When The Dark Pictures Anthology was announced, there were certainly high hopes for fans of the Western horror genre – after all, this team gave us the impressive Until Dawn. Yet, subsequent follow-ups were a mixed bag, from Man of Medan, Little Hope, and House of Ashes. After a detour with The Quarry, Supermassive Games is back with The Devil in Me, the fourth and final instalment of the first season that comes close to being the best, but with some issues.
This time around, the interactive drama and survival horror game follows a cast of five new playable characters, as well as a multi-linear narrative that is determined by the choices players make during the course of the game. At the core of it all is H.H. Holmes, sometimes known as the first serial killer in America. For a budding indie film crew trying to make a documentary about him, the invitation to a scale replica of the fatal hotel that doubles up as a museum, as well as exclusive footage and information, proves to be too enticing, and thus begins the descent into spills and thrills.
For obvious reasons, The Devil in Me is best experienced fresh, but on the whole, the narrative definitely stands out more compared to the rest of The Dark Pictures Anthology, by virtue of its structure and cohesiveness. This helps to ensure that players are truly in it for the long haul, whether it be to a bloody end or the survival of these interesting individuals.
And yes, the characters are much better realised this time around, perhaps even more so than in House of Ashes, which is an excellent step forward. Most of the crew are likeable individuals and are given plenty of time to share their stories and get fleshed out. And as the stakes get higher and the danger looms large, players will likely care more and want to keep everyone alive, unless your joy is entirely derived from ending everyone, which is also a fair pursuit in The Devil in Me.
Learning all you can about the characters becomes even more important throughout the events of The Devil in Me, as the developers have found new ways to integrate that into the story and situations players will find themselves in. Knowing the nuances of the film crew can change how events play out, ultimately tweaking the outcomes of decisions that only the more invested will be able to see coming.
Such a requirement might not be for everyone, but for horror fans that are seeking clever kills and even smarter escapes, this is the way to go about it. Most, if not everything, is fair in the sense that the game gives you everything you’ll need to survive; it just depends on whether you cared enough to notice.
The details that Supermassive has included in The Devil in Me are also probably the series’ better efforts, with every piece of collectible doing its part in elevating the story into something with more layers. Venturing down the unbeaten path definitely feels more rewarding this time around than in the past.
Positive changes are not limited to the characters or narrative either, with gameplay seeing a slight shift for the better as well. While still predominantly a cinematic adventure where players are tasked with making decisions under pressure, The Devil in Me features more traditional affairs in the form of puzzles that can be solved in different ways, which makes for more replayability and allows characters to shine even more.
The individuals on the film crew all have their own unique skills or items that can come in handy, such as Erin the audio technician’s boom mic helping to enhance hearing, which then sees things playing out differently based on those choices. It is still a pleasant surprise to see how the formula can continually be tweaked for such experiences, while still making them count for something significant in the long run.
However, with all of that good, The Devil in Me also comes with some bad. Visually, the game is not exactly the showstopper the genre welcomed back in the day, especially with The Quarry looking as good as it did earlier this year. Some upgrades are sorely needed in this area, and it doesn’t help when characters and animations also feel a little stiff in all regards.
It can be argued that The Dark Pictures Anthology has always featured movement and actions that felt more weighty, but at this point, it can be skewed a little too far in that direction. Losing some of that deliberateness need not come at the expense of fear, and if anyone can do it, it will be the folks over at Supermassive Games.
Of course, most of these issues will pass if you are just playing for a single run, but with The Devil in Me having those branching paths and different endings, it can all add up to experiences with pretty good highs and some disappointing lows. Considering that the game is meant to be played over and over again, that will be a worry.
Nevertheless, The Devil in Me runs close to being the best in the series alongside House of Ashes, with a good-paced story and genuine characters that are probably better off alive than dead. The gameplay sections have been freshened up, even if the engine and look of everything feel just a little dated for the final entry in the first season of The Dark Pictures Anthology. Hopefully, the second will feel more like a killer attraction.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Bringing to an end the first season of The Dark Pictures Anthology, The Devil in Me finishes things on a general high.
Gameplay - 7.5/10
Story - 8.5/10
Presentation - 7.5/10
Value - 9/10