Stay Awhile. Stay… Forever!

HIGH The action-packed finale.

LOW Trying to sync with my co-op partner to close a door with the right timing.

WTF Every single one of the villain’s animatronics.

At the end of what they’re calling the ‘First Season’ of the Dark Pictures Anthology, the developers at Supermassive Games have decided to dial down the strangeness. Where previous entries have featured haunted ships, ghost towns and bloodthirsty vampires, The Devil in Me has a single, grounded threat – a madman has decided to pick up where famous serial killer HH Holmes left off by murdering people in a hotel full of deathtraps. In a surprising twist, though, the entry with the simplest ambitions is also the one offering the biggest changes to the series format.

Earlier Dark Pictures titles were comfortable being slotted into the ‘Interactive Movie’ genre with characters walking around and investigating items, talking to one another, with the most important interactions coming down to binary choices made at key moments. While all of that is still present in TDiM, the developers have expanded gameplay to feature elements more traditionally seen in graphic adventure games — things like players being asked to leap across gaps, shimmy over ledges, hunt down keys, and figure out door codes. The result is a longer, more robust experience, which makes the player feel like they’re actively taking part in the story, rather than mostly watching it.

After a prologue set during the original HH Holmes killings, Devil in Me jumps forward to introduce its cast — a documentary crew filming an episode about Holmes — who are lured to an isolated island with the promise that it contains rare memorabilia from his crime spree. Right away things feel different from the rest of the series, allowing the player a chance to explore a surprisingly open area while searching for clues and solving puzzles as they gradually approach the replica hotel where the majority of the adventure will take place.

From a presentation standpoint, TDiM is leap forward. The central location – a murder hotel built by psycho killer Granthem Du Met, is absolutely gorgeous. Players see rooms in every possible condition, from perfectly restored recreations of turn-of-the-century accommodations to rotted wrecks being slowly consumed by neglect. Each location, from wooded paths to concrete bunkers, is beautifully realized, with every bit of art design contributing to an overwhelming sense of dread.

While the characters are a little on the bland side, they find themselves in a series of situations so horrific that it’s impossible not to root for them, despite their lack of personal magnetism. A feature of the Dark Pictures series has always been offering players impossible choices on tight timelines, forcing them to decide who lives and who dies. In a clever meta twist, that philosophy is also the M.O. of the villain – he has filled his hotel with a series of deathtraps that pit two people against one another, with only one having the chance to get out alive… Unless, of course, the player is clever enough.

Not that thinking carefully will always result in the best result, however. Just like its obvious inspiration the Saw series, the odds are stacked heavily in the killer’s favor, and there are a number of situations in which doing what seems like the smartest thing will result in a gory death, while sometimes luck or trial and error are the only way through. This is easily the most challenging of the Dark Pictures games to date – and getting everyone to the end alive should be considered something of a major accomplishment.

Normally the best way to play Dark Pictures is the multiplayer mode and that’s doubly true here, as the killer’s conceit of pitting characters against one another ensures that real live players will be in a position to sacrifice or save themselves. It adds an aspect of competition to the co-op gameplay that the series has never explored extensively, making the whole thing feel that much more engaging…

…At least when the co-op functions.

At the time of review, the singleplayer version ran fine with no hiccups. However, I was plagued with technical errors whenever I attempted to play online. From randomly teleporting characters, to visual glitches, to the game failing to register my responses, the experience was a mess. Thankfully TDiM lets players restart chapters whenever they want, and no individual level is so long that it felt like a major chore to go back and replay. That said, any pair of people hoping to co-op should prepare as much patience as they can muster, because they’ll need it.

The Devil In Me is a brutal, harrowing experience. The killer is monstrous, the choices to be made are nail-biters, and the story, when finally revealed, offers all the satisfaction of a opened puzzle box. The new gameplay mechanics fit seamlessly into the experience, and the additional player agency encourages investment in the story, rather than distracting from it. While nothing in the plot reaches the audacious heights of House of Ashes‘ finale and technical issues prevent co-op here from being the series’ best to date, it’s still a great experience, and the developers can be satisfied that they’ve ended the first phase of this series on extremely solid footing.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Supermassive Games and published by Bandai Namco. It is currently available on PC, PS4/5, XBO/S/X. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 16 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 6 hours were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, and Strong Language. Keep children as far as you can from this one, please. In addition to all of the horrific violence and omnipresent swearing, there’s a scene where the player can murder a dog. It’s horribly traumatic, and you can’t risk children seeing it.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are no important audio cues that don’t have accompanying visual cues. I played most of the game without audio and encountered no issues. The game is fully subtitled, and subtitles can be resized. There is also a dyslexic-friendly font available. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.

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