Game: The Suffering

Developer: Surreal Software

Publisher: Midway Games

Available On: Xbox, PlayStation 2 and PC

The Suffering was a surprise hit for Midway, in part because the company was hardly renowned for survival-horror games. Although it was far from perfect, The Suffering delivered an unhealthy share of shocks, jolts, and nightmarish imagery, while creating a nasty and oppressive atmosphere. The sequel, Ties That Bind, explores familiar ground, but with a few enhanced play mechanics and a new open city setting.

Those familiar with the first Suffering will recall the main hero, Torque, a death-row inmate who was subject to hallucinations as his prison surroundings turned into hell itself after monsters stormed the place. Torque once again takes center stage, but this time, the locale moves to a bigger hell on earth: the rotting city of Baltimore, where the ex-con’s hallucinations reflect urban decay: injustice, drug addiction, poverty, crime and a host of other social problems. Dark, dreary visuals vividly bring the depression to life, but the camera frequently lags behind the action, and it isn’t always possible to see who–or what–is attacking Torque at a given moment. Thanks to a refined and streamlined inventory system, however, Torque is a more efficient one-man army this round, as he’s limited to carrying two firearms and as many handheld explosives at one time.

Ties has plenty of atmosphere to be sure, but the narrative isn’t particularly compelling, as you move from locale to locale without much rhyme or reason, and the monsters–disturbing as they are–become all too similar after the first few chapters. Plus, the limited play mechanics–circle-strafing enemies works almost every time–also dampers the overall effect. The whole game comes across as the equivalent of a B-grade horror movie: exciting at times, ultimately unmemorable. Worthy of a rental for the curious, this Suffering is good for a few scares, but its ties bind with the strength of loose string.

Release date : Released on March 9, 2004[Play Station 2, Xbox] / June 8, 2004[PC]