The Suffering E3 2004 Hands-On Impressions

We take the PC port of The Suffering out for a spin.

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Late last year Midway released a horror action game for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 called The Suffering. The game met with mixed reviews, but it turned out to be a competent effort, putting you in the shoes of a convicted murderer named Torque who is sentenced to death row. As you're transported to jail, things take a turn for the worse when horrific demons take over the prison and murder the inmates and guards, leaving you almost completely alone to try to escape. We had an opportunity to try out a near-finished version of the PC port of the Suffering.

The game starts off within the dark bowels of the prison, and you're armed with nothing but a shiv (knife) as you explore the shadowy halls of a jail overrun by mysterious forces. The game seems to make good use of lighting and darkness. Since the power to the prison was knocked out, most of the rooms and halls you enter are dark at first, until you find the light switches. As a result, you'll make extensive use of a flashlight to find your way around. You'll find that many of the guards and prisoners have been killed in a bloody and gruesome manner; some have had their heads bashed against the walls or sliced off, while others have been eviscerated. One victim was even cut in half, with the top half of the man's torso crawling in agony during one scripted sequence. The game's high level of gore is evident immediately, which shows you how The Suffering earned its M rating.

The Suffering will also include 12 different types of monsters scattered across its nine levels. One of these is a strange demon that looks much like Soul Calibur's Voldo, with knives for hands and feet and contortionist-like flexibility. This particular creature also has the ability to crawl on ceilings, making exploration somewhat nerve-racking as they can drop behind you unexpectedly. At the outset, fighting with just a shiv can be difficult against these agile creatures, but eventually we came across a revolver, which made combat a bit easier and gave us a taste of The Suffering's 10-weapon arsenal.

The game offers a rage meter that fills as you engage in combat. Once it's filled, you can transform Torque into a powerful demon, with the strength to rip apart enemies with melee attacks. The catch is that the rage meter empties slowly after you transform. If you don't transform back before it empties out completely, you take a huge amount of damage.

The rage meter is tied into Torque's psychological instability. Throughout the game, you'll "see" flashbacks of your ex-wife, whom you were convicted of murdering. As you make your way through the game, your sanity will be tested by different situations you confront. For example, we ran across a man trapped in the gas chamber, and the switch was right in front of us. Picking the sadistic option, we opted to gas the poor guy, which resulted in a hallucination of Torque's ex-wife exclaiming in horror at our option. By the end of the game, the choices you make will affect which ending you see after beating the game.

The Suffering on the PC is expected to ship next week. We'll have a full review of the game shortly.

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