Whatever Happened to "The Suffering"
By Nick Henderson on May 11th, 2012 (17 comments)
Let's be honest, the term Horror is used fairly loosely when speaking in reference to the gaming industry. IP (Intellectual Property) like Resident Evil and Dead Space still have their place but with so much emphasis now placed on creating a high-octane experience, the more important elements of true horror are rarely prominent or executed properly. This got me thinking a lot about a property that was born a few years prior to the explosion of the action-horror genre. Along with landmark titles like FEAR, The Suffering (developed by Surreal and published by Midway) was one of the few games that combined exhilarating combat scenarios with elements of psychological horror. The question now becomes: What was so special about The Suffering and where is it now?
The Suffering was developed by Surreal Software and released in 2004 under the Midway banner. While never receiving the marketing push or publisher support that was necessary to elevate the title to the status of similar landmark titles, The Suffering still managed to sell over a million copies and prompt the development of a sequel. The game told the story of Torque, a hardened criminal who was imprisoned for murdering his family only to be caught in a horrific paranormal attack on his prison while awaiting execution. What ensues is a dark and twisted game of survival as Torque is forced to face the manifestations of the atrocities that he committed.
Creating a unique blend of Silent Hill's psychological horror with the visceral gameplay of God of War, The Suffering was a precursor to the style of horror that now appeals to a modern, mainstream audience. Like FEAR, the horror in The Suffering was woven fluidly into the gameplay, creating some truly unsettling moments and a sense of mystery that many games fail to deliver. A game like Dead Space, a recent hit franchise in the "action-horror" genre (or sub-genre rather), made a shallow effort to tap into the psychological aspect of horror by injecting some "Event Horizon" into the experience to limited success.
Where is it Now?
Surreal Software released The Suffering: Ties that Bind in 2005 only to have it be forgotten and brushed into the dark corners of the gaming industry. A few years following the game's lackluster debut, Midway filed for bankruptcy and eventually sold a large portion of the company's assets to a little publishing house known as Warner Bros Interactive. Surreal Studios was among the assets that survived the acquisition but one of the few names to make headlines in the years following the event.
Richard Rouse III, the lead designer on The Suffering games, has since moved on to work at Ubisoft, working on the development of an unannounced IP. Other major talent, including Andre Maguire, the lead level designer, went on to work on projects like Lord of the Rings: War in the North for Warner Bros. With the remnants of Surreal confirmed to have been working on the cancelled multiplatform title, This is Vegas, the fate of the studio has been unclear for several years now.
The Dream Team
I find it highly unlikely that we will ever see The Suffering resurface in any significant way based on how the industry cherry-picks IP. However, it is worth recognizing that the IP still exists and is seemingly under the control of a major publisher such as Warner Bros. Could The Suffering make a comeback someday? With the talent behind the original game scattered across various studios and projects, who would be a worthy candidate for reviving this series? If you look outside the realm of the rights holder, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Studios like Visceral come to mind given their familiarity for the genre and their aptness at nailing the atmosphere. Hell, I wouldn't mind seeing a studio like Vatra games (the studio behind Silent Hill Downpour) take a stab at the series. However, to be realistic for a moment, the game would most likely fall into the hands of a studio that is owned by Warner Bros outright or closely associated with working with the publisher. Luckily, WB owns Monolith Productions, a studio that fits the bill quite nicely.
Monolith Productions is most notable for injecting personality and a real sense of physicality into their games. Games like No One Lives Forever and Aliens vs Predator 2 are often celebrated as some of the best first-person shooters of that era. However, it is their work on the FEAR and Condemned franchises that catapult this studio to the top of my list.
It may be strange to think of a studio like Monolith tackling a third person action game given their familiarity with the first-person perspective but their track record speaks for itself. They are not only masterful at crafting a first-person experience, they are consistently going the extra mile to ensure that their games break the mold of what is expected in a first-person gaming experience. FEAR put them on the map for balancing stellar shooting mechanics with killer AI and bowel-busting horror. They turned around and did the same thing again with Condemned, a game that melded the atmosphere and mystery of the horror genre with brutal, first-person melee combat. Two shining examples of why Monolith would be the ideal studio to revitalize a forgotten horror/action gem.
With a number of first-person titles under their belt, it seems like the studio is long overdue to try something wholly different in their approach. The third-person perspective may fall just outside of Monolith's comfort zone but the studio specializes in just about everything else that is required to bring back The Suffering back into the limelight. If only Warner Bros would remember the gem that lies dormant in their possession, I'm sure Monolith would rise to the challenge.
Do you remember The Suffering? Which studio would you choose to bring it back?
I have been around since the very early days of 4Player but you may know me as “the short one” or the guy who is really into Dexter and that sweet new DmC reboot. I am a gaming enthusiast at my core and I love sharing my opinions on the subject with anyone who will listen. I am a cautious optimist and will try any game at least once. When it comes to gaming, I prefer to leave no stone unturned.
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