The Devil in Me is the fourth installment to Supermassive Entertainment’s The Dark Pictures Anthology, serving as the conclusion to the series’ first season. As an interactive survival horror game, The Devil in Me will do its best to send chills down your spine while you guide five unsuspecting protagonists through a series of hellish ordeals. While the game does incorporate some new elements to keep players engaged, the formulaic experience is marred by awkward dialogue, graphical bugs, and clunky controls.
Smile for the camera
The Devil in Me tells the story of a documentary film crew that receives a strange invitation to visit a replica of the iconic “Murder Castle” hotel inspired by America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes. After they arrive, the crew begins to realize that not everything is as it seems and must try to escape with their lives. A Holmes-inspired stalker lurks in the shadows, luring each of the crew members into his sadistic contraptions. The hotel is filled with dark, shifting corridors and deadly devices.
Players will take control of the five film crew members throughout the game, and each character has their own personality traits and history with one another. The playable characters themselves are not particularly interesting and lack complexity in their personalities. Clay-like, expressionless faces and stuttery facial animations tarnish what are otherwise decent character performances.
There were many instances where characters would respond to certain situations in an inconsistent manner that broke the immersion for me. For example, a character that has an extreme fear of heights will constantly climb ladders and shimmy across beams without hesitation. Other times, characters would say or do something nonsensical or just outright silly in light of new information.
The horror elements of the game range from disturbing animatronics to grotesque body horror. The atmospheric corridors of the murder castle made for several intense moments that will get your pulse pounding. Despite this, jumpscares are about as scary as the game gets, and there’s no shortage of them in The Devil in Me. Given the nature of some of the contraptions, there is also plenty of blood and viscera to appease the gore enthusiasts. However, most of the scares amounted to little more than cheap thrills.
Get your bearings
For the most part, The Devil in Me follows the same gameplay formula as its predecessors, with a few new additions. Quick time events have become a series staple, keeping players on their toes during intense moments of survival. Keep Calm segments have returned, requiring players to steady their heartbeat while hiding from enemies.
When you aren’t trying to land QTEs, you will be exploring your surroundings for clues and collectibles. There are various framed pictures players can find that reveal premonitions of future events and serve as clues for survival. Other hidden secrets reveal story details regarding the main narrative and antagonist. There are also Bearings, which document the big decisions players make that impact specific characters. Poking around for collectibles isn’t particularly fun, nor is it all that impactful in terms of major choices.
Although exploration and QTEs still make up the bulk of gameplay, Supermassive has incorporated a few new features to change things up. Thanks to the addition of new movement mechanics, characters can now run, jump, climb, and shimmy their way over and across obstacles, broadening the grounds for exploration. Despite the new traversal mechanics, the exploration segments still tend to drag on and overstay their welcome. There are also some light puzzle-solving sections throughout that range from fixing old fuse boxes to navigating through a maze.
The Devil in Me introduces a new inventory system that allows characters to carry objects and tools that can help them along the way. Not only can characters pick up items they find in the environment, they also each have their own tools based on their role in the film crew. Most of the characters carry a light source, such as a lighter or flashlight. Some tools, like Jamie’s multimeter, are crucial for solving puzzles and are used often. Other tools, like Mark’s camera, are seldom needed and provide little benefit throughout. A lot of this will depend on the specific story path you are on, however, as some tools may come in handy in different scenarios that I did not experience in my playthrough.
The devil is in the details
Choices and consequences are the bread and butter of The Dark Pictures games, with permadeath being the ultimate antagonist. While it is always possible to have a character die from a missed QTE, deaths are often the direct result of player choice, either through dialogue or actions. Each playable character features a set of traits that impact their relationships with other characters. While there is a loose connection between a character’s emotional growth and their survival, character traits and relationship data felt underutilized as features and I would have liked a better way to use this information throughout the game.
Given the gravity of decision making, I expected some way to rationally determine the right choices to make to ensure a character’s survival. However, this is not always the case in The Devil in Me, as many of my decisions resulted in unpredictable and often illogical outcomes. While subverting the player’s expectations is par for the course in a game like this, it can make your choices feel arbitrary if done too often.
While I'm not going to spoil anything, I will say that some choices players must make later in the game had potential outcomes that made me personally uncomfortable and that may be traumatic for some players, with no warning beforehand. This particular choice of storytelling was done in poor taste and soured the final hours of the game for me.
Be kind, rewind
Although players have the option to replay scenes once they have completed them, due to how the save system works, you will either have to overwrite your current playthrough or start a new save. While it is possible to replay previous scenes to get different outcomes, it will only save your progress up to that scene, since each replay is equivalent to playing it for the first time.
There is also no way to skip through cutscenes when replaying, either. Achievement hunters looking to experience the game’s myriad of character deaths and outcomes have their work cut out for them.
The Devil in Me often subverts your expectations in such a way that diminishes player agency and makes your own choices feel arbitrary. Although its added gameplay features make for a more interactive experience, they hardly break the mold and were poorly executed. Technical issues tarnished the experience overall. The game still relies heavily on QTE-based survival mechanics and does little to set itself apart from its predecessors. What had the potential to be a truly horrific conclusion to The Dark Pictures Anthology amounts to little more than a lackluster thriller with a predictable narrative that opts for shock value and jumpscares over quality.
This review is based on a digital copy for PlayStation 5 supplied by the publisher. The Devil in Me is available on November 18, 2022, for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me
- Decent character performances
- Some atmospheric environments were legit creepy
- Some intense moments were enjoyable
- Uninteresting characters
- Glitchy facial animations
- Unpolished controls
- Weak storytelling
- Decisions often felt arbitrary given the outcomes
- Certain dilemmas are done in poor taste
- Not very scary, despite jumpscares
- Tedious exploration slows pacing
- Replayability is possible, but not without caveats
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