Developer: Surreal Software
Release Date: September 27, 2005
Last year, Midway unleashed the beast that is The Suffering on the unsuspecting world. The game's almost immediate success came as a surprise to everyone involved in the project, as most had anticipated a quick flop, followed by an almost immediate passing-over by the gaming world. After all, in a world full of demon/zombie-slashing style games, just how easy is it to make a true hit? The Suffering combined a chilling storyline with some very intricate characters, leading to an immediate success in the horror game world. With such a game blossoming into a hit overnight, Midway took appropriate action and immediately began work on a sequel, The Suffering: Ties That Bind, which has now been released only one year later.
Ties That Bind is a sequel that faces immense pressure to meet, if not surpass, the gaming experience created by the original Suffering. As has been made evident by many sequels before it, it is no easy task to try to expand on an original hit and produce a game which matches its prequel in intensity and value. As a matter of fact, it's downright hard.
For those of you left clueless when the original Suffering is mentioned, the storyline went something like this …. The main character, Torque, is an inmate awaiting execution in Abbott Penitentiary, a high-security prison isolated on a small island. Torque has been charged with killing his wife and two children in a rage, and has thus been sentenced to die.
However, not all is as it seems in this chilling prison, Torque soon discovers, as Abbott Penitentiary comes under attack by a whole slew of demon-like creatures. Using his brains and will to survive, Torque begins to uncover a dark sinister conspiracy which coincidentally centers directly around his murdered family. In perhaps one of the most original features of the game, the player is allowed to make certain moral decisions for Torque which directly influence the game and eventually the outcome of the entire nightmare. The first Suffering ends just as Torque manages to escape the cursed prison and reach safety.
However, there are many questions which still plague Torque's mind, including the mysterious murder of his family, which will motivate him to continue the search for the truth in the sequel. The Suffering: Ties That Bind centers around tracking down Blackmoore, the man who is supposedly responsible for the nightmares you have been involved in, and uncovering the true conspiracy within which you have become inescapably entangled. Of course, even after escaping the nightmarish island, your problems are far from over. Upon arrival in Torque's hometown of Baltimore, one will find that the evil forces which infested Abbott Penitentiary have somehow found their way into the city – a minor inconvenience, you might say.
One of the major questions placed upon Ties That Bind is just how this hyped sequel plans on topping the original title. One way in which it definitely attempts to create something bigger and better is through a sense of greater variety. For one, the location is much more open and varied; instead of being restricted to the confines of the prison yard, the player is now able to explore the streets of Baltimore, giving a fresh new feel to the game as a whole. After all, a whole city full of monsters provides much more of a challenge than a small island.
In addition, the various settings within the city are also much more diverse than the original prison locations. Rather than simply exploring different sections and rooms of the prison, the player is now able to wander throughout a variety of locales within the city. In addition to the more diverse scenery, Ties That Bind also attempts to offer additional variety in the way the player can control Torque. Torque is now able to jump and crouch as he sees fit, a much welcome addition to the game.
There are also several other minor changes to the control setup which, taken together, seem to create a much smoother feel and sense of control for the player. Not only this, but Midway has also changed the weapon system from the original – no longer can Torque carry around as many weapons as he sees fit. He's now forced to limit himself to two weapons at any one time, a change which definitely forces the player to think twice before equipping a certain gun or melee weapon. Overall, the slight changes to the game make the experience feel slightly more varied and fresh, but sadly not enough to top the original.
One of the most interesting features in Ties That Bind, and indeed one which made the prequel great, was the RPG elements. In the original, while the main goal was clearly to kill everything which got in Torque's way, there was definitely a sense of control not present in most shooters. Oftentimes, the player would be asked by other criminals to help them with minor problems, and depending on how you responded, it would result in small changes to the game as a whole.
In a bold move, Midway has decided to expand on this idea and give the player a much greater sense of control by creating more drastic consequences for certain decisions. Instead of small changes within the game's storyline, making certain decisions will now carry with them a much greater penalty. For example, deciding to help or not to help someone will now affect how other humans act towards you, and will change many of the cut scenes, including the ending of the game. This new amount of control is truly amazing, and it is easily one of the title's most interesting features.
However, while Ties That Bind certainly features several new options, the game definitely contains its share of faults. Perhaps the problem which will be most apparent to fans of the series is that it is simply too similar to the first. While the location and several minor game details have changed, TTB feels more like a continuation of The Sufferinginstead of an actual sequel. In addition, you will often find yourself repeating many of the same actions over and over. For the most part, the game is fairly linear and basically centers around the idea of Torque running from room to room shooting everything in his path, then continuing onto the next room in a constant linear sequence. While playing this game for several minutes may be exciting, one needs only to battle through several rooms to feel an eerie sense of déjà vu.
Another troubling problem behind this sequel is the AI. One minute you may find yourself wasting away a group of baddies with no problem, and the next minute, you will be overrun and killed. If you survive, the next wave of bad guys may all of a sudden be extremely weak again. The difficulty of the game is extremely unbalanced and confusing – definitely not a positive quality for such a game as this. While we're on the subject of faults, it is only fair to point out that the storyline in TTB is extremely foggy. Those who have never played the original Suffering will most likely find it quite difficult to follow, and those who have may still have some trouble as well. Throughout the game, many past events and people are mentioned, many of whom the player has no previous memory of. Among them is the infamous Blackmoore, a villain who it is assumed the player knows all about.
While The Suffering: Ties That Bind definitely contains its share of faults, one may argue that they don't really take very much away from the game. While this sequel is definitely not anything new compared to the initial offering, those who enjoyed the first game may want to check it out, keeping in mind that it is more of continuation of than actual new material. With that said, Midway has actually succeeded in creating an acceptable sequel to The Suffering, one which fans of the original should definitely look into.
More articles about The Suffering: Ties That Bind