Consumed by darkness

From the looks of the screenshots, you'd probably think this is your average third-person shooter. Lurking behind the box lies one of the most engaging horror titles I've ever played. Loaded with tons of blood, swearing, disturbing imageries, and demons, The Suffering pieces it together well, making for one of the most satisfying survival-horror title in the market.

You play as Torque, the convict who is on death row for murdering his family. Torque is held inside a cell in Abbott State Penitentiary, where the worst of the inmates are poisoned. After a brief exchange of words between inmates, an earthquake hits and the lights go off. A few swearing and shrieks are accompanied by the sound of blood puddles embark the cells, and suddenly a demonic claw breaks open your cell. Torque frees himself and searches for an exit off the prison island.

Surreal did a great job with the creepy environments and the disturbing atmosphere. Every moment of the game keeps you immersed, and for hours you'll never want to let your guard down. The feeling of uneasiness, the claustrophobic darkness, and the constant flashbacks of your family's death reminds players that death is just around the corner. Thrown in with the bucket of blood and excellent voice acting are the disturbing execution scenes and back-stories told from npcs that'll stick to you for a little while.

Right from the get-go, you'll be given a brief tutorial on how to maneuver Torque. Surreal should be applauded for their intuitive controls(and camera angles) and the availability of exploration and combat in first-person or third-person. Torque is controlled by the left analog stick and the camera is controlled with the right. You'll maneuver Torque and the camera with ease. Whether your circle strafing or running, the camera will always give you a clear view of the action. Torque can also jump, push crates, roll, and later transform into a powerful beast to wreak havoc. The beast is accompanied by an insanity meter which depletes during transformation. During transformation, Torque will be able to deal an insane amount of damage. However its only momentarily as the insanity will deplete, you'll have to switch back to your original form before it the meter runs out.

Torque is first given a knife to defend himself. Later on, he'll acquire more fire-arms such as shotguns, Tommys, revolvers, and molotovs. Torque can also stock up on bottles that act as health. What I especially like about the weapon inventory system is Torque's ability to change weapon on the fly. There were numerous situations where I ran out of ammo for a certain firearm, Torque would auto equip the next available firearm and save you the trouble of doing so. I've played many horror games before and this is the first time the main character auto-junction himself, and you can't help but thank him.

The Suffering is a very dark game. You will have a flashlight that'll slowly loose battery overtime. Since most of the areas are completely dark, battery conservation plays a big role in your exploration. It's a nice touch that'll keep you on your feet and moving. I've had one occurrence where my screen became absolute darkness and nearly unplayable( thank goodness for the extra flare rounds).

During your exploration, you'll encounter inmates and cops who'll aid you in your escape. You can either help them escape together or take their life if you wanted to. Whatever option you choose to do, it'll effect the game ending. These NPC's are super beefed up in Health points. However due to their questionable AI, they can also die in a blink of an AI. Some will be trigger happy, while others are way too talkative. In the end, each npc have their own unique personality and back-story, and you'll eventually grow to like/hate them. They'll give you tips and lead you through the stage (you won't have to baby-sit them much as they can really put up a fight). There is also friendly fire if you ever feel like it.

There are an assortment of puzzles that are simple. You'll get the occasional poison gas leakage where you'll need to cover the vents with boxes, and the fire that requires the a turn valve. Gamers will appreciate the extremely limited fetch-quest in the game. Everything you need to solve a puzzle is usually right in front of you, its just up to the players to look around and come up with a solution.

There are a handful of monsters where you'll be facing the same ones throughout the whole game. There's enough variety to break up the repetition, and each monster makes one heck of an entrance. One will come running through you with its blade piercing through the ground, another is a small green monster that injects poisonous gas into you. There are also some occasional boss battles to break up the action. These boss battles usually a lot of trial and error. Luckily players can save anywhere at anytime.

Horror heavily relies on great sounds to ascend a great story. The suffering has lots of creepy noises and shrieking monsters adding to the subtle music. The dialog and voice acting is intelligent and emotional. Though Torque is mute throughout the whole game, every NPC he encounters says very interesting things. Some will make you laugh, some will disturb, and some will anger you. The voice acting definitely sells and though there is a lot of swearing, they never feel forced and they're never out of place. The dialog is so well scripted, it almost feel like a movie. Visuals are also good, not great. Since the game is really dark, you won't see much outside the area in front of you. A neat feature is the blood-stain on Torque's body after a close range encounter. It is only momentarily, but the lighting effects combined with the motion captured movements of Torque makes it feel interesting.

There are some small bugs that hurt the experience of the game. Torque will get stuck inside a chair or a table. If your lucky you can remedy this by jumping out, however if the NPC gets stuck, you'll have to restart. I've also had one moment where my game froze, and there were times where my NPC would suddenly disappear. Another annoyance is Torque's inability to fall four feet from the air. You'll literally have to baby him around a platform.

The Suffering is one of the longer action-horror games on the ps2. With all its swearing, blood, and gore, its also one of the most violent horror games in the market. I highly recommend the Suffering to anyone willing to try a new horror/shooter title outside the mainstream titles.