With the PC release of The Suffering, desktop gamers who shun those (seemingly) I simplistic console crossovers may need to reexamine their biases. A macabre action-adventure previously haunting Xbox and PlayStation 2, The Suffering is proof that console gaming possesses a creative energy all its own - a sense of ambience and design unaffected by the legacy of PC classicism. Although the game is a retelling of many unsubtle pulp clichés, including horror flicks, prison movies, and themes of redemption versus damnation, The Suffering manages to be an entertaining and downright unnerving ride into the mouth of madness.
The story hits the proverbial fan when you. a convicted killer named Torque, are transferred to a maximum-security slammer lor slaying your wife and child. Within minutes of your arrival, the entire building is rocked by what appears to be not just an ordinary earthquake, but an earthquake that conveniently blows the doors off hell and unleashes its unsavory spawn. After watching a gruesome massacre of both inmates and guards, you escape from your cell, find a shiv, and take your first steps on the road to perdition.
Even though story intricacy isn't The Suffering's main strength, players will find themselves glued to the game as its intersecting narratives - one focuses on the events at hand, while the other divulges dark secrets about Torque's past via flashbacks - peel back layer by layer. What also gives the story urgency is the fact that your actions throughout the game ultimately determine whether Torque himself is guilty or innocent of his crimes. Sure, these deeds often come down to binary choices ("Gee, should I pop this guy...or not?"), but the fact that your behavior dictates either a Hollywood conclusion or a darker director's-cut ending gives The Suffering an immersiveness you just don't get with action affairs like Max Payne.
But. like Rockstar's noir shooter series. The Suffering plays—sans bullet time, o( course—like a conventional first- or third-person shooter, replete with all the predictable staples of the genre. Weapons come in your standard shades of pistols, shotguns, machine guns, and grenades. In terms of an action game. The Suffering feels remarkably unremarkable. However, thanks to careful design, the game is nicely balanced between moments of explosive violence and chilling periods of dead calm—each element accentuating the other.
Unfortunately, those of you coming off visual highs such as Far Cry and UT2004 may find little here to feed the eyes. The Suffering may have looked passable on the Xbox eight months ago. but now, it simply looks fugly on any midlevel machine. Yet. amazingly enough. The Suffering manages to deliver an uppercut of suspense and fright, simply because the game takes itself so seriously at all times. In fact, the vibe is so prevalent with evil and perversion that you may find yourself running for natural sunlight. Fans of Clive Barker and a four-letter word starting with "f" need look no further for a dirty fix.
A fairly standard action game redeemed by some true suspense and fear.