The Suffering (video game)

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The Suffering
The Suffering coverart.jpg
North American cover art
Developer(s) Surreal Software
Midway Home Entertainment
Next Level Games[1]
Publisher(s) Midway Games
Designer(s) Richard Rouse III (lead designer & writer)

Andre Maguire (lead level designer)
Stan Winston (Creature Designer)

Composer(s) Erik Aho
Engine Riot Engine
Platform(s) PlayStation 2
Release date(s) PlayStation 2, Xbox
  • NA March 9, 2004
  • PAL May 14, 2004
  • NA June 8, 2004
  • PAL July 30, 2004
Genre(s) Psychological horror
Mode(s) Single-player

The Suffering is a psychological horror video game, developed mainly by Surreal Software and published by Midway Games, released in 2004 for the Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Windows. The game featured monster designs by Stan Winston.


The player controls Torque, a man who has been sent to Abbott State Penitentiary on Carnate Island, Maryland. Torque has been convicted and sentenced to death for murdering his ex-wife and two children, although he claims to have blacked out at the time this happened and cannot remember anything. The night Torque arrives, there is a powerful earthquake, which releases an army of monsters upon the facility. Torque's cell door breaks and he is freed from captivity. Starting from his cell, Torque traverses the prison in an attempt to escape Carnate Island alive.

During the journey, Torque finds that the monsters set loose personify the many forms of execution the island has played host to. In addition, he is met by the spirits of some of Carnate's most famous residents: the deranged Psychiatrist/Surgeon Dr. Killjoy, the former executioner Hermes T. Haight, and the regretful murderer Horace. With their help, Torque discovers that he can transform into a raging monster himself (other characters assert that these "transformations" are merely a sort of adrenaline-fueled madness). Killjoy is obsessed with curing Torque, though his methods are questionable, and at various points delivers vague medical advice. Horace and Hermes, on the other hand, try to sway Torque towards good or evil, respectively. Torque meets several other characters along the way, whose fate is variable. For example, he can team up with a corrections officer while traversing the island's forest.

At the climax of the game, Torque is confronted by visions of his deceased family. Depending on the player's actions, they will either forgive Torque (because it was not him who murdered them) or blame him for their troubles (because it was him, either in whole or in part). After facing his inner demon, himself, and a monster born of his hatred, Torque is found by a rescue boat, though his fate past this point is dependent on what his family thinks of him. Depending on his actions, Torque will: be rescued and get a re-trial; knock out the driver and escape; or become his inner demon, kill the driver, and run back into the island.


The Suffering plays as a traditional survival horror video game from a first-person and third-person perspective, employing the controls of the former but allowing players to switch between the two camera angles. The weapons provided to the player are reminiscent of those found in prisons: shivs, revolvers, Molotov cocktails, and a wide array of less common weapons.

In the game, the player is presented several opportunities to test their morality, usually in the form of a person who is trying to survive the horrors of the island. In most cases, the player is presented with three options: help the person (good), kill them (evil), or remain indifferent to their plight (neutral). A hallucination of Torque's wife will attempt to convince him to take the good path in the obvious cases, while demonic voices attempt to coerce Torque into being evil. Good or evil, if done correctly, are indicated by the reaction of Torque's wife, while being indifferent has no response, as it is accomplished by getting someone killed without direct responsibility. Not every moral choice has all three outcomes, nor are they always so clear cut; for example, in the asylum, Torque comes across a correctional officer who has lost his limbs and is slowly dying. Torque can kill the man to relieve him of his misery, which will constitute a good action, or leave him be, which constitutes a neutral one, but in no way can he perform an evil act in this instance. The decisions made in regards to these opportunities will affect the ending of the game. Torque's "morality level" is indicated by the picture of his family in the inventory, which gets cleaner with good acts and dirtier with evil ones.

Another feature of The Suffering is Torque's ability to transform into a monster after his insanity meter has been filled by killing other monsters. In this form, Torque can tear enemies apart and can perform a powerful shockwave attack. The more enemies the player kills in this form, the more powerful it becomes. However, the form has detrimental effects. The longer Torque stays within this form, the more damage it will do to his health. Allowing the insanity meter to run out will result in death. Torque cannot heal himself until returning to human form.

After completing the game a bonus level becomes available. Titled "Waiting to Die", the bonus is a prelude level that takes place when Torque first arrives on the island. After completing the level the game begins as normal. The commentary in the level, activated by touching a crow that lands in a corner of the holding area, explains this level was originally intended to be the first level, but was cut from the game for story purposes during production.


Game Design[edit]

The game was created by 25 full-time developers, 24 part-time developers and the following contractors: 3 artists, 3 external art shops, 1 musician, 12 voice actors, and 4 motion capture actors. Development took place over a period of 2 years and 2 months.[2] Lead Designer Richard Rouse III included his 72-page game design document in his book titled "Game Design: Theory & Practice," which talks about every aspect of the game in great detail.

The two page pitch document for the game described it as "A stylized horror shooter. The frenetic gameplay of Devil May Cry meets the horror setting of Resident Evil and the immersive game-world of Half-Life."[3]

The intention was to create a more action based title with a greater emphasis on combat in comparison to previous survival horror titles.

To create a disturbing and unsettling tone elements of the storyline were derived from real life events, some of the darkest elements of American history, such as "prison life and culture, slavery, racism, unethical medical experimentation, mob-mentality executions, and the death penalty."[4]


The music for The Suffering was composed by Erik Aho who had previously worked with Surreal Software on the soundtrack for Drakan: The Ancients' Gates. The original concept for the music and sound design was proposed by lead sound designer Boyd Post. The concept entailed creating "instruments" out of objects found in the environments of the video game. Aho explains: "In any given level or boss battle, the music would be composed using only objects found in that environment or associated with a specific character. For example, in the prison level rhythms and textures using struck metal bars, slamming a dumpster against a wall, violent metal scrapes, the bowing of metal rods. In the asylum level, the whispers and cries of the insane were combined with the faint, sinister droning of the Victrola coming from Dr. Killjoy’s office. In the cave, the musical textures were made entirely from the scraping, breaking, and striking of rocks. The battle with Hermes, who appears as green gas in the shape of a man, is scored using violent rhythms created from compressed air. For Horace, an inmate who died horribly in the electric chair and travels over power lines, the battle music is laced with rhythms created out of arcing electricity." [5]

Instruments created by local Seattle musician/instrument designer Ela Lamblin were used combined with other "found" objects including hubcaps, railroad spikes, hammers and glass jars.[6]

Freeware release[edit]

The PC version of the game was released as freeware by the United States Air Force, which is no longer available,[7][8] although it can still be found on some sites.[9]


The Suffering has sold over 1.5 million copies.[10]



The sequel The Suffering: Ties That Bind was released in the United States on September 26, 2005 for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and Microsoft Windows. It immediately follows up on the events of the escape from the prison. The choices made in this game will, if a save file is present, affect situations in the sequel.


On September 8, 2005, Midway and MTV Films announced that a film version of The Suffering was in development.[11] The film began production in 2006 and was scheduled to be released in 2012. It has been reported that Kyle Haarklau will write and direct. Stan Winston had signed on to design the monster effects for the film prior to his death on June 15, 2008. Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor was announced to play the lead character Torque.[12] since there was no information about the film's production, presumably in limbo or cancelled.


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