After playing a two level demo of Midway's upcoming horror game The Suffering, it's safe to say that prison is definitely a really, really bad place to be. But Alcatraz, Sing Sing, and HBO's fictional Oz combined are nothing compared to what's going on in Eastern State Prison.
In the M-rated game, sure to be some sort of new modern horror classic, players take on the role of Torque, a man sent to death row for killing his wife and child. Or did he? His memory of the crime is questionable at best, and no sooner does his cell door shut than a massive series of earthquakes rocks the prison and all sorts of hell breaks loose as monsters appear and massacre most of the staff and prisoners.
Torque now has to make his way through the dark and monster-filled prison with a flashlight and a rather large shiv, but he'll soon come across other weapons thanks to a semi-helpful guard (who doesn't last all that long against a particularly nasty beast), and corpses scattered throughout the prison. Torque also has the ability to go temporarily insane and morph into some sort of crazed monster and bash the snot out of tougher enemies, so the game isn't your run of the mill survival horror melange.
There are some really cool touches here, like the ability to play in either first or third-person perspective, some frightening dreamlike reflections, monsters that rush past in darkened rooms as doors are opened, and an overall sense of dread, thanks to some solid visuals, truly atmospheric music and sound effects. The creatures were designed by the world famous Stan Winston Studio, so be prepared for quite the freakshow. The game combines elements of Silent Hill, Alone In the Dark, Eternal Darkness, and Renny Harlin's first US movie, Prison (which was kinda terrible, but the game improves a lot on what the film started) in a grim, violent, and damn downright scary package sure to keep you awake nights after you've finished it.
As for that rating, This game is geared toward adults ONLY, and you'll want to lock up the younger kids or send them to grandma's for the weekend. The game is most definitely NOT for the the faint of heart or folks looking for light entertainment. It's not quite as raw and mean-spirited as Rockstar's eye-popping Manhunt, but don't let your kids fool you into renting or buying this for them just because they "know someone at school who has it". It ain't pretty on the ears, but the game really looks good, and the fear is there. The Suffering is set for a release this February (Xbox and PS2). Check back here for a full review.
- Greg Wilcox