the devil in me

Review: Get an eye-to-eye with death in The Devil in Me

The Devil in Me is my first time playing one of the games in The Dark Pictures Anthology. It marks the end of what developer Supermassive Games calls its first season after a surprisingly regular release of entries in the span of three years, starting with Man of Medan back in 2019. 

And after having a pretty good time with the studio’s teenage horror flick adventure The Quarry earlier this year, I was anxious to dive into their popular anthology with this latest entry. By all accounts, it’s a great thriller with a healthy dose of horror in the same mold of The Quarry, only a little more grounded in reality.

The game starts with a honeymooning couple checking into a hotel in 19th century Chicago in order to attend the World’s Fair. Things go by in quite well, at first, as they meet the hotel’s manager and get to their room, until, well, they are violently murdered by none else than the country’s real-life first ever serial killer, H.H. Holmes, who’s reportedly responsible for over 200 deaths in his heinous career.

Fast-forward to current times, we meet an unlucky crew of documentarians who just happen to be filming about Holmes when they get a call from a mysterious benefactor eager to invite them to his remote recreation of Holmes’ so-called Murder Castle, the very same hotel from the opening moments of the game, a place he built himself that’s full of all manner of death traps, disguised as a hotel.

the devil in me
The crew!

It doesn’t take much for the group to jump at the opportunity given their absolute crap show of a documentary, and thus, The Devil in Me starts sinking its teeth into you. Much like The Quarry, the game is split among five different protagonists, each with their unique set of skills and personalities. You get to control every one of them as your adventure progresses, and start to lose them the more of them you let die over the course of the game.

However, unlike what we’ve come to expect from modern horror games such as recently reviewed The Chant, The Devil in Me is very grounded in reality. Sure, a twisted and deadly one for sure, but compared to what the other entries in the series go with in their premises, this one manages to up the ante by having an actual flesh and bone human element behind everything that goes on in it, which makes it all the more scary, honestly.

In terms of decisions, if you’ve been keeping up with more current adventure games like Supermassive’s own or even ones that follow closer to the Telltale Games mold in the vein of New Tales From the Borderlands, The Devil in Me should feel familiar. It has you take control of each of the five characters at different points and you get to move them around the hotel and interact with a limited set of scripted events.

Each member of the crew has special skills that allow them to engage with the hotel in different ways. The director, Charles, for instance, can use his laminated business card to bust into locks, while Erin, the sound designer, can put her directional mic to use and pick up on the eerie sounds within the dusty halls of the hotel. Unfortunately for the latter, all that dirt won’t do her asthma any good… 

The Devil in Me
Yeah, you should do that. Like right now.

Dialog is also a key component in deciding the course of the game and the fate of your characters. It’s a binary system that has you always picking from two choices that crossroad their traits and relationships in a way that deep within The Devil in Me’s cogs and gears helps shape your story and ending. 

It’s startling to realize just how many permutations there could be knowing that the game keeps going regardless, tailoring its progression to your choices and actions. Supermassive gotten a lot of experience at crafting this sort of game over the years, and in the same way The Quarry had me wanting to go and have a taste of The Dark Pictures Anthology, The Devil in Me is having the same effect in pushing me to try out their breakout hit, 2015’s Until Dawn, which’s been sitting in my PS4 download queue for years. 

I’m positively impressed with how well The Devil in Me turned out considering the studio’s consistent output over the last few years. The production values in the game are downright fantastic, with some of the best looking and moving characters that are incredibly emotive, helping convery their growing desperation as they sink in further and further into the horror going on around them.

the devil in me
Pick. One.

The musical hints also work to great effect, helping set in the creepy mood within the hotel. And there’s the curator, who’s apparently been part of the show from the very first entry in the anthology, is also an amazing character in his own right. Played by The Crown’s Pip Torrens, his omnipresent persona makes for a positively creepy host who always seems to know more than he lets on and is delighted to have you fumble around in the dark as you figure out just what the hell is going on all throughout The Devil in Me.

Quite frankly, I could keep playing Supermassive’s games as long as they keep coming out as good as The Quarry and now The Devil in Me. Even though I’m admittedly a scaredy cat when it comes to horror media in general, there’s something to these games that keeps me interested even though every ounce of my being would otherwise be doing something else entirely. Maybe it’s because they are games that can still keep going even in what most games would consider fail states and how that is merely only a consequence within a deck with numerous possibilities.

If The Devil in Me is any indication of the quality of the other entries in The Dark Pictures Anthology, it seems I have my work cut out for me. Those are bound to be enough to keep busy until the new season begins sometime next year. There’s already been a teaser to the new entry in the franchise, Directive 8020, which is set to take a sci-fi approach to scaring the ever-living bejesus out of us. Count me in for that, sirs, yup.

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