Jessie Buckley has been no stranger to running away from dangerous men in the dark this year. This time, the setting is a modern recreation of infamous 19th century serial killer H.H. Holmes’ murder castle, as the Devil in the White City changes address to The Devil in Me. The final installment in season one of Supermassive Games’ Dark Pictures Anthology looks set to be its most intriguing entry yet – not only shining a light on real-world macabre history, but lurking in the shadows of fictional horror milestones such as Resident Evil and Saw.
My roughly 15 minutes of hands-on with the game began by exploring the long-abandoned spa of a hotel the playable documentary crew had been filming in. It was no time to relax however, with the shoot having wrapped early due to the presence of a killer on set. As I walked the hallways I couldn’t help but feel like they had been transported straight from Resident Evil’s Raccoon City. The moon-tinged blue lighting, blood smeared on tiles that used to shine white instead of red, an unnecessarily convoluted corridor layout – it’s all there.
Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me Screenshots
If you don’t want to take in the details though, you can now sprint and jump your way around – a welcome change of pace from the sometimes ponderous movement that comes with games of this nature (including within this series). That doesn’t mean you’ll be skipping around like Spider-Man though, with jumping and climbing very much limited to certain gaps and wooden boxes. One interesting addition is the ability to hide, something that I never needed to do in my time with The Devil in Me, but that introduces the possibility of a perpetually stalking threat à la Mr. X who could turn up at any point to derail your plans.
Although I only saw one glimpse of my hunter while I played, the feeling of being constantly watched and played with by a malevolent force was present throughout. This is a hotel full of traps and surprises. The first I encountered was when I walked through a seemingly inconsequential door, only for the floor to open up beneath me and result in me sliding into the least-welcoming sauna you’ve visited since that hairy old man wearing a towel one size too small made too much eye contact with you. From there on in, it didn’t get a whole lot better. The building is littered with mannequin versions of (presumably) dead construction workers, their demise foreshadowed only by scattered business cards. One of these was the cause of my only jump scare in the demo, after a hard-hatted dummy suddenly got yanked into a vent by a chain connected to its foot.
It gets even more disturbing; whoever is playing with all of these full-size dolls is evidently a bit of an exhibitionist. I stumbled into a room depicting a scene that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Saw: two plastic workers either side of a pillar with a rotating saw blade in the middle and a chain connecting the colleagues. Whoever lost this particular game of tug of war was certainly in for a nasty surprise, and so it transpired that Ryan Hart – Senior Demolition Man – had just demolished his coworker’s abdomen with a buzzsaw.
It may only have been porcelain scattered over the hotel floor this time around but it was certainly a bloody reflection of the twisted mind you’re up against. As with all Dark Pictures games, it was only a matter of time before I was left with a deadly decision of my own to make. Two of the documentary crew found themselves in pressurized chambers in which only the contrapunctual violins playing on a nearby gramophone pierced the vacuum. Of course, only one of them could live, but there’s a twist on the formula this time around.
Instead of being purely resolved by the heart, the head comes into play, as certain characters have abilities or traits linked to their role on the production crew. Choosing to off them early could result in helpful information being lost forever – not least if you do what I did and let Jessie Buckley’s Kate live just because you’re fond of her towering performance in last year’s The Lost Daughter. In doing so, I doomed sound recordist Erin, whose equipment could have proved very useful for hearing through walls at a later point. It’s an extra layer to think about when put in the tense situations this series strives for, and a welcome change-up to how choices work.
Outside of what I played, I was also encouraged by what I saw in the latest trailer, which further emphasises the evolutions in gameplay we’re set to see in The Devil in Me compared to its predecessors. Colour and symbol-based puzzles are dotted around the maze-like murder castle and you’ll need to use various items from your inventory to solve them. It’s another wink and a nod to Resident Evil, particularly its police department’s penchant for throwing a brain teaser your way at the least convenient of times. That playfulness, combined with a truly horrifying real-life backdrop, and a willingness to try some new gameplay ideas has me excited to check in for another stay when The Devil in Me releases on November 18.
Simon Cardy probably wouldn’t choose to stay a night at a recreation of the murder castle, but never say never. Follow him on Twitter at @CardySimon.