The Dark Pictures: The Devil in Me Review

Matt Lorrigan

Ever since the launch of Man of Medan, the first Dark Pictures game, back in 2019, developer Supermassive Games has released a new slice of cinematic horror adventure every year. Each one has been heavily based upon the structure that was established in the studio’s surprise 2015 hit, Until Dawn, offering you a range of characters to control, with your decisions (and reaction times) deciding who lives and who dies. But where Until Dawn garnered near-universal praise, the Dark Pictures games have, so far, been met with a more mixed response from fans and critics. And now, we have The Devil in Me, the fourth game in the series, and the finale for the first season of The Dark Pictures Anthology. But does this first season go out on a high?

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From the first moments of The Devil in Me, it’s clear to see that Supermassive Games has been honing its craft year-on-year. Visually, it’s the most impressive looking game in the anthology by some margin. The setting, a recreation of an old 1930s hotel, lends itself way to the unsettling atmosphere of a good popcorn slasher, with its poorly-lit corridors and vintage record players; and the character models and faces are some of the most realistic you’ll see in a game at the moment, with far more infrequent dips into the uncanny valley than in previous Supermassive titles.

The hotel backdrop of the game has also inspired some of the biggest gameplay innovations in the series so far. Since Until Dawn, each of Supermassive’s games have had a similar structure, with mostly fixed camera angles, a lot of cutscenes, and gameplay primarily consisting of quick time events. However, in the twisting, maze-like hotel of The Devil in Me, the developer has looked to the classics of video game horror, as well as cinema. The Resident Evil inspirations are obvious; from the need to collect keys to open certain doors; to the new character inventories, which offer unique items for each of the five characters. There’s even a few puzzles, and, while this is all pretty standard in other video games, these new mechanical additions add a bit more depth to the gameplay.

Unfortunately, there’s an element of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ to these new additions, and in giving players more control over their exploration and traversal, Supermassive Games has also interfered with the pacing of the game. The Devil in Me is the longest game yet in The Dark Pictures Anthology, clocking in at around seven hours or more, and this longer runtime (as well as a near-permanent free camera) can really suck some of the tension out of the game. And in a genre that’s so reliant on pacing and tension (The Devil in Me is a slasher, after all), this can leave things feeling a little flat. The classic gameplay, however, brings over its own issues from previous titles. The choices you make aren’t always clear in how they’ll affect the story, and seeing a character die early on without having any idea of what the ‘right’ choice might have been, is frustrating, especially given how inconsistently helpful the collectible premonitions can be. It’s part of what makes these games work, of course, but that doesn’t stop you from feeling a little cheated at times.

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Luckily, the entire game is lifted by one of the most confident scripts in a Dark Pictures game yet, and bolstered further by the best cast the series has seen to date. Each game has employed a big star as one of the five playable characters, and this time around, it’s Irish actress Jessie Buckley, who gives a strong performance as documentary presenter Kate Wilder. The standout performance, however, comes from Game of Thrones actor Paul Kaye, who is excellent as the insecure, chain smoking director Charlie Lonnit. The rest of the main cast, comprising Fehinti Balogun, Nikki Patel, Gloria Obianyo, slot in effortlessly among the bigger stars, and it makes for a very watchable experience whenever control is taken away from you for a cutscene. The Devil in Me marks the first time that Supermassive Games has brought in a performance director from the world of theatre, TV, and film, and it does seem to show in the character interactions and performances.

If there’s one place that The Devil in Me does fall down, however, it’s the scare factor - or, more importantly, the lack thereof. I’ve made no bones about the fact that I’m a big scaredy cat (I’ve still got a barely-touched copy of Alien: Isolation that I need to work up the courage to play) but even I found The Devil in Me to be a pretty easy-going experience. There are the occasional jump scares, and some of the possible deaths can be a bit gruesome, but there’s a distinct lack of tension right up until the end of the game. This might be down to the extra level of player control, which can see you swiftly swinging the camera around to find collectibles, rather than concentrating on what is supposed to be scaring you, but it can still feel like there are really big gaps between each scare, with no real fear that anything is going to jump out and surprise you.

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The setting, which plays heavily into the near-mythic character of H.H. Holmes (frequently dubbed “America’s First Serial Killer”) is wonderfully interesting, at least. And the script frequently plays with your expectations of who the game’s antagonist really is. Previous Dark Pictures games have been criticised for their late-game twists, which, while a staple of the horror genre, have proven too over-the-top, or pulled the rug out from under players too swiftly, to be satisfying. The Devil in Me does no such thing, luckily, making its finale easily the best part of the game. 

The Devil in Me still fails to hit the highs of Supermassive’s bigger titles, Until Dawn and, more recently, The Quarry, but it’s easily the strongest game yet in The Dark Pictures Anthology. A lavish murder hotel on a secluded island provides an excellently eerie backdrop to a classic slasher, and even if the game can take a while to get going (or even get scary), the quality performances, strong dialogue, and impressive visuals will see you through nicely until the enjoyable finale.

The Dark Pictures: The Devil in Me

The Devil in Me is the most assured entry yet in The Dark Pictures Anthology, even if it doesn't produce quite enough scares during its seven hour runtime.

Form widget
72%
Audio
85%

Very good performances, great music, and some nice unsettling noises to build the atmosphere. What's not to like?

Visuals
90%

Easily the best looking game in The Dark Pictures Anthology yet, with a nicely realise setting, and excellent facial animations.

Playability
75%

The addition of new traversal, exploration, and inventory mechanics make The Devil in Me one of Supermassive's most 'videogame-y' horror games yet.

Delivery
70%

The longest Dark Pictures game yet, with lots of replayability as well, and a strong multiplayer component. It's just a shame it's not a bit more scary.

Achievements
65%

A fun but fairly standard list for a game with as many different paths as The Devil in Me. Will require multiple playthroughs.

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