One word I would use to describe The Suffering is disturbing - but in a good way. If you're looking for a horror survival game that can fill the gap left by the Silent Hill and Fatal Frame series, look no further.

Besides "disturbing", other words I would use to describe The Suffering would be "chilling", "nightmarish," "macabre," "gruesome," and "horror-ific." Unlike Fatal Frame, The Suffering does show plenty of graphic images. There are images of suffering, torture, rot, decay and blood - which does nothing to diminish the psychological suspense. This game is not for children unless you want to spend a fortune on therapists.

Events in the game take place in a rundown, maximum security prison. It's huge, with lots of strange and foreboding areas to explore. Torque is the anti-hero of the game. He's imprisoned for the slaughter of his family. Trapped in this hellish penitentiary he finds he is able to move about the facility in search of answers. He would have been better if he just stayed in his cell.

I don't want to give too much away but the way you play the game will affect the outcome. You will be faced with several options such as how you treat other prisoners that you come in contact with. You can help them, ignore them or slay them - the choice is yours. Are you really a psychotic murdered? Or are you a victim of circumstance? There are several endings to the game. The storyline seems to raise more questions than it answers as you never seem to get closer to the truth just further into the bizarre.

You will encounter several bizarre creatures such as one that has sword blades for appendages in addition to one that injects needles filled with lethal toxins into your body thus draining your health. Another creature called Fester opens his rotted stomach cavity to unleash a swarm of pestilent rats. Weapons in the form of guns and explosives turns the action into a shooter as you try to send these demons back from whence they came. A rage meter allows Torque to literally freak out as he transforms himself into some kind of crazed, superhuman monstrosity capable of tearing some of the creatures apart with his bare hands. This may sound kind of Game-Boy-ish but it has some bearing on the storyline.

Navigating through the darkness, your only sources of illumination are a flashlight and some flares. The flashlight is limited to a cone of light which only allows you to see your immediate area. It runs on batteries and if you let them run out you'll have to play in the dark. Flares are also limited but they will illuminate a greater area. Encountering the creatures in near or total darkness adds to the creepy atmosphere. Often you'll hear them before you see them.

You can change from first to third-person perspective on the fly. Third is better for using weapons and first is preferred for exploring. The mouse allows for more precise aiming than the console controller.

Visually The Suffering looks a little bit better than the console version but the unrelenting darkness often obscures the graphic details. The environments are dreary and create the perfect ambience for the horrors you are going to witness. The creatures are very imaginatively conceived and rendered, far more disturbing than McFarlanes' monsters. The music will give your goosebumps a head start as it sets the tone perfectly with a dynamic score of tension, terror and release.

Shooting, exploration and puzzles are all well balanced. The gameplay is unpredictable and challenging. You don't have to be a fan of the horror survival genre to realize that The Suffering is one hell of a good game.

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System: PC
Dev: Surreal Software
Pub: Encore
Release: June 2004
Players: 1
Review by Dameia