Around this time in the year for the last few years I’ve looked forward to the release of the latest entry in the Dark Pictures Anthology. They’re great, bite-sized horror adventures that are fun to dive into around the Halloween period that they typically release in. For those unfamiliar with the series, it started with Man of Medan back in 2019 and has had an annual release each year following. The thing I love most about anthologies is their ability to have each entry be vastly different in theme, tone and setting while still remaining in the same storytelling genre. The latest in the Dark Pictures series, The Devil In Me, pulls inspiration from real world events and does away with the supernatural aspect that Supermassive Games typically utilises, to provide an experience that is more uneasy and shocking than the previous games in the series. This game is also stated to be the end of ‘Season One’ of the Dark Pictures Anthology.
The plot of The Devil In Me follows a crew of 5 filmmakers in the search of their breakthrough hit show. Their next season is planned to tell the story of H.H Holmes, the man regarded as America’s first serial killer. Upon receiving an invite to visit a recreation of his famous hotel where he performed his brutal killings, dubbed the ‘murder castle’, the crew believe this will be their breakthrough opportunity and accept. But before long come to realise that the place is a little too close to the purpose of the original castle, they’re being constantly watched and that they’ve walked willingly into a trap located on a very remote island.
I really loved that this time around Supermassive decided to leave the supernatural component of their stories out of this tale. While the previous games in the Dark Pictures were also loosely inspired by real world events, this game felt so much more twisted knowing that it more closely followed a real world historical serial killer and that performed actions somewhat similar to what we witness first hand in the game, rather than being caused by some supernatural being or spirit. The game’s story does take some modern liberties with the history of course, and can get away with it easier as it takes place in a recreation of the murder castle, but I felt it was overall more scary than the previous Dark Pictures games primarily because the ‘monster’ was a thing that could absolutely exist in this day and age. Much the same as how I personally felt the opening half of Supermassive’s breakthrough hit Until Dawn was more scary before the supernatural twist was thrown in.
If you’ve played any of Supermassive’s previous titles, whether that be the earlier Dark Pictures games, Until Dawn or even this year’s The Quarry, you’ll understand how The Devil In Me is gameplay-wise before you even start. The story twists and turns based on the dialogue decisions and outcomes of the QuickTime events that play out throughout the narrative and can lead to one of many different endings. The choices you make influence who lives and who dies and you absolutely have the option of having no one survive to see the conclusion, but also if you play your cards right, everyone is also able to make it out alive to see the best ending.
You periodically take the reigns of each of the cast at various points throughout the story and typically shift perspective chapter by chapter to another character. The Devil In Me introduces a new mechanic by providing each character their own inventory slots so that each can have their own light source, specialty items and slots for things collected along the way. These can be utilised during the gameplay sections to unlock certain areas or solve puzzles, and also throughout the cutscenes to provides additional decisions and possible outcomes.
As with previous titles in the Dark Pictures series, this game also rewards exploration. Straying from the main path and taking the time to explore each room or corridor available often rewards you with Obals, which act as this game’s currency in the bonus menu, additional pieces of lore, items to use and also the titular dark pictures, which provide a brief premonition into a potential future outcome you may find yourself in that can be handy to prevent certain situations or deaths occurring for your characters.
The Devil In Me, like the previous entries, continues to be flexible with how you’d like to play it. You can play it through as a solo experience using the Play Alone option but it also supports both online and a local ‘pass the controller’ multiplayer modes via the Don’t Play Alone option when starting the game, allowing you to also have a fun horror experience if getting a bunch of friends around.
After completing the game, there’s also a bunch of bonus content that can be enjoyed via the Bonus menu from the title screen of the game. This is where you can spend your collected Obols on things like character models and dioramas, but my personal favourite parts were the unlockable documentaries on the history of H.H Holmes and the design of his Murder Castle. They were really interesting to watch and provide further context on the sinister inspirations for the story of the main game.
While I really enjoyed The Devil In Me overall, from a critiquing standpoint it probably had more issues than previous games in the same series too. I found the lighting of scenes to be wildly inconsistent, as were the individual light sources the playable characters could wield. Characters with flashlights weren’t too bad, but some characters can only utilise mobile phone cameras and cigarette lighters and this caused a lot of frustration and disorientation. I’m all for setting an atmosphere in games but some of the environments in the game were so dark that I had to go into the settings and scale the brightness of the game to the maximum just to see the environment and navigate the level, then scale it back when the story moved to a more well lit area.
The quality of the cutscenes and character models were also wildly inconsistent sometimes even within the same scene. I’m not sure if this was a bug or the case of having multiple different teams or studios working on the story cutscenes but there were some scenes where the character models looked fantastic and in the very next shot looked like they were using lower fidelity models and the environment and characters had been lit in a completely different way. The character models and environments when working properly look stunning, especially those involving the game’s storyteller The Curator, which only made it more obvious when things were bugging out. Hopefully this can be addressed in a future patch as the performances, facial animations and environments that Supermassive produce are top notch for the most part.
Story-wise I also found the first half of the game to drag pacing-wise after the initially exciting prologue sequence. The game takes a long time introducing the characters, story setup and then making us walk to the new ‘Murder Castle’ that I just wanted things to get to the inevitable drama portion. Once you get there, the second half of the game goes from exciting new twist and encounter fairly consistently. I just wish it didn’t involve a couple of hours of setup to get there in a game that is only about 6 hours long from start to finish.
The Devil In Me is another solid entry and a fitting season finale to The Dark Pictures Anthology. It’s focus on real world inspirations helps it feel more twisted and scary and it’s supported well by a small but diverse cast of characters. It does take a little while to get going and does contain a few technical bugs, but once you hit the peak of the drama, the game offers a near non-stop horror experience to the end. Due to the nature of it’s design you can jump back in and replay it to experience different choices and outcomes in the wait for season 2 to kick off, hopefully next year.
A PS5 review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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