Reviewed: November 16, 2000
Released: October 31, 2000
This was the year for Reality TV with shows like Big Brother and Survivor dominating the summer TV market. Apparently the concept worked because millions tuned into these shows and continued to come back each night that they were aired. Game shows are even starting to adopt the "real world" premise which shows like Street Smarts that feature random people off the street as part of the show. This style of programming can probably be traced back to one of the most popular of these shows, COPS.
CRYO has delivered a game that features all the reality-style presentation of COPS mixed in with a funky game show premise right out of Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1987 hit movie, The Running Man. For those of you who haven't seen this movie, go rent it right now...go on...I'll wait. OK. Basically, The Running Man boiled down to a game show where criminals were put out into a deserted section of the city and hunted down by celebrity bounty hunters. The more gruesome the action (killings), the higher the ratings the show received and the more excited the studio audience got.
The Devil Inside borrows heavily from this concept as well as several others to create one of the most exciting and unique gaming experiences I have played in a long time. You play as Dave Cooper, a popular TV investigator and star of the hit show, The Devil Inside. While the atmosphere certainly resembles a game show the setup is more like COPS with a live studio audience, host, and models. Tonight's episode takes place at a haunted mansion in the Hollywood hills where an executed criminal called The Night Howler has somehow escaped from hell and brought back an army of undead. Naturally Lucifer isn't too pleased at losing souls and he wants them back just as much as you want them out of Hollywood.
Dave's job is to enter the estate and clean up the undead armies and send them all back to hell along with their leader. Dave starts off with a pistol and laser sight but will gradually acquire better and more powerful weapons such as the rotary sander and shotgun. He can use these weapons to dispatch the armies of undead in a variety of realistic and gory methods. The LAPD will be of some minor assistance, but your best ally is Deva, a sexy female winged-devil who actually lives inside of Dave, thus the name "Devil Inside". While it's Dave's job to dispatch the undead in their earthly form, Deva must run around and capture the souls of these creatures and return them to hell, much like the game Soul Reaver for those of you familiar with that title.
If all of this weren't exciting enough, throw in a reporter from a rival network who is trying to prove that your show is a fraud with nothing more than special effects to generate bogus ratings. She infiltrates the mansion the same night as your show trying to prove it's all a hoax and ends up...well, I guess you are going to have to play to find out.
CRYO is responsible for some of the most fantastic computer games ever to grace the PC including the popular Atlantis and Atlantis II. This French-developer has always focused on presentation and quality graphics and The Devil Inside is certainly no exception. This game would stand-up to most network standards of quality from the professional stage show with thumping theme music to the subtle touches like reflections in the mirrors or the variety of realistic camera angles.
The Devil Inside is not that original when it comes down to gameplay mechanics. You basically run around in 3rd-person mode killing everything that moves including zombies in all shapes and sizes, demons, devils, and other assorted nasty creatures. The variety of monsters is limited but the ones that do appear are unique and exhibit their own special abilities. You have the standard zombie that moves around slowly and lurches at you at the last second. There is the zombie that is severed at the waist and he drags his torso toward you and tries to bite your ankles. And there is my personal favorite, the undead granny who will beat you with her walker before munching on your shoulder, or even worse, she may pull out an Uzi and open fire.
Dispatching the zombies is quite fun in a sickening way. They are location-sensitive so if you have the time and patience you can sit back and dismember them shot by shot. Shoot off a leg and watch them fall to the ground then drag themselves toward you. A blast to the chest will produce a gaping hole that you can actually see through, or you can opt for the headshot which sends blood (red blood) spurting out killing them in a single shot. When these undead creatures die they fall to the ground and burst into flames igniting anything nearby, including other zombies who may be passing by. Dave and Deva can also catch on fire and if this happens you need to remember back to your elementary school fire safety training and drop, tuck, and roll. I'm serious. You actually crouch and roll to put yourself out which I think is very realistic and totally cool. You can run around burning if you wish and you will eventually "go out", but you will take much damage in the process.
As you wander around you will pick up various items such as med kits, ammo, keys, and notes, etc. to assist in completing your objectives. Simply walk over these items to pick them up in true arcade fashion. You are also required to protect the network cameraman who has been sent in to follow the action up-close. While the zombies will not go out of their way to get him, he often gets in their way and if he dies it's Game Over.
You can control your character with the mouse, keyboard or combination of the two. I prefer the WADS cluster for movement and the mouse for 3D mouse-look. You are limited to assigning only certain functions to the mouse buttons, but since there are only a handful of commands this was not a problem. I had my mouse buttons assigned to Fire, Draw Weapon, and Crouch and it worked very well. Perhaps the only annoying part was trying to target the crawling zombies, which forced me to first pan above my character to actually see the monster then target and shoot. This was the only instance where the camera was a problem. For the most part the camera flows very nicely with the gameplay and rarely gets in the way.
The puzzles are of the "find object A to use with object B" variety. Nothing too brain-straining but there are a few challenging puzzles in this game. The game uses Save Points for saving your game. Now before you go cursing the designers and denouncing the game let me just say that these Save Points are plentiful and you probably won't even use them all. They come in two varieties, permanent and one-use. The save points actually appear in the levels as TV sets (like the one in the title image). Use these TV's to save your game. Once saved, the TV may explode meaning you cannot use it again, or it may remain for future saves.
Perhaps my only complaint in the gameplay area is the inventory manipulation. To access your inventory you have to hit F4 which brings up your inventory rings much like Tomb Raider then you scroll sideways or up and down to find the weapon or item you need to use. This process is very invasive as it is not a transparent overlay over the game screen but rather a separate screen that takes you away from the game. At least the game pauses so you don't get attacked while looking for that item. You can zoom in on some items and move them around the screen which is a nice touch.
The graphics in The Devil Inside are very nice but sort of a mixed bag. Outdoors, the trees and other landscape is noticeably 2D sprite graphics and there isn't much detail to the grass, water, or sky textures. While this may make some of you groan the good news is that this game will easily run at 1600x1200 resolution with full details on a medium to high-end system. Even on the required 233Mhz machine you can easily play at 1024x768 with no slowdown. Once you move indoors and the camera doesn't have to render as far the detail picks up and becomes very nice.
As you play this game you have the option to play from three possible cameras. These are not game cameras in the sense that you are used to, but rather virtual TV cameras complete with their own unique effects. The previous image shows the same scene from the three possible cameras. The image on the left is the Live Camera shown through the eyes of the Network SpyCam, a hovering remote that flies around like a miniature helicopter. This is the default gameplay camera and will probably work the best. Note the cameraman behind me.
The middle image is from the cameraman's point-of-view. This is one of the coolest cameras in the game, but unfortunately isn't very practical for gameplay. This camera moves around much like you would see in COPS, the Blair Witch Project, or FOX's Freakylinks. The camera jerks around and bobs up and down as the cameraman runs. If he stumbles or bumps into something the screen may show static or streaks of interference. It's all very cool and realistic and I would love to be able to watch a replay of my game from this POV, but very often Dave/Deva isn't even in the picture, so playing the game through the cameraman's eyes is certain death.
The image on the right is the SpyCam shot which actually shows an overhead view of your character and the SpyCam. This camera generates views reminiscent to the Resident Evil series of games. Again, this is not nearly as functional as the default camera. One nice feature is that you can have all of these cameras onscreen at once using picture-in-picture. Mini-screens will pop-up along the right edge of your screen so you can monitor the action from all angles. This is nice to have but can quickly become distracting or even detrimental to gameplay if a zombie is lurking under one of your alternate camera views.
Textures and level design are top-notch. Most of this game takes place in the huge haunted estate and the rooms are detailed and decorated with real-life details. In addition to level graphics, there are some very impressive special effects. The Devil Inside features some of the best "fire" I have seen in a game. It burns and catches other things (and people) on fire just like it really would.
Another awesome effect is the 360-Matrix-Spin which usually only happens after a headshot or particularly grisly death scene. The camera will zoom in on the victim then freeze capturing the red splattering blood in mid-explosion while quickly panning around before resuming the action. This is a real crowd pleaser and you will often hear the cheers and applause of the studio audience, and Jack will usually make some comment.
The high-energy techno track that opens the TV show is network quality and fits the game perfectly. During the game you are treated to some excellent ambient sounds and subtle music that adds a bit of suspense to the action. The sound effects are dead-on. Fire crackles, zombies moan, and body parts fly off with satisfactory splats. The guns and other weapons all sound authentic, and nothing is more chilling than hearing the unearthly roar after Deva consumes a soul.
There is also a considerable interactive quality to the sound in regards to the audience and Jack T. Ripper. When you make a spectacular kill the crowd will cheer and you may see a studio camera showing the rating meter increasing and the hostesses applauding. Jack will often make comments to you as you explore the levels and his interaction with Angelina, the rival reporter, will have you laughing out loud. If you try to open a locked door the crowd will groan in disappointment and when you switch back and forth between Dave and Deva you will always get lots of applause and hear your character-specific fans yelling your support such as "We love you Deva!" Everything really comes together to pull you into the TV-show atmosphere.
The Devil Inside will probably keep you busy for about 20-30 hours depending on how good a puzzle-solver you are. The combat is not that difficult and you will almost always have enough ammo to kill everything that needs killing. There isn't too much that is random. Most of the encounters are scripted so you will meet the same monster in the same location each time. This also takes away any replay value since that zombie that jumps out of the closet won't be as scary the second time around.
It is still a fun ride and a great gaming experience. If you can find this title for under $40 it will provide plenty of zombie-slaying enjoyment for your dollar. For those of you with kids; this game is rated M for good reason. There is plenty of killing, dismembering, and just plain gross deaths (if you can imagine slicing up a zombie with a rotary sander while blood sprays all over the walls). And then there are the demonic/satanic cult references, which may scare off many parents. Even though I seriously doubt your kids will start sacrificing chickens or draw pentagrams on the floor, you may want to make use of the handy Parental Lock feature if you want to play this game without worrying about junior getting his mind warped. Ironically, these games usually appeal more to the people who aren't supposed to be playing them.
The Devil Inside is a fun and frightening ride. From the moment the opening theme plays you are totally caught up in the TV show atmosphere. The graphics, sound effects, music, and gory gameplay all combine to make this a shooter not for the faint-of-heart. The action is intense and the mood is suspense. I yelled out loud several times and jumped a few more times. This is one of the best games you can currently get in the action/horror genre easily blowing the Blair Witch Trilogy out of the water and ranking right up there with the king of horror, Resident Evil. If you think you have what it takes, then get this game, turn out the lights, and release The Devil Inside.