Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: April 2, 2004
Survival horror games tend to fall into one of two categories: bloody, gore-filled adventures such as the Resident Evil series or terrifying mind trips a la Silent Hill. The Suffering, Midway’s latest for PlayStation 2, leans toward the former, with plenty of creepy monsters to gun down, disturbing scenery to endure and other macabre elements to explore. Don’t be fooled, however, as this title will still wreak havoc with your mind, just in a very conspicuous and unapologetic manner.
If you can possibly imagine an eerier, more ominous and miserable version of Alcatraz, you still wouldn’t be close to picturing the cesspool that’s Abbot State Penitentiary on Carnate Island. Living conditions in this particular facility are abysmal, even by prison standards, and the bloody history of the island itself seems to have a profound impact on inmates and correctional officers alike. The homicide and suicide rates are astonishingly high among the population, employee retention is low and to top it all off, the weather is consistently dreadful.
Convicted of killing his wife and two children, Torque is one of the men sentenced to die on Carnate Island. He claims to have no memory of the event, as he’s prone to periodic blackouts, one of which supposedly occurred at the time of the murder. Regardless, while waiting on death row for his sentence to be carried out, a bizarre incident eliminates the bulk of the prison’s staff and inmates, allowing Torque to escape. Though he’s been spared the lethal injection table, his life is no more secure outside the confines of his cell. You must take control of this disturbed man and battle your way through hordes of enemies while attempting to discern what happened the night of your family’s murder.
Initially, you’ll have nothing but a shiv to fend off the hordes of mutilated creatures, but your arsenal will eventually grow to include firearms such as a revolver, machine gun and shotgun. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses; while the Tommy Gun may possess an extremely rapid rate of fire, it lacks the accuracy of the revolver and power of the shotgun. There are also special bonus weapons, including a flamethrower that must be assembled from parts collected throughout the game. This is a challenging quest, but the payoff makes the task worthwhile.
Furthermore, thrown devices such as TNT, flashbangs and shrapnel grenades can be used to distract, incapacitate or kill small numbers of enemies, or even to blow up other volatile materials and solve certain puzzles. Flares also fall into this category, and though they can’t be employed as weapons, they’re good for illuminating areas should your flashlight battery run out.
Rage mode is another interesting feature, and one that will certainly bail you out of many tight situations. A gauge in the lower left corner of the screen represents your current level of insanity, and as you kill enemies, it gradually fills. Once the meter glows orange, you can tap the triangle button to transform yourself into a tremendously powerful beast. You have two attacks in this state; the first is a basic (albeit mighty) fist pound while the second is a special ability that tends to deal greater damage to the surrounding area. This skill grows and changes as you eliminate monsters in rage mode, increasing in strength as you use it more and more. Keep in mind, however, that your insanity meter is steadily drained while in this transformed state, and if you don’t morph back before it reaches zero, your health will start to be consumed as well.
Interestingly, the game can be played from both third- and first-person perspectives; a simple button press is all that’s required to make the switch. The over-the-shoulder look is always preferable when exploring and searching for items or clues, but as other survival horror aficionados can attest to, this camera angle has a habit of causing problems during combat. Shifting to a first-person view helps alleviate potential troubles caused by the camera during those hectic, close quarters battles.