Another year, another Dark Pictures game. Little Hope was my least favourite, and last year’s House of Ashes was easily my favourite. So far, all of the games have taken some great horror concepts and flipped them on their head, subverting most, if not all, your expectations. The Devil In Me, then, is the ultimate subversion. That is to say, it’s exactly what it presents itself as, and as a result never quite feels like it capitalises on its fantastic premise. That’s not to say it’s bad – it’s heads and shoulders above Little Hope and better than The Quarry despite it’s significantly smaller scale – it’s just lacking any surprises.
Like the previous games, The Devil In Me is an interactive drama like Until Dawn and The Quarry. You play as a group of characters and must make decisions to navigate them through the story (hopefully alive) to the credits. Each decision you make can have rippling effects on how the story plays out, leading to multiple potential outcomes. Like the other Dark Pictures games, The Devil In Me is entirely self-contained, and you don’t need to play (or have liked) the previous games to appreciate this one.
The Devil In Me follows a crew of documentary filmmakers looking to revitalise their in-trouble series. The team is working on a project about one of the first serial killers in America, Henry Howard Holmes. Stuck on how to make the done-to-death angle interesting, the team receives a mysterious invite from an eccentric millionaire to come and visit his modern-day replica of the H.H. Holmes Murder Castle. In real life, the hotel was unremarkable, but in most fictional depictions, it’s portrayed with impossible spaces, dead-end hallways, and all kinds of other architectural idiosyncrasies designed to trap and kill people.
But I’m getting a bit carried away here. The Devil In Me follows the crew as they visit this totally-normal replica of a serial killer’s playground, but as they arrive, they realise that perhaps they’re being watched and even manipulated. Throw in a crazy masked serial killer and some SAW-esque traps and you’ve got yourself a horror movie, or in this case, a perfectly solid concept for a Dark Pictures game. A mysterious looming threat, a band of characters who love to hate each other, and a setting that’s ripe for scares.
It’s a bit of a shame then that The Devil In Me fails to capitalise on the potential of its concept as much as other games in the series have. I really enjoyed the journey from beginning to end, don’t get me wrong, but it did feel like the writers were playing it safe in some ways. I obviously will not spoil the places that the story goes, but I was waiting for a huge holy shit moment, as usually happens in the Dark Pictures games, and it never came. I’d even go as far as to say despite the grotesque nature of the plot and the violence in The Devil In Me, it’s easily the most grounded and restrained of the games yet.
It just feels like that Supermassive could’ve done a lot more with the clear SAW inspiration they’d taken for The Devil In Me. I was excited to have to, in the heat of a moment, perhaps do something horrible to my friend early on and then see how that would carry out for them as the story played out. Almost all the “SAW” like moments of The Devil In Me seem to result in somebody dying, and their story closed off. None of the decisions in these moments specifically ever felt especially weighty, and the odd moment where we did kill a cast member, it felt like an almost comical Final Destination-esque moment. I appreciate a good kill as much as the next person, but too much feels left to chance.
Thankfully, the improvements added in House of Ashes carry over with The Devil In Me. Fixed camera angles are still gone, and the useless dedicated flashlight button has been removed. Instead, we have a cursory inventory system that stores keys and unique items for each character. When I played a few chapters of the game last month, I was excited to see if this meant we’d be getting more of an exploration-based Resident Evil-like experience rather than a linear story. While character-specific items and abilities introduced new ways to explore the world of The Devil In Me, it never feels as dramatic a departure from the linear series formula as it could be.
Of course, the elements that do similarly work return here. Besides playing solo, Shared Story mode allows you to tackle the entire experience with a friend online, just as if you were playing together locally. Movie Night, on the other hand, lets you assign the five characters to up to four other people in the room to control. The game subsequently prompts each player when it’s their turn. I adore this mode and will never play a Supermassive game without it. However, I still wish that characters with lower screen time were marked somehow so they could be evenly divided between players.
But as always, each player in Movie Night can have the difficulty of their experience altered. Suppose there are people in your group who are terrible at QTEs or wanting more of a challenge. In that case, they can individually increase or decrease their difficulty. I think it’s a great idea, as these games tend to skew towards more casual audiences anyway, so being able to invite anyone into the fold is well worth the inclusion of difficulty options.
I can’t talk about a game like this without talking about the scares, either. The Devil In Me, as previously mentioned, feels a lot more grounded than in previous games. As such, your mileage may vary as to whether you could find this to be a truly terrifying experience, though for me personally the only scares I got here were from jump scares. Nothing as egregious or as annoying as Little Hope, mind you, as many of The Devil In Me’s jump scares feel well-measured and earned. But The Devil In Me lacks the tension that House of Ashes had.
Similarly, The Devil In Me’s presentation is very much all over the place. It’s hard to work out just how it doesn’t manage to look as good as its predecessors, but so many scenes feel like they’ve been lit incorrectly, or facial animations animated strangely. The central location that the game relies upon has a lot of charm, for sure, but overall, this is one of the most inconsistent-looking Supermassive game thus far. Some of these issues can be fixed with updates in the future, which is a shame because when The Devil In Me looks great, it looks really great.
Thankfully, the entirety of the cast feels really on point this time around, which is great given how flat Ashley Tisdale’s performance was in House of Ashes. The cast is led by a sensational Jessie Buckley, who keen eyes might recognise from Chernobyl, Fargo, or Taboo. The rest of the cast, who’ve made supporting appearances in Game of Thrones, Dune and Coronation Street all hand in decent enough performances to the point where I think they could be the most likeable protagonists in a Dark Pictures game.
THE PC VERSION WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL COPY OF THE GAME WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil In Me remains as enjoyable and engaging as previous games in the series, though it ultimately squanders its potential with a distinct lack of dread, tension, and surprises. While its more grounded approach is bound to be divisive amongst fans, it's still well worth your time and an enjoyable, if not inconsistently, put-together thriller.