Season one of The Dark Pictures Anthology ends on an extreme high, with a game that’s a cut above the rest in just about every way.
The Devil in Me is the fourth game in Supermassive Games’ cinematic horror series, The Dark Pictures Anthology. It follows Man of Medan, Little Hope and House of Ashes: three games that we’ve enjoyed, though some more than others. The game to end the season one quadrilogy, however, is so very easily the best of the bunch. In terms of storytelling, presentation, and making the stakes higher than ever before, The Devil in Me is absolutely sublime.
As ever, you take control of a group of five people. This time, you’re a documentary filmmaking crew, currently producing a feature about America’s first serial killer, H. H. Holmes. Yes, he’s real, but The Devil in Me‘s version of him leans heavily into the rumours surrounding Holmes rather than focusing on fact. The director of the documentary, Charlie Lonnit, is contacted by a mysterious man who goes by the name of Granthem Du’Met: he owns a hotel built to replicate Holmes’ infamous ‘Murder Castle’, and the crew is invited to film there.
It seems perfect; too good to be true, in fact. What could be a better location to film a documentary than a place resembling the actual murder site of the serial killer you’re documenting. And, well, we all know by now: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
It doesn’t take long for your crew of five to figure out not everything is as it seems. And, an hour or so in – and after a fantastic introduction to H. H. Holmes himself back in the 1890s – hell well and truly opens up in The Devil in Me. If you strive to keep all characters alive when playing a Dark Pictures game, you’ve got your work cut out for you here.
Indeed, like the three games preceding it, the choices and actions you make in The Devil in Me will determine who lives and who dies. And there are no roll-backs: if your favourite character dies, tough luck. You’ve got to live with your mistake. This is the first time that we’ve unwittingly killed all five characters in our first playthrough, despite trying hard to keep them alive. It feels like the stakes are higher than ever, and that really does put you on the edge of your seat. Your own life might not be in danger, but you will come to care for those whose lives are.
The Devil in Me is certainly the grizzliest of all games in The Dark Pictures Anthology so far, too. This isn’t one for the faint of heart: as you might expect from a game that revolves around a serial killer, there’s bloody violence galore. It seems like nothing is off-limits, and there are some truly inventive deaths on the cards. If you’re a horror aficionado and revel in a bit of gore, you’re going to love it.
It helps that it looks absolutely phenomenal. Each game in The Dark Pictures Anthology seems to have stepped a little closer to photorealism, and The Devil in Me is the closest yet. Character animations are on-point, helped along by fantastic acting, which we’ll talk about shortly, and environments are absolutely steeped in realistic detail. Yes, most of the action may take place in the same four walls – The World’s Fair Hotel – but it’s a huge, sprawling building on its own island, and so you’re never going to tire of the scenery. It begs to be explored, and in fact you’ll likely be wishing you could poke around more of it.
The World’s Fair Hotel is, actually, a place of wonder – deadly wonder, that is. It’s laden with booby-traps, killing rooms, carefully constructed scenes that feel like something out of the Saw franchise. You’re never quite sure what waits for you around a corner. Quite literally, in fact: walls can move, and so even exploring this sprawling hotel can become fraught and labyrinthine. But with numerous locked and impassable doors as you pass down hallways, you’ll wish you could simply pause progress of the game and just have a little poke about.
But you can’t, and when things get heated in The Devil in Me, you’ll be so focused on trying to stay alive that nothing else really matters. There are some fantastically tense scenes where you’re either in pursuit or trying to avoid being seen that will really get your blood pumping. There are, of course, quick time events to contend with, but they’re part-and-parcel of the Supermassive Games horror experience now. It’s hard to begrudge them too much. They’re well implemented and contextual at least, and a smooth framerate and excellent performance means you can only blame yourself if you miss one.
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And now onto the cast. The Devil in Me sports some well-known faces. Pip Torrens reprises his role as The Curator, of course, and Jessie Buckley (Men, Chernobyl) has largely been the poster girl for the release. She’s fantastic in it, offering both motion capture and voice for Kate Wilder, the face of the documentary your crew think they’re going to be making. But there’s also Paul Kaye (After Life, Game of Thrones) who puts on an excellent role as director Charlie, and Gloria Obianyo, Jamie Tiergan and Erin Keeman, playing Jamie, Erin and Mark respectively. They each put their all into their roles, delivering believable, likeable and, perhaps most importantly, flawed characters that you can’t help but root for.
The Devil in Me doesn’t waste too much time providing extensive backstory to each character, but you’ll quickly get a feel for them and their relationships with each other. They clearly all have their own problems – within their own lives and, occasionally, with other members of the team – which will come to light at pertinent parts of the story. But it makes them three-dimensional; these aren’t simply flat characters that exist only as puppets who’ll either live or die. Whether it’s Charlie’s over-reliance on cigarettes or Erin’s meek insecurity, you’ll likely see a trait or two of your own in one of them. It just makes it all the more fraught if they don’t make it to the end.
Because the stakes feel so much higher, you’ll likely want to play through The Devil in Me more than once – particularly if you can’t save everyone the first time. If you’re keen to save everyone, we’d recommend playing on the easiest difficulty: it tones down quick time events, making them more forgiving and giving you extra chances to save each character. But even then, you’re going to come up against many figurative forks in the road where a decision can seal a character’s fate one way or another. Often there’s no way of knowing what the right choice is until it’s too late – and that just makes The Devil in Me all the more thrilling.
Rarely putting a foot wrong in terms of production and storytelling, we’ve loved every moment we’ve spent with The Devil in Me, an absolutely wonderful conclusion to The Dark Pictures Anthology’s first season. Its story is the most captivating and the most well-realised; so much work has gone into crafting characters and locations, and the sheer goriness will delight and horrify in equal measures. Supermassive Games continues to go from strength to strength, and with The Devil in Me, the studio has cemented itself as a master of the horror genre.