Ok, this one isn’t all that obscure, but it was what I was in the mood for. More obscurity the next several times, I swear! The Suffering was arguably the last great original series by legendary former game publishers and developers Midway Games. They say that the first game sold quite well and gave them a much needed financial boost back in 2004, though I guess it wasn’t that much of a boost since they went bankrupt a few years later. Oh well.
Anyway, The Suffering is yet another 3rd person PS2 horror game, but to its credit, where most other games of this type at the time were busy mimicking Silent Hill or Resident Evil, The Suffering took its own approach by being much more about heavy action than scares. Sure, there are a lot of gruesome monsters menacing you at every turn and a heaping helping of surreal flashback/hallucination scenes that sort of double as jump scares, but this definitely isn’t a game about subtle scares and dread, it’s about shooting the shit out of everything that moves until they explode into piles of bloody chunks.
Unsurprisingly, from the company that gave us Mortal Kombat, this is another game relies heavily on gratuitous violence and edginess. The story is just an afterthought and doesn’t even end up making a whole lot of sense by the end. Oh, there’s a series of basic moral choices to be made that’ll determine what kind of character main character Torque is and what kind of ending you’ll get, which was impressive for its time, but none of this really matters much to the greater plot, which I still don’t fully understand.
You’re in prison on an island, there’s an earthquake that makes weird cenobite-looking creatures appear and start killing everyone, and you have to survive and escape. Along the way you learn that all these creatures are the result of the terrible history of the island, which involves the mass murdering of a whole lot of inmates by corrupt staff, a nearby asylum that also had questionable things happening in it, witch burnings, and some kind of weird WW2 bunker under the prison where experiments had taken place back in the day. Add this all together and it…equals monsters, I guess? I don’t know, they really don’t ever explain it outside of “that there island is EEEEEEVIL!”.
Luckily the action gameplay makes up for the shortcomings of the plot. While turning is a bit weirdly delayed and weapon selection is pretty cumbersome, the combat still manages to be fun as you go up against a pretty cool selection of undead thingamajigs, furiously blasting away with a pretty standard selection of weapons. You typically have to fight groups of enemies, sometimes pretty large waves of them, so things get pretty messy and dangerous.
If you start getting overwhelmed you can also turn into a big stabby beast yourself, which will let you slash and stomp gangs of enemies with ease, but only for a very limited time. This is another part of the story that’s never really explained very well, but gee it sure does look cool and makes for a fun combat mechanic.
Surprisingly, it all still plays and runs quite well even on a crusty old PS2, using a typical PS2 controller that was notoriously bad at precise aiming in shooters back when analog sticks were still young. Other than a few parts where it gets a little confusing trying to figure out where you’re supposed to go next, The Suffering still holds up pretty well as long as you aren’t expecting anything more than mindless horror-themed action.
It managed to get one sequel before Midway died, which I never got around to playing for some reason, but I have a feeling that I will be doing so very soon, as this Halloween horror game rampage continues…