I had high hopes for The Suffering. What I knew about the game offered a bloody, atmospheric affair with a lot of horror overtones and a good plot. I wasn't entirely disappointed on these points.
The Suffering is a TPP (or FPS, but really I prefered TPP this time around) action game. You play as Torque, an inmate of the infamous Carnate Island, and are about to be put in Death Row (for the murder of your own family), when some strange, horrifying creatures appear and wreak havok. Over time you will learn about the history of the island, and uncover why you're really here.
The game starts off really strong - the initial enemies are vicious and unnerving, you don't have much in the way of weapons and it's basically building a nice atmosphere of the horror-infested prison. However, the further you go, the less you can feel that certain awe, because you'll be doing a lot of killing in The Suffering, and the enemies will get more and more wacky as you progress. It's definitely not a survival horror game, but an action one, which just happens to have a horror theme. Which is fine with me, because while I wasn't really scared once (an achievement for me), the game still gripped me because of the atmosphere. Some ways it introduces the setting to you are great, others seem a bit tacked on.
The action part of the game is cool, but you often attend seemingly endless waves of enemies before you can progress to the next room. This seems, most of the time, to be a rather cheap and artificial way of holding you back. The variety of weapons is your usual fare - machine guns, pistols, shotguns, grenades and the like, but most of them are fun to use so no gripes here.
The plot is good, as Torque learns more about himself and the Island Prison, you get a feeling that the authors really had a good idea of what they wanted the player to see. However, a lot of stuff is left unresolved, and the most important of it is the riddle of how those hellish creatures actually arrived on the Island and why is it that apparently Torque has something to do with it.
The basic game gets a solid 7/10. Very enjoyable, good voice acting, nice graphics, no major gripes - but it just seemed to me it could have been better at points and maybe if they added a bit of the horror in a good way it would make for a more compelling experience.
Shortly about Ties That Bind, the expansion/follow-up to the basic game. It's roughly the same length (a bit shorter), takes place off the Island, in Baltimore, where we learn about Torque's dark past, and especially an old nemesis / patron of his, Blackmore. The game takes on a somewhat Max Payne-ish feel to it, because of the change of locales and some of the plot devices. The cities background is, as in the basic game, reflected by the enemies you fight, but this time they both went for overhaul, and haven't done enough. The overhaul is due to the number of enemy types, there's just a bit too many of them to keep a coherent theme, and some of them are very similar to each other. Given that I thought the basic game had a bit too little enemy types, they apparently just missed the sweet spot for that. And I say there's not enough background because of the VERY dark and interesting stories of racial intolerance and abuse bits in it are somewhat underplayed. For example, you meet two very dark personalities, but only confront one of them.
The game made changing into a monster its main mechanic. You could do that in the first game, but it was considered to bring you closer to the "dark side" as you embraced your inner demons. Here you HAVE to do it at certain points, and it's a question of being the "good" monster or the "bad" monster, which seems a bit silly. The mechanic doesn't add that much, but takes away a certain temptation that the first game had, and that was very thematic.
The ending is rather disappointing, I got a very short and lackluster ending sequence based on my actions in the game, and the game fails to explain some of the stuff the first one didn't bother to address. Yes, you learn more about Torque, but really it only gives you more holes in the overall thing than answers. Maybe if I got a different ending...
Some minor changes to the action bits - Torque can now carry only two weapons at a time, uses his Xombium pills (Max Payne-ish, haven't I told you?) the moment he gets them instead of having them on hand and regenerates a bit of health if he's down to a certain amount. Nothing ground breaking, nor game-breaking. Worked alright.
That's about it, really. Another 7/10, a worthy successor, but definitely weaker than that original game - for various reasons, mostly considered with theme. I can easily recommend both games to horror and shooter fans alike.