When Midway released The Suffering last year, they had a sleeper hit on their hands. While it initially looked like an ultra-violent action Resident Evil clone, players found out that it was more geared towards action, but still could provide a scare. The gritty setting of a prison with grimy walls, haunting visions, and characters based on capital punishment provided something unique from the typical zombie carnage.
When a hit comes along, often a sequel follows. That’s the case with The Suffering: Ties That Bind. While you still follow Torque, you find him out of the prison and back at his old stomping grounds of Baltimore. However, Torque can’t run away from his demons, as they appear to follow him to Baltimore. He has to clean up the city of monsters while struggling with the demons of his past.
The initial impressions of the graphics in TS:TTB are disappointing. The character models have low polygon counts, which is especially noticeable during the cutscenes. After playing for a little while, however, there are little details in the graphics you start to appreciate. The textures used for Torque are very detailed. The blood spatter on his stained clothes and the stubble on his face give Torque the appearance of being more than just an ordinary character. Torque is well animated as well, moving realistically through the game. He feels the recoil of a shotgun and realistically gets up after knocked down.
The monsters and backgrounds have the same issues as Torque. While the monsters have lower polygon counts than Torque, they do move well. They also have a sense of scale that makes you feel like some of them are towering over you. You know that you don’t want to mess with some of these creatures, especially after seeing the blood squirting from your corpse after being decapitated. The textures throughout the town give an extra coat of grime to the area. The city is dark, almost too dark at times, but light illuminates areas whether coming from lights or flames.
Not only do the creatures give you the creeps, but visions also really bring up the tension. Occasionally you will interact with an object that causes a vision. Not only do you see a flashback of what happened before the gruesome scene, but often a blinding graphic at the critical point covers the screen. I swear these scenes made me jump out of my skin more than I care to think.
While the graphics might have some issues, Surreal has created an acoustic experience that really gets the tension so high your body hairs stand on end. Carmen, your guide, has a haunting voice that guides you through the adventure. Dr. Killjoy has a bit of a mad scientist sound to him. When you see him on a movie theater screen, you hear the clicking of the projector. When he shows up on the TV, you’ll hear static coming from the speakers. The weapons give a good sound indicative of their power. While the shotgun sounds loud and powerful, handguns don’t give off the same oomph. Swinging a rusty pipe gives a different sound and feel than swinging a baseball bat.
While what you do hear is freaky, what you don’t hear freaks you out more. When the flashbacks occur, often they are unexpected and sudden. You walk into situations not knowing what to expect, and often will hear a monster coming at you before you actually see it. However, with the 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound, you get a sense of direction where it is coming from.
The voice acting is excellent. The most noticeable voice is that of Michael Clarke Duncan as Blackmore. However, the other voice actors are done just as well. They convey emotion and don’t sound like they were phoned in.
Anyone familiar with first- or third-person adventures won’t have any issues with the controls. TS:TTB uses the dual analog stick for movement and directions typical of this sort of game. A jumps, B performs a secondary melee attack, X uses an item, and Y switches weapons and picks them up. Left trigger tosses thrown weapons, and right trigger attacks with the primary weapon. White activates the insanity mode, and black cycles the thrown weapons. Up on the D-pad toggles between third- and first-person perspectives, and down on the D-pad reloads your weapon.
TS:TTB does have sliders to increase or decrease the sensitivity of the controls, but the default provides a happy medium between sensitivity and speed. It also offers settings for auto pitch correction and auto targeting, but it’s unlikely most purists will turn these on. However, it is nice to have these options available.
TS:TTB starts off with Torque reliving his escape from Carnate Island and on a small motorboat heading towards Baltimore. On the way “The Foundation” captures him. After Torque is brought to Jordan, the head of the Foundation, the creatures attack and Torque is left to fend for himself. Torque goes through Baltimore, searching for his old apartment, his now dead ex-wife Carmen guiding him with her voice and through visions, while the Foundation goes through and attempts to capture these creatures that have infested the city.
Torque encounters some grotesque creatures throughout the game. Early on Torque meets up with the Slayer, a headless torso with blades for limbs. Shortly afterwards the Arsonist shows up, a creature with two heads that is engulfed in flames and throws fire for attacks, as well as the Gorger, a towering creature based on a Baltimore urban legend with an insatiable hunger that eats everything.
Torque is determined to clear the city of these creatures by any means necessary, which includes melee weapons and firepower. Torque can pick up weapons and ammo left from enemies or from chests around the city. These weapons include knives, baseball bats, shotguns (including the sawed-off kind), M3A1s, Tommy Guns, grenades, Molotov cocktails, and grenade and rocket launchers. Don’t think that this is a walk in the park for Torque. Torque needs every piece of firepower he can get. Enemies get tougher and increase in numbers. It doesn’t help that Blackmore, Torque’s nemesis from Carnate Island, is doing everything he can to destroy Torque’s mind.
Torque’s arsenal of weapon isn’t his only way to destroy these atrocious creatures. In fact, you might say Torque’s greatest weapon is turning into one of these creatures himself. Dr. Killjoy’s experiments enable Torque to turn into an abomination when his insanity meter gets full and this ability is activated. Melee attacks can be chained, and Torque can impale three enemies on his arm. However, staying in this mode too long causes damage to Torque and leaves him vulnerable.
One of the best features of the game is that it allows you to save ANYWHERE. While there are checkpoints throughout a level, if you leave the game without saving, you have to restart from the beginning of the level. However, being able to save anywhere in the game is a huge bonus so that you don’t have to cover large areas of ground when you die.
While TS:TTB has a lot going for it, it does have a few negatives. The most noticeable is the camera. While the camera adjusts fairly quickly, there are times when it gets stuck by walls. It can also be difficult to see an enemy before it actually attacks you.
The enemies in the game aren’t all that smart. While they do try to trap you in a corner, about all you need to do is circle-strafe and keep your distance to defeat enemies. Don’t take this to mean that you have a walk in the park though. Also, there could have been a little more variety in the enemies that attack you.TS:TTB is not a short game like Max Payne 2, but it’s not as long as your typical RPG. It’s a good length for this type of game. It includes four different difficulty levels, but it’s hard to see anyone wanting to go through the game more than once on a higher difficulty level. They do reward you in the game as you progress with profiles of the different creatures as well as diary entries from your former ex-wife. While TS:TTB doesn’t have any multiplayer, it is Xbox Live aware, so that buddies can invite you to games while you are playing.