When The Dark Pictures Anthology was revealed, its promise was immediately apparent: take the team that gave us the excellent Until Dawn and have them tackle new horror subgenres about once a year. . Results have been mixed across the four games released, but on a steady upward trajectory that isn’t faltering with the latest efforts. The Devil in Me is Supermassive’s latest slasher, and it outshines its predecessors – with a more cohesive plot, the series’ best characters, and a bit of clever gamification injected into the cinematic experience.
The Devil in Me takes us to Chicago, first at the turn of the 1900s to introduce – or, for horror fanatics, more likely reminds us – HH Holmes, sometimes dubbed “America’s first serial killer”. Holmes’ “murder castle” was actually a hotel he set up to function as a maze of gruesome contraptions that could make Jigsaw’s works look like Mouse Trap. After a short flashback, the game cuts to the present day and follows an independent film crew making a documentary about Holmes.
To their delight, they are invited into a scale replica of the killer’s gruesome hotel that doubles as a sort of museum where they are promised exclusive background images and information. It turns out that the curator of the pitch is far from well-articulated himself – who would have guessed? – and what unfolds from there is about five hours of quality material.
Every game in the series has put a familiar face in its small cast, and for The Devil Inside Me, that’s Jessie Buckley, fresh out of Alex Garland’s polarizing body horror flick, Men. While it might be called “high horror” by those who like the term, The Devil in Me is – like all The Dark Pictures – a more traditional blood harvest, and it works because Supermassive gets it.
The Devil in Me solves many problems that its predecessors struggled with to varying degrees. Its characters are likable, which hasn’t always been the case, and more importantly, they have time to breathe at the start of the story. At a time when their lives are threatened, I found myself caring for them for reasons that went beyond simply wanting to pass the game’s many quick events. weight. It’s one thing to unlock a trophy to keep everyone alive. It’s more interesting and rewarding to persevere because you really wish them well.
The devil in me also expects you to keep in mind what you’ve learned about each character in order to relate to them. A character’s asthma is used over and over and in different ways, always requiring me to remember her illness and understand how it could uniquely change a given life or death situation for her. There are some really clever kill scenes in this game, and Supermassive continues to make them feel right. A good horror story probably doesn’t see everyone survive, so when I lost characters I was glad to feel it was my mistakes, not the result of obscure victory scenarios.
Another improvement comes in the way The Devil in Me takes an unexpected step back from the series’ normally strict cinematic qualities. It’s still a highly cinematic game where most of the gameplay is about making choices with little time to think and passing blinking QTEs and you’ll miss where failure often means death.
However, there are a few puzzles mixed into this one that give it more traditional gameplay, and there’s variety in how you solve problems, like finding items that could save lives at any given time. in an unknown future. Each character even has one or more unique elements, like the audio technician who can use a handheld boom mic and headphones to hear things better, or the cameraman who can photograph crime scenes to – ideally – turn into cops when he survives.
The series took a half step away from its cinematic origins with last year’s House of Ashes when it switched to a typical over-the-shoulder camera, so this year’s episode in the spooky series looks like the other half of this stage, embracing more video game qualities without losing its cinematic intentions. However, it is starting to show its age. Given the visual feat that is The Quarry, Supermassive’s 2K horror game released earlier this year, The Devil in Me is certainly less stunning to watch, so it’s hard to go back to the less detailed world of The Dark Pictures. That’s not to say it looks bad, but playing on PS5 only the higher framerate option made me feel like the game is current-gen. For its second season, The Dark Pictures would benefit from a technical update.
This is true not only in his appearance, but also in the way he plays. Simple actions like opening a drawer using a newly-seen lock picking mini-game in this latest sequel are almost comically slow in the way they break actions down into a series of smaller moves. Opening a drawer, for example, involves grasping the handle of the drawer, then pulling on it to find that it is locked, then slowly equipping the unlocking device, using it, then returning to a free hand, then to pull out the drawer again. It makes me feel like a laundry folding robot running clearly segmented instructions.
Sometimes hesitation is necessary, like when your best method of survival is actually inaction, but these slow interactions are all too common. Supermassive wants its characters to feel heavy, and I think that’s the right choice because that comes with vulnerability, but there’s a middle ground that can save that necessary vulnerability while allowing the game to better control the game. ‘together.
While this sequel doesn’t fix those long-standing issues, it does tell a better overall story than those that came before it. I’ve enjoyed each of these games so far, but the devil in me definitely has the best lore in the series. As usual, you can miss a lot of this if you don’t walk the outlying lanes before directing it to the next kill stage, but players who find themselves picking up every frenzied note, police report, or recorder cryptic they can find will. come away with an added layer to the story that elevates it beyond just a slasher. As a huge horror fan, I love this.
With so many branching paths, I’ve found that some games like this, even within this series, can feel disjointed in the end, as the modular parts of the game aren’t always versatile enough, and your ending may give the impression that it comes out of nowhere as a result. While I haven’t walked all the way, I was happy to find that wasn’t the case at all in my time with the game. A few lingering threads I left behind feel more like lore than I had overlooked, whereas in previous games it was entire character arcs or motivations that often left me scratching my head.
The Devil in Me is the best game in the series. Supermassive delivered a great script this time around, and while it’s simpler than others that tend to rely on a mid-game twist, it’s not without surprises. I firmly believe that the second season of The Dark Pictures both needs and deserves a technical overhaul, and I believe that if it can line up with another fun story like this, The Dark Pictures will finally have reached its full potential. For now, he’s still climbing towards that peak, but he’s heading in the right direction.