The Dark Pictures: The Devil In Me – Hands-on Preview
There are many different kinds of scary stories – some that play with our perceptions of reality, and some that remind us of how terrifying our own world can be. While the last few installments of The Dark Pictures Anthology have leaned a little harder into the former and taken inspiration from gothic monsters and the supernatural, the latest edition, The Devil In Me, is very much inspired by real events – and it seems like that’s going to make it the scariest addition to the series yet. I was lucky enough to preview a small section of the game ahead of its November launch, and it definitely spooked me more than its predecessors, even though I only played about an hour’s worth of story.
The game’s title, while catchy on its own, comes from a quote from one of the most infamous killers of all time – Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as H. H. Holmes. Though the exact number of victims murdered by Holmes is a point of contention, he confessed to 27 on his deathbed, before dramatically asking to have his body contained in cement so that his devilish soul couldn’t escape and cause further harm (or, more realistically, so that his grave couldn’t be robbed). There’s a lot of fiction surrounding his life and crimes, but he’s most well-known for building a structure called the “Murder Castle” – a hotel where he supposedly lured tourists in to stay, before torturing them using an elaborate series of booby traps, hidden rooms and other assorted torture devices (very much Saw-style). According to the stories, deeply violent, disturbing stuff happened there – which makes it the perfect setting for a horror game.
Enter our protagonists – a film crew who are in the process of making a documentary about the man himself, H. H. Holmes. The team, it seems, have gotten very lucky. They have been contacted by a man called Grantham Du Met, a mysterious stranger who invites them to the perfect location to shoot their documentary – a recreation of the infamous Murder Castle. Obviously, the team enthusiastically arrives at the destination, not considering the fact that bad things might happen to them inside a mysterious spooky murder house and instead thinking only of the Good Content it can provide, and it isn’t long before they find out that not all is at it seems. (Or is it? Because to me it seems kind of obvious that this whole thing is a bad idea. But sure.)
The small section of the game that I played occurred at the end of Act 1, so I didn’t get to see the full depth of the tensions between the team members, but it’s clear that they all have some history coming into this project. Charlie, the director, is the classic kind of dickhead that seems to believe in his own artistic genius, happy to bully his underlings in pursuit of “art”. Kate, the presenter, and Mark, the cameraman, are in the middle of what seems to be a break-up, but lingering feelings between the two are likely to add drama to this high-stress affair. Then there’s Erin, who is a skilled audio engineer but who is being treated by Charlie as more of a personal assistant, and Jamie, who seems to be general crew and is clearly tech-savvy. It was hard to learn much else about them in the short time I had, other than that Charlie’s an ass, Erin is asthmatic and underappreciated (except perhaps by Jamie), and Kate and Mark are clearly still in love. This is not the first time Supermassive have leaned into this exes-with-drama trope, but I am here for it every time.
While in many ways The Devil in Me is very similar to other Dark Pictures games, it does differentiate itself in a few ways. Each character can now carry an inventory of a handful of items, all of which can either help them to survive, or to investigate otherwise locked areas of the hotel. Charlie, for example, can pick locks using his uncharacteristically thick business card, while Jamie is the electrical expert of the team and therefore carries a multimeter around that allows her to do things like restore power to the building during an outage. Because these characters love splitting into small groups and exploring the Murder Castle alone or in pairs (clearly a very good choice), this means that revisiting areas with different characters may be the only way to find all the hotel’s hidden secrets, and it also makes taking control of each different character into a slightly unique experience.
Along with these handy tools comes another extra layer of exploration in the form of some light puzzle solving elements. In one section, Erin used her special audio equipment to follow some ominous sounds through the walls of the building, and another had Mark needing to pull some of the furniture around to access a new section of a dilapidated library. It added some interest to the otherwise somewhat repetitive exploration sections for the series, evolving the gameplay from simply moving between locations while investigating the occasional object on the way for some extra clues and environmental storytelling into something that requires a little more brain-power. It’s a welcome addition, and I’m keen to see how they use it in other ways throughout the rest of the game.
There are, of course, a lot of things that will feel familiar to those that have played other Supermassive games. There are the life-or-death choices, many of which can result in brutal and gory consequences for protagonists and side characters alike. There’s a mysterious evil at play who seems to be running the show, in what so far seems to be a nod to the Saw franchise among other classics. The all-seeing narrator also returns to gently critique your choices and “guide” you through your journey, while providing very little actual helpful advice. Tone-wise this game feels much more like Man of Medan or even Until Dawn than it does more recent entries like House of Ashes or The Quarry, which will be a hit for some and a miss for others – it seems like it’s going to come down to how you like your spooky stories.
I’m excited and terrified to see what horrors The Devil In Me has in store. For me, playing this demo felt far scarier than playing the previous games, and my rate of ‘pausing to collect myself and procrastinate’ to actual gameplay was much higher than it has been lately. The jump scares are definitely back in force, and the mansion is also home to a bunch of creepy animatronic mannequin-style figures that really just amp up the tense spooky vibes. Plus, knowing that there’s any possibility that this is based on a real (if sensationalised) place? Terrifying. Awful. Scary shit. But surely the good kind of awful, that anyone looks for when they sit down to play a horror game.
The Devil In Me will release on November 18th, on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. To preorder or find out more info, check out the game’s website. To see more of Player 2’s coverage of The Devil In Me, watch Matt and I discuss the hands-off preview session we viewed earlier in the year!
Player 2 played this preview build of The Devil in Me on PC using a code kindly provided by Bandai Namco.