Reviewed: October 24, 2005
Released: September 26, 2005
The Suffering was a sadistically gory game that combined first-person shooter action and the horror genre into one creepy and intense package. Though not as scary as it could’ve been, it did successfully substitute the missing “creeping horror” of the adventure terror titles with disturbing images and a horrific, gritty atmosphere.
The Suffering: Ties That Bind continues down this avenue, picking up where the first game left off (even using your old save file if you have one). Remarkably, there’s not much new to offer other than a continuing story and a glimpse into Torque’s past. But if you’re a fan of the first game and you have a hankering for more, The Suffering: Ties That Bind won’t disappoint.
Ties That Bind picks up from the end of the first game, only the new setting you’re in is the dirty, mean streets of Baltimore. Torque is still having delusions about who he really is, and just like in the first game, how you play will determine what kind of ending you’ll receive. How you play determines other things too (more on that in a bit).
Torque is mighty handy with weapons, and Ties That Bind offers them in spades, both in firearms and with melee weapons. While we won’t dwell on how rocket launchers (and turrets!) are just found laying about in the middle of the ghetto, they’re there, along with the usual assortment of shotguns, pistols, and machine guns. Ammo is in large enough supply to safely take down enemies, and there’s plenty of health to go around too. Melee weapons are in greater supply and variety this time around, and they work perfectly well in first-person mode too (in the first game, you couldn’t combo with a melee weapon).
There’s quite a variety in weapons altogether, and you can’t carry more than a few at a time, so Ties That Bind encourages you to experiment with the different weapon types. The only drawback to having such a vast arsenal with a limited carrying capacity is that ammo for only select weapons is found in any given area, so you may not find the ammo you’re looking for, but you’ll find plenty for a weapon you don’t have. This rarely becomes a major issue, though you may have to say good-bye to a weapon you’re particularly fond of, at least for the time being.
Ties That Bind is notably more difficult than its predecessor, probably because of the common feeling of ease of the first game. There are times when it becomes unnecessarily difficult, particularly when the game forces you to fight through multiple waves of enemies for no rhyme or reason just to proceed.
Thankfully, the weapons aren’t just plentiful in variety, but most are pretty fun to use too, which is critical to games of this type. Each weapon has its appropriate oomph effect, and feels as powerful as they should. The melee weapons aren’t quite as useful because you’ll often get hit in the process of dealing damage yourself. Of course, the offset is that you never have to worry about ammo, but in the case of getting gang-beat by multiple enemies, ranged weapons seem to be Torque’s saving grace. As mentioned earlier, melee weapons can be effective, and are more so here than in the first game, but you’ll probably find yourself with ranged weapons and only taking the melee ones when in a pinch.
Ties That Bind continues the “morality” gameplay in the form of AI-controlled characters that can sometimes help you. How you treat them determines what kind of person Torque really is, but honestly, many of these people will be wasted. Those who don’t get in your way aren’t an issue, but those who want to go with you are idiots, often standing moronically in the way of danger, whether that is from a creature or your own gunfire. Most end up being more trouble than they’re worth, and they often die in crossfire.
Keeping your own morality in check not only determines your ending, but also helps tailor your inner-self (the creature you become). Regardless, your creature form becomes mega powerful, enabling you to kill creatures in one hit, and you also take less damage in this form. In the first game, Torque dies if you don’t turn off the “Insanity Meter”, but in Ties That Bind, you are stunned and vulnerable to attack.
There are situations Torque will be in that will require the use of the creature form (unlike the last game), such as killing some enemies who are invulnerable otherwise, or bashing through walls. And if your meter isn’t filled, there will be plenty of enemies to waste that will quickly fill it (and these enemy waves often appear near the area in which you need to use your creature form).
The game is disturbing, yes, but it isn’t very scary. Ties That Bind often recycles the same effects and tactics used in the first game. Some were interesting then, but now feel kind of old. You also see a lot of these effects more often, which when overused, lose their charm.
Visually, Ties That Bind looks marginally better than that of its predecessor. Textures are a little cleaner, and the effects are a bit grander. There are a few subtle touches of improvement, such as creatures blasting in two pieces, and more depth to the details of some of the environments. Overall, it doesn’t have the cutting edge graphics of some other games in the genre, but it certainly looks pretty good and has its own sense of style.
That said, there is definitely room for improvement, and the similarity to the first game’s visuals doesn’t help to set the new game apart from the old one. Even the creature models are a mixed bag, simply because many of them are from the first game. It is nice to see some new ones, which are pretty cool, but many of the old ones – which represented the different forms of prison execution – now have to represent something else in order for them to fit into the story. And with no real change to these old enemies, they feel like a copout.
The environments are satisfying enough, but don’t quite hold up, in style, to the more interesting settings of the first game. The city areas in particular, though well done, aren’t that appealing to look at, though they are saved by the series’ stylish look.
The cast of characters in Ties That Bind do a pretty good job of their roles. Michael Clarke Duncan and Rachel Griffiths lend their voices to the game, and do a great job for the most part. The supporting cast also helps the atmosphere. Many of the audio tricks used in the first game still have an effect in Ties That Bind, though like the flashback scenes, it becomes old and tired after a bit. The curse words and gritty language help fit the mature themes.
The music is satisfying when it’s trying to be scary and foreboding.
Expect a game that lasts anywhere between 15 and 20 hours, and since there is no multiplayer to speak of, replay comes in the form of multiple endings, just like its predecessor. If you’ve got a save file from the first game, you can load it up and continue along the same path you were on then.
The Suffering: Ties That Bind is a satisfying follow-up to those looking for more of the same. But those looking for a significant step ahead for the series will likely be disappointed. The fundamental gameplay is the same, and even the graphics haven’t gone through any real change. Gore hounds will like the blood and guts (and there’s plenty of it), and horror fans will dig the mature, disturbing atmosphere.
Ties That Bind is fun to play, but a full development cycle would’ve allowed Surreal to take advantage of the potential that the first game laid the groundwork for. Instead, this follow-up is fun, but not groundbreaking or inspired.