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The Suffering: Ties that Bind unbound

Richard Rouse, design director and writer on Midway's sequel, talks scares, depravity and dogs with human heads

Midway's original horror-action hybrid The Suffering won quite a cult following when it was released and now a new chapter in the series, The Suffering: Ties that Bind, is preparing to scare the pants off us all over again.

Reprising the role of Torque, players are on a seek and destroy mission attempting to track down and eliminate the mysterious Caleb Blackmore who you believe was responsible for your family's untimely demise. The seedy back streets and slums of Baltimore play host to events this time around with the original's memorable gameplay elements - such as sanity challenging flashbacks and the intriguing morality system - accompanied by a plethora of new features, weapons and fiends.

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Richard Rouse, design director and writer on The Suffering: Ties that Bind, takes us deeper into the horror...

So where is Ties That Bind taking us? We take it that we've moved beyond mere incarceration...

Richard Rouse: The first game worked really well in the prison setting, but we knew we didn't want this game to just be a retread of that. So naturally we wanted to take Torque to some new environments, it was simply a question of where... He didn't seem like someone who would fit in well in the bucolic countryside, and with the way the story was developing, it made sense for Torque to return to his home town of Baltimore.

While that's certainly different from the maximum security penitentiary of the first game, Baltimore can be something of a metaphorical prison for the people who live there, particularly for those without the means to get out of its poorest neighbourhoods. At the same time, we didn't want to get away from prisons entirely, so we're taking Torque to an urban prison in the form of Eastern Baltimore Correctional Facility. This is an urban prison, meaning it's much more tight and claustrophobic than what players saw in the first game. And for us, it just wouldn't be The Suffering without some form of prison in the game.

So what else about Ties That Bind is new and improved since Torque's last outing?

Richard Rouse: Sequels are great for games because they give development teams a chance to really refine the gameplay mechanics, and provide a much tighter and more compelling game. As well as tightening up weapon selection, inventories and controls, we've improved the variety of enemies and the tactics they use to attack you. Our creatures are still the distinct, horrific fiends players liked in the first game, but they're quite a bit more clever and deadly this time around.

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How about the insanity creature that you could turn into in the last game? Does he get a second outing?

Richard Rouse: Yeah. Players loved that feature in the last game, but they didn't find it to be as effective as it was cool. In response to that, we've made the creature form quite a bit more powerful, and with our refined balancing, players are going to need to use it to make it through the game. But I feel confident saying that it's so cool, players are going to want to use it regardless.

How do you intend to make the game darker?

Richard Rouse: We're really focusing on more of Torque's history, and it's pretty dark. It turns out his life and the murder of his family is not quite as simple as it may have seemed in the first game. In particular, there's a dark and sinister figure known as Blackmore who has been manipulating Torque's life for years, and his depravity seems to have no limits...

Then there's our change of locale. The decaying city is an ideal location for exploring the darker side of humanity, and we have a number of denizens from the city's troubled past who will be showing up to provide some grizzly stories. So, yes, we're making it quite a bit darker.

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