We’re a world that is becomingly increasingly obsessed by true crime. There’s countless Podcasts and YouTube channels dedicated to it, with subscribers counting in the millions. But Supermassive Games has taken this morbid fascination and married it with classic horror movie tropes, creating a chimera of a game that feels all at once realistic and familiar. Perhaps even too realistic at times.
But creating an engrossing story and multifaceted characters is something that The Dark Pictures Anthology has always been fantastic at. And where it’s suffered has always been clunky controls and its minimal gameplay. But the latest installment of The Dark Picture Anthology, The Devil In Me, offers more of both while somehow making you forgive and forget all its flaws.
The Devil In Me — A Case Study on How to Make Annoying Coworkers Likable
I’ve been a fan of Supermassive Games since they released Until Dawn all the way back in 2015. Using Until Dawn’s iconic formula, this indie studio has developed The Dark Pictures Anthology. And while many of the installments in this anthology have failed to reach the cult status that Until Dawn achieved, The Devil In Me is the first genuine contender for the blood-soaked crown.
For those who haven’t had the opportunity or interest to try a Supermassive Games installment in the past, the formula is always the same. You have a cast of characters that you (and a friend if you want to get involved in the co-op) control, and through your actions and dialogue, you push through a story that at its heart is always a mystery wrapped in a survival horror.
These stories have dabbled in the utterly fantastical to the fairly realistic, but the premise of The Devil In Me was an immediate draw for me. The Devil In Me follows a film crew of jaded and cynical 20 somethings, led by a 50-year-old man, clawing at his last chance to achieve fame. The crew is on the verge of breaking up after a series of terrible documentary-style true crime episodes. But then the crew receives an invitation from a mysterious, and extremely private, benefactor.
The benefactor offers the crew a chance to visit his home: an exact replica of H. H. Holmes murder hotel. Yes, that’s right, a murder hotel. H. H. Holmes, for those blissfully unaware, is one of the United States’s first serial killers, and easily one of the most prolific. Like a funnel-web spider, he happily waited in his many-roomed web while his prey came to him. Once a person was checked in, Holmes would then execute them in a variety of gristly ways, from filling their bedrooms with gas to incinerating them in his basement.
And despite how utterly ominous all of that sounds, the crew accepts the offer, as it’s their last chance to save their floundering series. But as they arrive at the isolated hotel, things quickly unravel in the worst ways possible, putting all of their lives at risk.
But it’s in the throes of danger that these characters really shine. Each character has a set of traits and a relationship with every other member of the crew. And through dialogue, answers and actions, you can influence both traits and relationships, shaping the crew member into the best, or worst, versions of themselves.
It’s this character development that The Devil In Me does masterfully. I started the game, hating every character I encountered. But by the final act, not only did I like the characters, I was desperate to keep them alive. I agonized over every choice, lest it led to an untimely maiming, and I saw my own affection reflected in the way the characters treated each other. This subtle, gradual development is artful writing, and one of the strengths of Supermassive Games. It’s rare that a developer would risk giving you a cast of unlikable characters, when the whole premise is to try to keep as many of them alive as possible, and yet the characters are written with such attention to detail it’s so easy to see parts of yourself reflected in them.
Nothing Breaks Immersion Like Clipping Through the Map
That being said, there were moments where my utter infatuation with the characters and phenomenal story waned. And that happened most frequently while fighting to control my character, or look around a room, or to push past other characters. This is a fairly common complaint for the series, and it can make certain sections of the game a huge slog.
But it’s easy to see where the money went, since gameplay mechanics were clearly not the priority. The cast carries some big names, like Jessie Buckley, John Dagleish, and Pip Torrens, and Supermassive Games used detailed motion capture to ensure that each facial expression and movement was realistic to their actors. This, coupled with the storytelling and amazing, sometimes photorealistic graphics, were undoubtedly huge parts of the budget.
But I would have happily traded some of the bigger names in the lineup if it meant I could see where I was going while walking through some of the tighter areas the game has to offer. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to find an Obol buried in the grass when your camera is determined to fight you every step of the way, or when you jump off a ledge only to fall through the map, clipping into a navy-blue abyss.
Gameplay is consistently the weakest part of The Dark Pictures Anthology series, as it usually consists of strolling through an environment, performing a quick time event, investigating an object, or finding one of the dozens of collectibles.
Despite this, The Devil In Me otherwise maintains its immersion and allure through great sound effects and amazing environments. While I can’t say I was a fan of some of the cheaper jump scares, it’s hard not to appreciate the subtle nods to some of the horror movie greats, from The Shining to Friday The Thirteenth.
The Devil in Me is easily the best installment of The Dark Pictures Anthology. Its character arcs, tension, momentum, and story are all phenomenal. And as a person who believes that story and characters are the heart and soul of a game, The Devil In Me is my pick for best horror game of 2022.
- A multi-layered story with an engaging premise
- Realistic characters and interactions
- Accessible for players of all skill levels
- Your choices and actions matter
- Clunky controls
- Limited gameplay
- No option to skip past cut scenes