The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me Review

"It's time to play the game!" - Henry Howard Holmes

By Paul Hunter

As an outsider, Supermassive Games seems like a really efficient developer having already released the excellent narrative horror game The Quarry this year, and now just five months later is back to give us the Season One finale of The Dark Pictures Anthology with The Devil in Me. Being a huge horror fan, I feel spoiled that Supermassive was able to deliver four Dark Pictures chapters in as many years, and even better, the final chapter is their best effort yet. Let's get into it!

The Devil in Me follows the same successful format the studio pioneered in 2015 with PS4's Until Dawn, where your decisions ultimately determine who lives and who dies. This latest interactive horror game is inspired by H. H. Holmes, a real American swindler and widely considered the country's first known serial killer. Holmes famously built a "murder castle" full of secret passages, hidden rooms, trapdoors, bricked-up rooms, doors that could be locked from the outside, and killing rooms with deadly contraptions. You play as a team of five documentary film crew members—Charlie, Kate, Mark, Jamie and Erin—invited by the mysterious Granthem Du'Met to come visit a modern-day recreation of Holmes' infamous murder castle. Unfortunately for our protagonists, this invite of bed and breakfast quickly turns into a night of deadly psychopath.

Let's check-in at the front desk to see what this game has to offer, here are three things I liked about it...and one I didn't.

Liked: Granthem Du'Met

The Devil in Me's prologue chapter takes place in 1893 at the original murder castle when honeymooners Jeff and Marie arrive. Triple H, a.k.a. Henry Howard Holmes, greets the pair in the lobby and invites them into his house of horrors. Things, naturally, go shockingly sour and teases the terrors that lie ahead in this Dark Pictures Anthology chapter.

The main story fast forwards us to the modern day where five documentary crew members from the TV docu-series 'Architects of Murder' get an out-of-the-blue invite by Du'Met to visit a replica of H. H. Holmes' nefarious death hotel. With their show on the cusp of being cancelled, the team can't refuse this rare opportunity to create must-see-TV and they all accept the offer.

Immediately red flags start popping up, such as a stretch limo arriving at their studio with tinted windows the team can't see out, then once on the road Du'Met demands everyone hand in their cell phones. Not to mention that the murder castle is located on an island in the middle of Lake Michigan and requires a creepy old ferry to access. While the group finds all this to be rather odd, they decide to follow through with their plan to spend a few days at the hotel.

Du'Met wastes no time initiating his death plan, which involves a highly sophisticated network of cameras to monitor the team's every movement, along with an endless list of tricks to disorient the crew members and death rooms to gruesomely murder them. As a villain, Du'Met is the scariest yet in Supermassive's horror anthology. Inspired by H. H. Holmes, he wears a bowling hat and a white mask—complete with a creepy Holmes-esque moustache. His looks are enough to give you the chills, but it's his superhuman strength, which even hints at immortality, that truly makes him fearsome. He's the ultimate killing machine, too, who enjoys trapping victims in Saw-inspired death contraptions, but also has no problem grabbing a butcher knife or axe to finish the job himself. He's basically Jason Voorhees meets Jigsaw, combining two of the horror industry's biggest killers all in one character.

Much like Jason, Du'Met has an uncanny ability to appear virtually anywhere on the island at any time, even when the crew members are spread out. Part of this can be explained by the killer's elaborate camera system that monitors the crew's whereabouts, but his sheer efficiency at moving around leans towards the supernatural. And that's why Du'Met is utterly terrifying: even if you're successful in escaping one of his death traps, you can guarantee he's already one step ahead and stalking his next prey. There's a constant sense of panic throughout this entire horror-filled island retreat, all thanks to Du'Met's distressing omnipresence.

Liked: New Gameplay Elements

The Devil in Me welcomes plenty of new gameplay mechanics that make exploring the murder hotel and surrounding island a lot more enjoyable compared to previous Dark Pictures Anthology outings.

Perhaps ironically, most of the game's innovations are longtime staples seen in other survival horror titles that have finally arrived in Supermassive's series. For example, you can now run, jump or climb to hard-to-reach areas, opening up new ways to explore the environments. You can also manipulate objects, such as Charlie's ability to jimmy locks using business cards, or Erin's microphone that can be used to detect and amplify nearby sounds. This entry also introduces a new inventory system where characters can store useful tools like room keys or a screwdriver.

All these new additions go a long way to modernizing the gameplay, great news considering the previous three entries felt mechanically dated. That said, there does seem to be untapped potential, such as Mark having a flash camera you can use to temporarily illuminate rooms, but is never used to blind Du'Met even though it seems obvious. Mark also has a monopod that you can attach a screw to, turning it into a makeshift weapon, but even that is only used in one scene, at least in my playthrough. Perhaps there are other options for these items if I made different choices, but even still, while the inventory system is welcome it feels a bit undercooked.

The Dark Pictures Anthology still has a ways to go to completely modernize its dated gameplay, however, the step taken in The Devil in Me are in the right direction. Hopefully, Supermassive continues to improve the gameplay in Season Two's anthology.

Liked: The Saw Traps

Oh boy, here we go. I don't want to spoil the individual traps in this game, but they are sure to put a devilish smile on fans of the Saw series (which certainly includes me!). Du'met is a sick and twisted guy that has created various death rooms your team will have to think fast and creatively in order to survive. I do wish some of these scenes lasted a bit longer to really ratchet up the tension, but the traps are quite devious and deadly.

What helps to make these trap rooms even scarier is how the killer has rigged the entire hotel with trapdoors, sliding walls, bricked-up doorways and secret passages. There are also vats of acid and lime pits, strange implements and deadly contraptions everywhere to make you constantly feel ill at ease.

What I also love is how the murder castle initially seems posh with faded wallpaper, brightly lit hallways, lavish wood panelling and authentic decorative details. But then as TV crew members stumble further into the hotel the hidden interiors slowly reveal a state of disrepair. The rooms get darker, the sagging wallpaper reveals their wood support beams, the brick walls are crumbling after years of neglect and furniture is strewn everywhere. It's so interesting to see how much effort went into the facade Du'met created to trick unsuspecting visitors into staying the night at his horror hotel.

Didn't Like: Characters' Relatability

While I thought Du'Met was an excellent antagonist, unfortunately, the cast you control felt a bit flat to me. The team consists of Charlie Lonnit the film company owner, Kate Wilder the on-air talent, Mark Nestor the cameraman, Jamie Tiergan the chief grip and Erin Keeman the sound engineer and intern.

I think the problem here is how quickly the death games begin, which happens before you're really given a chance to connect deeply with the characters. The first chapter has brief segments with the team inside Du'Met's limo, and then some small talk once they arrive at the hotel, but it's not enough to establish the characters or make us care about their fates. Compare that to the stellar character development in The Quarry, where the group members spend lots of time chatting to help you become acquainted with them, and there's a ton of catchy banter when they break off into pairs.

The Devil in Me leans way too hard into horror genre tropes that define each character leaving them all rather one-dimensional. Charlie is the pushy leader that actively ignores obvious dangers just so he can get this documentary filmed. Erin is the nooby intern that makes plenty of silly and rash decisions. Kate and Mark are the ex-lovers using the hotel as a backdrop to rekindle their relationship. And finally, Jamie is the clear-headed character that warns the team, yet of course, gets ignored by them. Quite honestly, I enjoyed The Devil in Me a lot, but it was more because I wanted to see the grisly traps Du'Met has for the team versus actually caring for the crew members themselves.

The Verdict

The Devil in Me is Supermassive's best entry yet in The Dark Pictures Anthology series. The new gameplay mechanics push the series into the modern era (finally!), but it's the haunting antagonist Du'Met that's really the star of this horrorfest. If you've enjoyed previous entries in the anthology, don't hesitate to book your ticket to the murder hotel.

Final Score: 8/10 - Great

The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me details

Platform: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Genre: Interactive Drama, Survival Horror
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

A key was provided by the publisher.