier your shirt and hands become. You can dodge enemies, use cameras, search for weapons and ammunition in lockers, use Zombium (local med kits), and fight enemies by many different ways. All of them are subject to influence of light – some of them become weaker when you turn the flashlight on them, others jump away from you quickly as you try to disorient them with light. Flashbangs distract them and make helpless for seconds, which is enough to escape, change weapons or turn Torque into the mutant.
At the beginning of the game one of the NPC will teach you how to unleash anger and turn into a beast, which is capable of throwing away the enemies, tearing them apart and slicing them in pieces. The more enemies are killed by the hero, the higher the meter is and when it becomes full, the character can turn into the worst version of himself, cruel and relentless. The hero still takes damage from enemies but his physical power allows him to deal with four – six enemies at once, which is almost impossible in his normal state. To use or not to use the beast form is the matter of choice for any player, but for the perfect walkthrough you may want to complete the game without any transformations.
As for enemies, they are represented by different types of inmates and habitants of the island, killed in some tragic circumstances. Some of them were killed with poison injections and they are rebirthed as small tiny creatures with syringes attacking the main hero out of nowhere. Others were shot down – they are goliaths of flesh and weapons now. Some were eaten by rats – imagine in what they turned now. The amount of enemies is very high and some of them appear only in unique for them areas, for instance, the festers can be found near the shipwreck, in caverns and in the sewers. Similarly, other forms of life appear on ground, in prison blocks or near the buried village.
The difficulty of the game is normal; it’s not high, not low. There are several moments, where you need to solve puzzles or think to realize where to go next and what to do. Some locations have hidden passages, stashes with ammo or some secret places where you can find elements to create a unique hand-made weapon. In addition to it, you can find a secret weapon in one of the rooms in the middle of the game.
You will encounter prisoners and guards, you may help them or leave stranded. This will affect your karma, which in turn will determine your ending. To see the current level of karma is easy – one of the buttons allows to look at the family photo. If it’s clear – the reputation is high and the karma is good, if it’s dirty – it’s bad, if it’s slightly stained – it’s neutral.
Not all inmates and guards will welcome you; some of them will be hostile. At the very beginning you’ll face the group of guardsmen, who will try to stop you, and it’ll be necessary to oppose them by any means possible if you want to progress in the game further. Obviously, this will turn the level into a bloodbath; however, it does not make the game cruel.
The game is violent but much less than modern games are. 95 % of enemies are zombies or reborn inmates. The level of gore and blood is high though, however in comparison with modern standards The Suffering is much less violent than video games of new generation.
Each weapon serves its purpose and is effective against one or many types of enemies. Axe here is a superior weapon, which is good against almost all monsters. In addition to revolver (or dual revolvers), shotgun, Tommy gun and the axe, the game has grenades, shiv and much more to offer.
The graphics are good, sounds and voice acting are fine. Controls are responsive, the game is stable although sometimes, rarely can crash on desktop (re-installment of drivers for video card and DirectX can potentially solve this problem).
The overall impression is good, sometimes you don’t know where to go or how to solve a puzzle, sometimes you have to switch to first-person view to be able to aim in certain location to a gas canister, which is otherwise is inaccessible from the third-person view. In general, it’s a fine game, which looks surprisingly good in comparison with modern standards and modern video games in general. If you enjoy old-school first or third person shooters with elements of slasher, you won’t regret buying this product.