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The Dark Pictures Anthology

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Supermassive Games
Release Date: Oct. 22, 2021


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PS5 Review - 'The Dark Pictures Anthology: Episode 4 - The Devil in Me'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 18, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

The Dark Pictures Anthology is a series of stand-alone, cinematic horror games, designed to present a new terrifying experience on a regular basis.

Buy The Dark Pictures Anthology

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Episode 4 – The Devil in Me is based on the story of the infamous serial killer, Dr. H.H. Holmes. He murdered his victims using traps and tricks before he was caught, and his story resonates to this day. Perhaps that is why the crew of a failing TV show thinks that visiting a replica of Holmes' infamous doom hotel ("murder castle") is a good idea.

Wouldn't you know it? No sooner do they check in to the hotel than they find themselves beset by mysterious automatons and dangerous traps that look to turn their show into a "true crime" broadcast. The unlucky group has to work together to find a way out or let their interpersonal squabbles ruin everything. That's half the fun of The Dark Pictures Anthology games.

From a storytelling standpoint, the opening is The Devil in Me's biggest problem. The game opens with a flashback to two characters who were so annoying and poorly done that I was genuinely eager for them to meet their ends, and then it flashes forward to the main cast, who have some tremendously aggravating opening bits. This can be true in horror movies, but I think it's genuinely the first time I disliked a cast quite as much on first blush. To the game's credit, the cast does get better as the story progresses, and they're allowed to be more than stereotypes, but it takes longer to get there than it should. A lot of the game could be trimmed down. It's the longest Dark Pictures Anthology game by a significant degree, but the extra hours don't add much, and I'd rather have seen it be shorter and more tightly paced.

Thankfully, the actual horror element is very well done. The game is creepy and atmospheric, and it is helped by focusing more on the actual horror over the mystery of why the horror is there. You're trapped in a horrible murder castle and need to get out, and that's more instantly accessible than weird hallucinations. I would go as far as to say that it nails the horror aspect the best out of all of the Dark Pictures Anthology titles to date, where simplicity works in its favor. That said, it also has a different tone and feels more akin to "Saw" at times. Again, I feel this works to the game's favor. I'm not a huge fan of the "Saw" films, but they offer a more interesting gameplay hook than something more supernatural — at least when it comes to the playable movie-style game. Some choices feel genuinely tense in a pretty different way than "Will saying this get me killed by a werewolf?" I would say it's the best "horror movie" of the lot and a strong example of how Supermassive has improved its craft from game to game.

That said, the actual gameplay of the games hasn't changed much. As usual, you're effectively swapping between interactive cut scenes and simple exploration. The Devil in Me tries to add some more traditional video game elements, mostly to positive effect. Characters now have an actual inventory and special items that they alone can use, which in turn means the experience offers some more complex puzzles and occasionally choices that are influenced by who you've let live or die. There's also a somewhat increased stealth element, as you can hide from danger and sneak past foes, rather than the game demanding the usual QTEs.

That said, I'm not sure the game goes far enough. The extra mechanics are added, but they don't really feel like they alter much. Considering the premise is that you're trapped in a horror hotel filled with dangerous traps, I expected there to be some tense gameplay around solving puzzles within a time limit, but that didn't materialize. Instead, the bulk of who lives and who dies relies on the choices you make. This isn't necessarily a flaw as it is what the franchise is known for, but I can't help but wish the developer had taken greater advantage of the premise. For all that a playable horror movie is fun on its own merits, a playable Saw-style puzzle horror game would've been something incredibly cool and distinct.

Visually, The Devil in Me looks great, as most of Supermassive's games do. It isn't quite up to the level of The Quarry, but the characters look great and are well acted and animated. Sometimes the illusion slips, but it's still consistently impressive how excellent the developer is at making great-looking character models on a budget. The environments are not always quite as nice but benefit from extremely strong art design. That said, I do feel like the actual "mask" slips sometimes when it comes to scene transitions and camera choices. They don't feel quite as smooth as they did in the last few games I've played in the franchise, so the illusion of a seamless movie isn't quite as good. The voice acting is largely excellent (barring one or two serious duds), and the performances are strong. The characters are annoying at first but grow into their roles quite nicely.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Episode 4 – The Devil in Me is a solid ending to the first "season" of the franchise. It isn't the best game in the lineup (I'd probably give that to House of Ashes), but it's probably the best horror story of the lot. The same familiar gameplay is bolstered by some new additions, but at the end of the day, they don't change the formula. If you've played the previous games, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. The Devil in Me shows that Supermassive is experimenting with The Dark Pictures Anthology and trying to expand what its games can be. I'm looking forward to seeing what Season 2 brings.

Score: 7.0/10

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