The Suffering is a video game developed by Surreal Software and published by Midway Games, released in 2004 for the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and the PC.
A sequel, called The Suffering: Ties That Bind, was released in September 2005 and a film adaptation was announced by Midway and MTV Films that same month. A Nintendo GameCube version of the title was originally planned, but was eventually canceled. The game featured monster designs by Stan Winston.
In September 2008, the PC version was made free for download, supported by on-screen advertisements.
The player controls Torque, a man who has been sent to the fictional Abbott State Penitentiary on Carnate Island, Maryland
. Torque has been convicted and sentenced to death for murdering his wife and two children, although he claims to have blacked out at the time this happened and cannot remember anything. The night Torque arrives, there is a powerful earthquake, which releases an army of monsters upon the facility. Torque's cell door breaks and he is freed from his captivity. Starting with little more than a shiv
, Torque traverses the prison in an attempt to escape Carnate Island alive.
During his journey, Torque finds that the monsters set loose personify the many forms of execution the island has played host to. In addition, he is met by the spirits of some of Carnate's most famous residents: the depraved psychologist Dr. Killjoy, the former executioner Hermes T. Haight, and the murderer Horace. With their help, Torque discovers that (from his point of view) he can become a raging monster not unlike those he has been slaughtering (other characters assert that these "transformations" are merely a sort of adrenaline-fueled madness). Killjoy is obsessed with curing Torque, though his methods are questionable at best, and at various points delivers vague medical advice. Horace and Hermes, on the other hand, try to sway Torque towards good or evil, respectively.
At the climax of the game, Torque is confronted by visions of his deceased family. Depending on the player's actions, they will either forgive Torque (because it wasn't him who murdered them) or blame him for their troubles (because it was him, either in whole or in part). After facing his inner demon, himself, and a monster born of his hatred, Torque will be found by a rescue boat, though his fate past this point is dependent on what his family thinks of him. Depending on his actions, Torque will: be rescued and get a re-trial; knock out the driver and escape; or become his inner demon, kill the driver, and run back into the island.
After completing the game a bonus level becomes available. Titled "Waiting to Die", the bonus is a prelude level that takes place when Torque first arrives on the island. After completing the level the game begins as normal. As explained by commentary activated by touching one of the crows in the level, it was originally intended to be the first level, but was cut from the game for story purposes during production.
plays as a traditional first-
or third-person shooter
, employing the controls of the former but allowing players to switch between the two camera angles. The weapons provided to the player are reminiscent of those found in prisons: shivs
, Molotov cocktails
, and a wide array of less-common weapons.
In the game, the player is presented several opportunities to test their morality, usually in the form of a person who is trying to survive the horrors of the island. In most cases, the player is presented with three options: help the person (good), kill them (evil), or remain indifferent to their plight (neutral). A hallucination of Torque's wife will attempt to convince him to take the good path in the obvious cases, while demonic voices attempt to coerce Torque into being evil. Good or evil, if done correctly, are indicated by the reaction of Torque's wife, while being indifferent has no response, as it is accomplished by getting someone killed without direct responsibility. Not every moral choice has all three outcomes, nor are they always so clear cut; for example, in the asylum, Torque comes across a correctional officer who has lost his limbs to rats and is slowly dying. Torque can kill the man to relieve him of his misery, which will constitute a good action, or leave him be, which constitutes a neutral one, but in no way can he perform an evil act in this instance. The decisions made in regards to these opportunities will affect the ending of the game. Torque's "morality level" is indicated by the picture of his family in the inventory, which gets cleaner with good acts and dirtier with evil ones.
Another feature of The Suffering is Torque's ability to transform into a monster after his insanity meter has been filled by killing other monsters. In this form, Torque can literally tear enemies apart, and can also perform a powerful shockwave attack. The more enemies the player kills in this form, the more powerful it becomes. However, the form has detrimental effects. The longer Torque stays within this form, the more damage it will do to his health. Allowing the insanity meter to run out will result in death. Additionally, Torque cannot heal himself until returning to human form.
There are many inmates and prison guards that Torque meets in his attempt to escape Carnate. Most people forget about their differences when the cataclysm strikes, although some will harbor old grudges. The fate of each character assumes that the player helps them reach that end. In most cases, the player is capable of killing them well before they accomplish anything.Torque
- The silent protagonist of the game, Torque's experiences in life make him uniquely suited to destroy the creatures roaming the island, and also somehow connect him to them. With the help of various characters in the game, Torque learns the true fate of his family and the nature of his blackouts. In the good ending, his family were murdered by thugs under the employ of a character called the 'Colonel', leaving Torque with the bodies of his family and a death sentence. The Colonel's identity and motive is elaborated on in the sequel. In the neutral ending, an argument with Carmen results in him shoving her in a fit of anger, accidentally killing her when she hits her head on the corner of a dresser. Cory, having witnessed it, goes insane; he drowns Malcolm in the bath before committing suicide. In the evil ending, Torque beat Carmen to death, drowned Malcolm in the bath and threw Cory out of the window. Head Corrections Officer
- The Head CO is the first able guard Torque runs into. He decides to ignore protocol and teams up with Torque. He is killed when he approaches the electric chair while Horace is reliving his execution. His death equips the player with their first firearm, the revolver.Dallas
- Dallas is an inmate and friend of Torque's from his time at Eastern Baltimore Correctional. Dallas is upset over the death of his best friend, Byron, at the hands of the monsters. He believes that the creatures are by-products of a government experiment, mentioning the old WWII fort and the asylum as possible spawning areas for the creatures. Dallas manages to escape the prison with Torque's help.Chico
- Chico and his crew run the drug trade inside the prison. Regardless of how they are met by the player (alone or with Dallas in tow), they attack, either because of a grudge against Dallas or distrust of Torque.Hargrave
- Hargrave is the warden at the prison. During the cataclysm he takes it upon himself to execute all the inmates.Luther
- Luther is a cowardly guard who appears to have partially regressed into a child-like state from the trauma of the incident. When he first sees Torque, he runs, but once cornered will team up with him in an attempt to reach the radio tower. He does not carry a weapon and is too scared to face the monsters.Sergei
- Sergei is found in the asylum, sitting on a couch and smoking drugs. He is surprisingly calm and collected, resigned to his fate, and thinks he should at least spend his last few hours happy, though he wishes the power was back on so that he could listen to music. He gives Torque some hints on where he should go in the asylum.Clem
- Clem is an inmate who needs Torque's help to escape. Having built himself a raft, he finds his voyage derailed by monsters pouring out of the beached slave ship. After the player helps him escape, he leaves a map of the prison basement with several supply stashes marked.Harley and Guard
- Shortly after entering and leaving the prison for a second time, Torque runs into two guards. Both are attempting to fend off monsters. Harley, the only one identified by name, has gone mad and wants to kill the monsters, while his unnamed partner is constantly trying to drag him back to relative safety.Jimmy the Mad Bomber
- Jimmy is a fellow inmate whose exposure to the monsters and prodigious supply of TNT sticks has left him more than a little wary of anyone or anything that can move, as he assumes he has been drugged somehow and believes that the entire affair is nothing more than a drug-induced hallucination.Ernesto Alvarez
- Ernesto is a guard who hates the inmates, believing them all to be scum. He is one of the guards that greets Torque and escorts him to his cell, expressing his distaste for the inmate while escorting him. When the two meet up again, they form a shaky truce. Concerned with the fate of his wife and children, he goes into town to look for them.Consuela Alvarez
- Consuela is the wife of Ernesto, and lived on the Island before the Cataclysm. She hates it there and used her time at the island to compile the Location Scrapbook that Torque acquires. She is only involved in the first game by sending radio messages in an attempt to reach her husband. The presence of the Scrapbook also points to her existence. She does escape, however, and is seen in the sequel, attempting to return to the Island to find Ernesto.
Throughout the game, the spirits of several famous residents of the island aid or hinder Torque's journey. He will also be confronted by his slain family and his own psychotic fallacies. Other spirits appear to Torque through flashbacks, usually preceding the appearance of an enemy creature related to the atrocity.Dr. Killjoy
- Dr. Q. L. Killjoy is a depraved psychologist/medical practitioner who worked in the early 1900s. He purchased and renovated an old Victorian home on the island which was abandoned for years. He turned it into an Asylum that he worked out of, known as "Killjoy's Institute for the Alienated". He used many deplorable methods on his patients, more often than not resulting in their death. No one knows what happened to him, but his spirit now lives on through old film projectors. Killjoy gains an interest in Torque during their first meeting and tries to cure his mental instability, though the reasons for this are ambiguous at best. Torque meets him at several points of the game and confronts him in the old ruined Asylum, wherein he destroys Killjoy's projectors. Following this, Killjoy delivers Torque a diagnosis and makes a final apparition right before the final battle to deliver him his "cure". Hermes T. Haight
- The former executioner of the prison, Hermes has been working on Abbott for many decades and expressed great pride and pleasure on his job, until he decided to "take it one step further" and committed suicide in the gas chamber. As a result, his ghost manifests itself through a deadly green gas, which he calls "the color of life". He is cruel and sadistic, and seems to encourage Torque into giving in to his dark side. He is ultimately defeated in the basement of the lighthouse after trying to flood it with his gas, but he appears one last time to aid Torque in his escape. He represents evil to Torque, and often attempts to guide him on that path.Horace P. Gauge
- One of the most infamous prisoners on Abbott, Horace was driven mad by the influence of the island; paranoid at what would happen to his wife while he was in jail, he ultimately killed her during a conjugal visit. He was then condemned to the electrical chair, and his spirit is forced to relive his execution time and time again. His spirit appears with his scalp and the skin of his hands burned off by the electricity, and his body constantly surges with an electrical discharge. He also speaks through electric appliances throughout the prison and appears to Torque tangled in electrical wires and through power surges. He shares many things in common with Torque, and wants him to escape Carnate in the hopes that he will not suffer the same fate. Horace is eventually freed from his torture in a "battle" with Torque in the electric chair room, as Torque is trapped in the electric chair room as Horace relives the execution, and returns him the favor by opening the way for him on the final escape. He, in contrast to Hermes, represents good for Torque, and shows regret and sorrow at his actions, ultimately wanting to spare Torque's soul from a similar fate.You can hear Horace and his wife talking the time when they agreed to have the conjugal visit. Above this telephone there's "Horace Lives" written. It's in the same room where Carmen appears and talks to you via a phone.Carmen, Cory and Malcolm
- The spirits of Torque's wife and their children appear to Torque in visions throughout the game, and their attitude towards him differs depending on the morality path followed. Carmen was a young African-American woman who lived in Baltimore and met Torque at a park in a gazebo. There, she claimed she could "never call him Torque" and opted instead to call him "T". Depending on the player's morality, she will either still love Torque or be disgusted by his actions. Depending on the morality the player chooses, Carmen was either: killed by men working for a mysterious man called "The Colonel", later revealed to have been Blackmore, Torque's former boss and the main antagonist of the sequel (Good); accidentally killed by Torque when he shoves her down in anger during an argument (Neutral); or beaten to death by Torque (Evil).
- Cory and Malcolm were Torque and Carmen's two sons, one a few years older than the other. Cory was angry at Torque for his parental habits and was rebellious. Malcolm, on the other hand, was an apparently happy child, much younger than Cory. According to the player's morality, the children were either: killed by the Colonel's men (Good); Cory drowns Malcolm in the bathtub and jumps out the window (Neutral); or they were both savagely murdered by Torque (Evil).Torque's Inner Demons
- In contrast to Carmen, Torque is goaded by a collection of demonic voices telling him to virtually betray or kill any person he comes across on his path to escape. When confronted in a moral situation, Torque will hear these voices telling him to give in to his evil impulses, in ways such as "Fucker tried to KILL you!", "FUCK HIM!", or "Make them SUFFER and "HE'S WEAK"!WWII Colonel
- A colonel that was stationed at the POW Camp on Carnate. He does not directly affect the player, but visions of his actions are seen. According to the legend, he was paranoid of Nazi traitors and spies. His fear led to the rooting out of three soldiers of German descent, who were accused of treachery on biased grounds with no evidence. They were executed via firing squad on the colonel's order. A little later, word got out of the crime and the colonel was court-martialed. He took his life at the command center of the Fort, opting to die than live in shame. His presence in Carnate's history gave birth to the Marksmen creatures.
Each creature in The Suffering
represents a different method of execution and, as Clem states in his journal, they seem to be the incarnation of the many atrocities that took place on Carnate. In many ways, like Horace Gauge, some of the monsters exist to live the rest of their days in punishment for the atrocities they committed. Notably, the monsters are not explicitly out to kill Torque: they will kill anything, other monsters included, that get in their way, though they will generally prioritize humans. Why they exist is never made clear, but Torque's arrival is suggested to be the catalyst.
The game was well received by critics and gamers, and has sold over 1.5 million copies.
The sequel The Suffering: Ties That Bind
was released in the United States on September 26
, and PC
. The sequel immediately follows up on the events of the escape from the prison.
Shortly after The Suffering: Ties that Bind
was released for the PC, numerous players who bought it and also owned the PC version of the original faced graphical glitches in the first game,such as models not appearing and missing walls. At first, it was believed to be a driver issue, but it was caused by the sequel's updated version of the Riot Engine
interfering with the original. The solution was to ensure both games were fully uninstalled, then manually go through the Windows registry and manually delete anything related to Surreal Software, The Suffering
, or the Riot Engine.
The game is protected by the Starforce copy protection system version 3.5, that overwrites and does not do system driver backups.
On September 8, 2005, Midway and MTV Films
announced that a film version of The Suffering
was underway. The film started production in 2006 and should be released in 2008–2009. It has been said that a director new to the directing business known as Kyle Haarklau
, will direct and write the film. Stan Winston
had signed on to design the monster effects for the film prior to his death on June 15, 2008. Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor
was announced to play the lead character Torque.
In a rare instance for computer games, the design document for The Suffering
was published in the book Game Design: Theory & Practice