H.H. Holmes has always been regarded as America’s first serial killer. In Chicago, in 1893, he owned the World’s Fair Hotel after the event of the same name happening around the corner. He designed the hotel to be a maze-like hell hole, where people would be lost and confused. He threw in some traps and designs which led to kill rooms in the basement. He is rumored to have killed 200 people, but got convicted and executed for just three.
It is him – and his hotel – which are the inspiration behind The Devil In Me; the latest from Supermassive Games and their The Dark Pictures Anthology. But it’s also a game that is offering more over the previous titles – Man of Medan, House of Ashes, Little Hope – with not just a new story, but a whole host of new features. The main question though is whether or not it still makes us jump?
This is the fourth entry of season one for The Dark Pictures Anthology; a series that has fast been added to our gaming calendar, and The Devil In Me takes us to a new story and new set of characters. The only thing that remains the same throughout is the character of The Curator. If you haven’t played a game like this before, The Curator is the glue that holds the franchise together; a kind of omnipotent librarian who talks to you directly about the events unfolding, offering clues and leaving you with the decision whether to take them or not.
This story focused on H.H. Holmes puts you in the shoes of a low-budget documentary film crew. There is the spiky lighting tech, the emotive cameraman, the hard-put-upon intern, the work-driven presenter, and running the gang, the older cocksure director. They produce flashy documentaries about crime and serial killers, but they haven’t been winning any awards. They get an invite to an island where a rich entrepreneur has recreated a hotel inspired by H.H. Holmes’ murder castle. They arrive together at the hotel and find that their host is nowhere to be seen and that there are some creepy things going on. Then they realise that there is someone stalking them, making them play some horrendous games. It’s a fight for their lives.
The story feels like a mixture of the Saw movies and a bit of Friday the 13th where a masked figure stalks its victims silently in a single location. It has some great moments, stuff like every good horror movie will deliver as you shout at the screen – “WHY DID YOU DO THAT?”. Its characters on screen are diverse in personality and tropes; there are ones you want to live and some you want killed off immediately. And that is the beauty of these games, in the fact that you will have to make that choice.
Overall the story does hit some great shock horror beats, picking all the old favorites: Scary mannequins, ruined rooms, and failing architecture. I enjoyed the story even though it was embracing its clichés a bit too much, and at times the structure of the whole story felt a bit rushed. The pacing – about three-quarters of the way through – feels slow and it feels longer than others, maybe to its detriment.
New gameplay elements have been added to the game as well as the usual dialogue choices that affect the outcome of each character and the QTE action sequences. Now there is the opportunity to push objects around, like large boxes, or find things to climb over. Jumping and balancing is a thing to take in too. There is also a very basic inventory where you can collect objects and have a standard key object for each character. Someone has a business card they can use to unlock drawers. Others have light sources like torches or camera flash equipment. There’s an interesting use of sound recording equipment too, as you follow the direction of where a creepy sound is coming from.
But others feel a bit redundant and even though the new mechanics are fine, they don’t add an awful lot to The Devil in Me over previous games. There are some puzzles to solve like getting combinations for doors or some fuse box trip sequences that work well without ever really taxing the brain.
The character visuals, from the faces to the texture on the hair and clothing have always been good in these games, and The Devil in Me has the same standard of excellence. But that said, I feel that some of the interiors and exteriors aren’t up to the usual standard. Still, they are good and the amount of detail put into the secrets you find and the documentation scattered around the world is nothing short of brilliantly entertaining. There’s the odd stutter and pop but nothing major at play.
The soundtrack is amazing though, with the right amount of tension and emotion throughout. The Devil in Me excels with some spooky effects and jump scares in the audio department, whilst voice work and acting from the cast are both good; there are some nice performances from the award-winning cast.
The Devil in Me isn’t the best game in The Dark Pictures Anthology, but it isn’t bad at all. It’ll keep you entertained all the way through, and it’s a brilliant laugh to play alongside others – the scares that play out when you have a room full of people are second to none. However, the new mechanics don’t set the world alight and there are some pacing problems at times, but on the whole this is a good end to season one of The Dark Pictures.
It leaves us on hook, waiting to see what can be done as we move forward into season two.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me is on the Xbox Store
- A very good story
- Jump scares
- Acting performances
- Pacing occasionally feels off
- Mechanics are just okay
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Bandai Namco
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 18 November 2022
- Launch price from - £34.99