I don’t usually like to call any game a ‘casual game’ or people who play games a certain way as ‘casual gamers’; games are games and gamers are gamers. That being said, The Dark Pictures Anthology series is definitely what I would call a ‘casual game’, because it’s perfect for sitting down and playing with friends and family who otherwise wouldn’t have an interest in playing video games. Despite some criticisms of Supermassive Games’ titles being ‘interactive movies’, I would deem this their best and most sellable feature. In fact, the games even utilise this with their ‘movie night’ game mode, which enables you to pass the controller to your peers between each character go. In the later entries, you can even go through the accessibility options and turn off anything that a parent or grandparent who doesn’t usually play games would otherwise struggle with.
Unfortunately, Supermassive Games seems to have taken this criticism to heart, and have introduced pointless gameplay mechanisms in the latest installment of the anthology, The Devil in Me, which feel crammed in for the sake of losing that ‘interactive movie’ label. But that’s not the only thing that made The Devil in Me feel flat compared to the other The Dark Pictures Anthology titles; it also lacked an impactful story.
As the last entry in Season One of The Dark Pictures Anthology, I was hoping this title would go out with a bang. It certainly looked promising with its premise of a group of people trapped inside a murder hotel with a serial killer hunting the grounds, and this also kept me consistently more entertained from the get go than the previous titles which relied more on enigma and that anticipation of a twist reveal.
But overall, The Devil In Me is the weakest installment in The Dark Pictures Anthology so far. This is especially the case if you had the unfortunate experience of playing the PlayStation 5’s broken version, which I did.
Let’s start with how the game performed on PlayStation 5. Having bought it on release, I was expecting some bugs. What I wasn’t expecting was bugs which nearly ruined my experience of the game. From torches that wouldn’t turn on in near-pitch black rooms to awkward facial expressions and graphical glitches; The Devil in Me had its fair share of release day quirks.
But none hampered my gameplay so much as the glitches which disregarded my choices in crucial story decisions. Without spoiling anything, in one segment your choice to either act or not act will decide whether a character dies or not. I chose not to act, but the character did so anyway – which was the wrong decision. Confused as to why the game would offer you a choice only to go against your wishes, I looked this up on YouTube. It turns out that my choice was correct, only the game had glitched to go with the other option. So, I tried replaying the segment again (right from the start of the chapter which is hugely annoying, The Devil In Me has gotten more strict with its autosaving compared to previous titles, likely to stop people from suddenly quitting and trying again when a character dies). And the glitch still happened. I tried messing around with the settings, thinking that because I had disabled the button-mashing Quick Time Events, it was causing the glitch somehow. But it still happened. In the end, I needed to reboot the game and replay the chapter a fourth time and it finally worked. It’s safe to say that this dangerous glitch really affected my score of The Devil in Me, because something like this really affects the storyline as well as the ending you get later on.
Hopefully, these bugs will be fixed at a later date. What can’t be fixed is the lacklustre story.
The Devil in Me sees a failing documentary film company, Lonnit Entertainment, take on an enigmatic invitation to a modern-day replica of the ‘Murder Castle’ hotel once owned by serial killer H.H. Holmes. With the future of the company looking grim, the company’s owner and documentary director, Charlie Lonnit, accepts the invitation as his last chance to save the company from going broke.
As usual, we take control of five characters. One of which is Charlie, an old-school director with a severe smoking habit. Joining Charlie on the project is cameraman Mark, lighting and electrics technician Jamie, sound engineer Erin, and the show’s presenter, Kate, who is this entry’s famous face as she’s played by award-winning actress Jessie Buckley (Men and Chernobyl).
Differing from previous entries in the anthology, the characters in The Devil In Me each have their own set of unique items or skills which come handy during certain points of the game. Charlie knows how to unlock drawers and doors using business cards, Mark has a camera flash which he can use to see in the dark, as well as a stabiliser which he can use to reach high places, Erin needs to use her inhaler when she’s having an asthma attack and she also has a microphone for picking up certain sounds, Jamie has a torch and Kate has a…crystal, which gives her positive vibes when she’s feeling anxious. Each of these items are utterly useless in terms of gameplay. When they’re introduced, you get the impression that you maybe have limited use of them so you need to need to be selective about when or how you use them, or maybe you’ll be able to choose which characters to play in each area. But you don’t. The items are just there and you’ll come into certain situations where they’ll have to be used to progress. There’s no logic put into how or when to use them, you just have to use them. It’s an utterly pointless inclusion.
Speaking of pointless inclusions and also bringing up my earlier statement that Supermassive Games have maybe felt pressured to introduce useless gameplay mechanics as a way of getting rid of that ‘interactive movie’ label, there’s also parkour elements. Yes, you read that correctly. There are now segments in The Dark Pictures Anthology where you will climb up walls, jump across roofs and balance over beams. Which seems completely ridiculous when you try and consider that this is just an ordinary film crew. No one in their right mind would realistically start running across building tops and leaping over cliffs when told to ‘explore the area’. It just feels like a mechanic that’s just slapped on to give the player more things to do while walking around the room in between cutscenes.
But, when it comes to a The Dark Pictures Anthology game, we’re all here for the story rather than the gameplay. As the crew arrive at the eerie hotel, they are met by Grantham Du’Met, the owner of Murder Castle, a strange fellow who’s nervous about anyone wandering away from his tour and is eager for the group to get inside the hotel as quickly as possible. Definitely not suspicious or anything.
One thing that I found amusing about The Devil in Me as a trained journalist is that this documentary company has got to be the worst I’ve ever seen portrayed in fiction. It’s no wonder that Lonnit Entertainment is failing when even its cameraman can’t do a simple landscape pan of the lighthouse without shaking the camera and messing up the focus. I’m not sure whether this is supposed to be purposeful, but even an amateur could have done a better job. Not to mention that, as a journalist, the idea is to film absolutely everything so that you don’t go back to the editing room and realise that you don’t have enough footage. But this scene of Mark filming the cliff view of the lighthouse is the only time anyone suggests filming something throughout the duration of the game. At the end, one member of the group jokes about making a season 2… but what happened to season 1 because it seems like they have absolutely no footage at all to work with?
As the group arrive at the hotel and get settled in their rooms, it becomes clear that there’s an icy atmosphere throughout the group. No one trusts Charlie, an ‘old-school’ director who seems to think this means he can treat his team members disrespectfully and send them on pointless errands. There’s also a bitter attitude towards Kate, who’s somewhat of a diva but, as we get to know her, it becomes evident that she’s severely misunderstood. Either way, it becomes clear that even if the documentary is successful, Charlie’s team is likely to disband anyway.
Not long after settling in the hotel and being invited to dinner by Du’Met, the group start to realise that something isn’t right. The corridors seem like they’re always changing, Du’Met disappears and was apparently seen by one member of the crew fleeing to the ferry the moment they were shut inside the hotel, and there’s creepy animatronics throughout the building which are breaking down and dangerous.
As we explore the hotel, we discover recordings and newspaper clippings of various serial killers from the past, including H.H. Holmes who the hotel is dedicated to. I found it really interesting to dive into the history of the hotel, and had a lot of fun piecing together the clues myself. There’s a menu which shows each clue collected so you can go back on this information. Unfortunately it’s a mess and really difficult to find specifically what you’re looking for without going across every marker.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that this ‘Murder Castle’ museum isn’t actually a museum at all and is a full recreation of H.H Holme’s famous murder hotel, who Du’Met seems to be infatuated with. He can change the corridors at will, has installed peep holes and cameras into various rooms and also set Saw-style booby traps. This murderer has full control of the hotel and his guests, and is slowly working on turning them against each other as he attempts to pick them off one by one. He has designed the perfect playground for a serial killer.
As with each The Dark Pictures Anthology installment so far, I was expecting a twist in The Devil in Me. There’s been a huge twist with each game so far, each having completely changed the player’s perception of the storyline and setting. From Man of Medan’s chemical weapon causing the group to hallucinate the monsters they are seeing to the House of Ashes reveal that you are actually being hunted by aliens, not vampires – it’s safe to say that I was expecting something great with The Devil in Me. We had a multitude of theories, from the murderer himself being an animatronic to there being multiple murderers, even multiple animatronic murderers; we had our guesses but none could prepare us for the true reveal… which is not much at all. The biggest twist in The Devil In Me was that there was barely a twist at all. Which sealed the game’s fate in my mind as even through the weird gameplay choices and bugs, I was still holding onto to that anticipation that we were about to be blown away by the ending as we had done by the previous three installments.
Despite holding an intriguing premise which I found to be more consistently exciting throughout than the previous installments, The Devil in Me’s game-breaking bugs, pointless gameplay mechanics and a really lacklustre ending made it the weakest entry in The Dark Pictures Anthology so far.
Jess played The Devil in Me on PlayStation 5 with her own purchased copy. The Devil in Me is also available on Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox Series X|S.