REVIEW – A new installment in The Dark Pictures anthology, which is expanding, but it may not be able to renew itself to the extent that it will be a must-buy after a while (after all, Tomb Raider in the late 90s flattened out throughout five PS1 installments). While it’s a decent experience, it’s just average.
A group of documentary filmmakers receives a mysterious call inviting them to a modern-day replica of serial killer H.H. Holmes’ Murder Castle’. But on arrival, they soon discover they’re being watched, manipulated, and suddenly there is much more at stake than their ratings…
There are five new characters in The Devil In Me (therefore, the cast is brand new): in addition to the aforementioned Jamie, the documentary cast includes Kate, Charlie, Mark, and Erin. Their company, Lonnit Entertainment, is nearing bankruptcy, and the crew believes they might have a way out after receiving this mysterious call. The team gathers its equipment and heads to the castle, hoping their dire situation will end with a successful product filmed there. Their show is presented in the style of the nineties, and we get to know the castle during the game’s intro. However, the excellent start quickly goes downhill, as the characters are not that exciting (Mark and Jamie are not yet tired of their jobs; Kate is wearing her nose up, Erin is trying to overachieve, and Charlie is the equivalent of the insufferable leader in everyone’s life), and the relationship between them is rather forgettable. Unfortunately, The Devil in Me is also clichéd in that it features several jumpscares.
Supermassive Games should perhaps take the gameplay more seriously, which was sufficiently well-paced in Until Dawn. However, part of the gameplay remains: players must make critical, mattering choices, and these shape the characters’ behavior (so they will relate to each other differently). Also, another crucial aspect worth mentioning is how the characters all have different tools. It is worth bearing it in mind, as they have different approaches to solving puzzles that sometimes seem repetitive but are not particularly difficult, often requiring only a password. The cast may also traverse differently. For example, Charlie can use a card to open locks, Erin has a gadget that helps locate sound, and Jamie can use a flashlight to shed light (in more than one sense) on things. On the positive side, compared to previous episodes of The Dark Pictures Anthology, the newest chapter’s gameplay is far less linear. You can jump, move some objects, or even climb to find collectibles (not just clues; documents and coins are scattered around the mansion).
If you are a perfectionist, check how the characters relate to each other because it also plays a role in who survives (and dies) in the events. It wouldn’t be a The Dark Pictures Anthology title if it did not include the death factor. As with the previous games in the series, The Devil in Me is more effective if you are playing with a group of friends because then they can pass the controller to each other. Therefore, it might be justified to give this title two different ratings. Supermassive Games have achieved the party-horror game genre by making it playable in this way. Visually, what the game presents is primarily fair, but in some places, the characters’ facial expressions seemed off, and it was here that the product felt horror rather than where it should have been.
The other thing that must be considered is the execution of the gameplay transitions. The game felt like lagging when it happened, so try not to change between characters too often, as you will notice. You can switch between performance and graphics (which should be a must on a current-gen console), but more is needed to remedy the noticeable lag. (Gotham Knights were worse, but the lousy performance was due to the shortcomings of Unreal Engine 4.) The voice acting and the soundtrack are fair. Not the best, but it could have been worse.
If The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me is played alone, it’s a seven out of ten: it’s a good, but not an outstanding product. However, with a group of friends and a few beers, the rating can safely be treated as an eight out of ten because you can gloss over the sometimes questionable performance and facial animation shortcomings. It’s not entirely linear and playable, but it gets tired at some points because the jumpscares are present. Since Outlast, it’s starting to become prevalent again, but maybe it shouldn’t. The biggest problem, though, is that with The Devil in Me, it’s perhaps already noticed that the annual release (maybe even more frequent…?) and the resulting forced work will eventually backfire on the quality. A foretaste of that is already present. That being said, it’s a good game, but nothing more. It falls short of the bar set by Until Dawn.
+ Less linear
+ Good alone, but even better with friends
– Maybe the formula is getting tired?
– The relationship between the characters
– During shifts it seems to jerk
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Supermassive Games
Style: survival horror
Release: November 28, 2022.