The Suffering: Ties That Bind E3 2005 Preshow Impressions

Midway's ultracreepy horror action sequel will be at E3. We take an early look.

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The Suffering didn't exactly make a gigantic splash in the horror gaming market when it hit store shelves last year, but it still proved to be a genuinely creepy and unique offering that bucked many of the usual survival horror trends in favor of a more straightforward action approach. The Suffering: Ties That Bind is the upcoming sequel, and it follows the dark, grisly adventures of Torque, the previously imprisoned antihero of the last game who now finds himself in the streets of Baltimore, once again fighting off horrific monsters, as well as a slew of new enemies. Midway will have Ties That Bind playable at E3, and we took an early peek at the demo it'll be showing.

Ties That Bind picks up, quite literally, exactly where you left off in the first game. It even takes into account the alternate endings of the original, so depending on how you ended up beating the first game (and depending on whether or not you still have your old save from that game), the game will start off differently. One way or the other, Torque will come back to Baltimore, his old home, only to find it completely overrun with the same types of monsters he encountered during his brief stay in prison. The Baltimore depicted in Ties That Bind is a severely depressed one. The two levels we saw during the demo showed off lots of burned-out buildings, trashed interiors, and, of course, the aforementioned gruesome creatures out to kill you dead. The demo showed off multiple types of these creatures, including the old slayers from the last game, now bigger, meaner, and with sharper blades. We also saw a couple of new types of enemies, called the suppressors and the gorgers. The suppressors can only be described as short, fat cops, but with guns shoved into their torsos and no legs. These little guys crawl around on the floor with their arms, leaving a blood trail wherever they go as they drag their legless torsos around. They also happen to be deaf and can see you only if you happen to get in the view of the lights that are also attached to their heads. The gorgers are based on starvation and come at you with their skinny, frail frames, predictably trying to eat you.

Ties That Bind looks far more disturbing than the original Suffering, which is an impressive feat.

There's more to Ties That Bind than just a lot of creepy monsters, however. Much of the story revolves around the evil Caleb Blackmore, an old friend who seems to have taken a vested interest in your current situation. You'll find yourself periodically fighting off paramilitary troops that answer to Blackmore, and if our experiences with them were any indication, they're just as tough as any of the hellish beasts you'll encounter. Of course, Torque is still haunted by his past--namely his family--and that aspect will come into play quite a bit. As in the last game, Torque will encounter disconcerting flashbacks and visions of his family, as well as plenty of horribly violent visions. You'll also see a return from the hysterically bizarre Dr. Killjoy, who once again guides you through the game.

The basic gameplay mechanics of Ties That Bind felt a lot like the original game, but a bit tighter overall. You can still switch between first- and third-person cameras, and the majority of your time will be spent running around, shooting swarms of enemies while occasionally solving little puzzles to progress. However, Torque can now only hold onto two weapons at once, meaning you'll have to be a bit choosy about which weapons you pick up and leave behind. Torque can also enter rage mode once again, though there are now three levels of Torque's transformable form, and the penalty for not changing back before your insanity meter runs out is no longer death, but rather a state of vulnerable confusion. Rage mode is also more important in Ties That Bind. Whereas in the first game you could use it but didn't really need to, there will be many situations in this game that simply cannot be completed without entering into rage mode.

Look for The Suffering: Ties That Bind to haunt shelves later this year.

We came away from our time with The Suffering: Ties That Bind confident that the developers are out to create another disturbing, action-oriented game in the same vein as the original Suffering but also that they're not just out to make the same game again. Ties That Bind seems like it could really up the ante on the brand of freaky action that was so prevalent in the original game and refine it into a more enjoyable overall experience. At E3, Midway will have two levels playable, including a section of urban Baltimore, as well as a prison level, seemingly included as a nod to the original Suffering. The Suffering: Ties That Bind will hit stores late this year for the Xbox, PS2, and PC. We'll bring you more on the game soon.

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