The Dark Pictures Anthology ends its first season with The Devil in Me, but does this fourth chapter end with a bang or a whimper? Here’s what we thought after playing the game through.
Supermassive’s Dark Pictures games have been our guilty pleasure ever since the very first chapter, Man of Medan. The series has a lot in common with Supermassive’s other narrative-driven horror games such as Until Dawn and 2022’s The Quarry, in that each is a playable movie where the character’s fates are in your hands – and every action has a consequence.
The Devil in Me is the fourth chapter in the Dark Pictures Anthology and also serves as the finale of the first season. To ensure we know this is an extra special chapter in the anthology, Supermassive has added some new features this time such as climbing, jumping, and more. It’s also extended the length of the game from the usual 4-5 hours to 7-8 hours of playtime, making the game feel more like Until Dawn and The Quarry than the earlier entries in the Anthology.
The Devil in Me: Key details
- Price: £34.99/$39.99
- Developer: Supermassive Games
- Release Date: November 18, 2022
- Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
The Devil in Me trailer
And then there were fewer
The story involves a struggling film crew receiving an invite to tour a replica of the infamous Murder Castle for a horror documentary. This was a hotel in Chicago where real-life ‘America’s first serial killer’ H.H. Holmes would lure and murder his victims. Excited by the prospect of covering something so high-profile, the crew accepts the invitation and makes their way to a secluded island where the replica hotel is located. Naturally, soon they are stranded and come to realize they are in a twisted game where someone is not just recreating the Murder Castle, but the actual killing spree.
Like most Dark Pictures games, The Devil in Me wears its influence proudly on its sleeve. Things start off very reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s delicious classic “And Then There Were None”, but there are also flavors of various eighties slasher movies, and even some Alfred Hitchcock baked in for good measure. Fans of American Horror Story Hotel will also find a lot to get their teeth into.
However, it’s the final ingredient that’s the most troublesome, as The Devil in Me also spends a lot of time pretending to be a Saw movie – and one of the bad sequels at that.
The influence of the Saw movies
We recognize Saw’s influence on the horror genre and how elements of the franchise could work well if done right. However, we felt that the Devil in Me undoes all its good work in setting up a spooky scene by just throwing characters in various Saw traps and devolving into something it didn’t need to turn into. What makes the Dark Pictures Anthology, and Supermassive’s other work, so appealing is the commitment to player agency, the atmosphere, and how the build-up of choices leads to some “butterfly effect” style gameplay.
Having two characters become stuck in a trap and being forced by the game to make a “Sophie’s Choice” strips away what makes these games so replayable. In earlier Dark Pictures entries, there’s usually a way to save every character in most given scenarios. Poor timing, bad choices, or deliberate sadism (on the part of the player) is what often leads to a character’s death.
However, putting characters in such situations just led to a binary choice that felt out of place in a Dark Pictures game. It also happened more than once which added to our frustration.
It’s all about choices
Don’t get us wrong, there may be a way to make both characters survive, and we simply didn’t find it. And we’re also well aware that our poor choices may have led to these Saw-style traps, and that there likely is a way to avoid them entirely. Yet their inclusion at all made some moments feel a little cheap and that our efforts to save characters were for nothing.
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Normally in a Dark Pictures game’s first run, we let the chips – and the bodies – fall where they may, before having a ‘save everyone run’ next, followed by a third playthrough where we callously lead all our lambs to their slaughter. Although this time, it simply became easier to give up on our protagonists, finding more fun in getting them killed in creative ways, rather than trying to save them and just ending up disappointed.
If we’re being honest, we just feel like The Dark Pictures Anthology can, artistically, do better than Saw. And we’re hopeful that the second season abandons this dalliance with gore-based horror.
Old habits die hard
The game adds some new movement options but still doesn’t fix the issues that have plagued the Dark Pictures games since The Man of Medan. Movement still feels stilted and cumbersome at times and the climbing, shimmying across ledges, and exploration gameplay often just felt like padding rather than an exercise in tension building. The additional run time did little to deepen the story and we feel like The Devil in Me would have benefited from being a tighter experience.
The good news is the game does everything else right and serves as a creepy final chapter to the first season of The Dark Pictures Anthology, the characters are layered, the mystery of the killer and their obsession is fun to piece together, and the visuals look better than ever. There’s a superb story being told in this chapter of the series, it’s just a lot harder to extract than it was in previous games. However, this just makes us want to play it again and see what we missed – which is what makes Supermassive’s games so addictive.
The Verdict – 3/5
While we felt like we had less agency and influence as a player than in earlier chapters of The Dark Pictures Anthology, The Devil in Me is still a worthy addition to the Curator’s library – and our own. While we appreciate the experimental nature of the chapter, the direction of creative travel did worry us at times.
However, there’s no denying that Supermassive is still the best at what they do, and we look forward to season 2 of The Dark Pictures Anthology, and beyond.
Reviewed on PS5
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