The Suffering. The sweet, sweet Suffering. The original game was simply amazing. Every horror fan’s dream. When the sequel was announced, I had some mixed feelings. The fact is, sequels sometimes suck. They usually fall flat, lose the magic of the source material, and end up feeling like a quick cash-in on something good. As a horror fan, there have been many instances of me cringing at proposed sequels. The original Suffering serves as a near perfect journey into the world of horror. I didn’t want anything to tarnish that memory. Upon playing The Suffering: Ties That Bind, I am happy to say that this series shows no tarnish. The subject matter has been treated with respect, and this latest trip into our dark hero Torque’s world is bigger, meaner, bloodier, and at times better.
Admittedly, upon starting the game, my initial impression was, “Ok, this is cool. It’s The Suffering,” but no matter how good, that lingering been there/done that feeling was seriously rearing its head. After going through the motions of the game’s opening, the credits begin to roll. Upon their conclusion we find Torque back in the boat he escaped with at the original game’s end. As soon as he docks, things change. Dramatically. It’s clear this is not going to be the same old thing. This is a different world. A different animal. Carnate Prison was fairly small territory. There were just so many places you could go. Ties That Bind starts us off in the City of Baltimore. You can go just about anywhere that you want. The animal has been unleashed.
The decision to change the setting for the game to a big city was also one that worried me. Part of what made The Suffering work was that claustrophobic feeling you got while wandering around Carnate. The people behind this latest venture were faced with quite a task in replicating that feeling and making it bigger and better. They pulled it off. There are many different back alleyways and streets to explore — not to mention the opportunity for some quality time in the city’s sewer system. You’ll go through storefronts, crack-houses, burned out buildings and even a movie theatre, all of which are littered with the mangled corpses of the city’s residents complete with buzzing, feasting insects. In this environment, even though it is expansive, the walls seem to start closing in on you — and fast.
All the little things there were to love about the original game are back as well. Torque’s violent hallucinations are still startling and genuinely creepy. Disembodied voices call for help. Telephones ring, seemingly daring you to answer them, and let’s not forget the horror movie references that made playing the first one so much fun for a fan. A child’s voice stating, “We all float down here” while making your way through the sewer system still manages to send an ample amount of chills up the player’s spine.
Morality still plays a huge part in the game’s mechanics as the choices you make affect your game’s eventual outcome. Even more interesting is the fact that The Suffering: Ties That Bind also offers multiple beginnings. How you start this journey depends upon how you finished the first. This adds a lot to the game’s replay value. The storyline for The Suffering series is quite good. You will want to see it all.
In the original game all the graphical horsepower clearly went into the characters and creature designs. Stan Winston’s creatures are back — along with some new ones. They seem to have had a bit of a facelift, but they’re still just as wicked as they were last year. One thing that is light years better than the first time around is Torque’s inner demon. If you thought it was badass before, believe me when I tell you: You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet! Another cool option is that you get to decide just how badass it is! Torque’s insanity mode is now multi-tiered and tied directly to a player’s actions. Our favorite creature can go from bloodthirsty to off the chart crazed depending on your moral choices.
Also much improved from last year is the game’s surroundings. Players will notice immediately how much better the game looks. It can be breathtakingly scary. Broken windows line the buildings of the streets while trash and smoke from fires are blown about quite realistically. Crashed vehicles, neon signs, blood splattered everywhere. The landscape is simply gorgeous and completely nightmarish. The designers of this game have created quite a world for the horror fan to play in. It’s all the evil we could have hoped for.
The gameplay stays pretty much intact in comparison to the original. You can still switch between first and third person views on the fly, but just like then, my only real complaint is that the camera at times can get a little on the monotonous side, especially when dealing with creatures in close combat.
All in all, this is without question the best genre game of the year next to the GameCube’s Resident Evil 4. If you want to see exactly how a horror game should be done, look no further than The Suffering: Ties That Bind. We can only wonder where Torque will end up next, but one thing is for certain — I’ll be there, controller in hand, waiting for the next hardcore Mature rated bloodbath.
The Suffering: Ties That Bind (2005)
Midway Home Entertainment
Available for PC, XBox (Reviewed), and PlayStation 2
4 1/2 out of 5