The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me Review

Supermassive Games' Dark Pictures Anthology began with Man of Medan in 2019, and its first season comes to an end this year with The Devil in Me. As a whole, the first season of the Dark Pictures Anthology has had its ups and downs, but The Devil in Me brings it to a powerful end with an intriguing plot, an excellent approach to horror, solid gameplay, and a satisfying end, no matter which players earn.

In The Dark Pictures: The Devil in Me, players take on the role of a group of documentary filmmakers that is working on a docuseries based on H.H. Holmes. Historically known as America's first serial killer, Holmes is believed to have killed 200+ in urban myths that pervaded American culture at the time, and the game treats this historical sensationalism as fact. The filmmakers travel to a modern-day replica of Holmes' "Murder Castle," and any horror fan can predict what happens from there.

What's interesting though is the sheer power of the Murder Castle, as it serves as the perfect, unnerving setting for the franchise. Players quickly learn not everything is as it seems, and getting lost in the Murder Castle is part of the experience. The beauty and deadliness of the setting certainly elevate the game, but it's not restricted to just this either. Players have access to a handful of other locations, particularly in the opening and final acts, and it creates a certain sense of fear. Isolation is nothing new in horror games, but the setting of Dark Pictures: The Devil in Me perfects this.

The setting's atmosphere is reinforced by and, in turn, supports The Devil in Me's overarching plot. It is definitely the best within the anthology and, arguably, among the best within the horror game genre too. On the one hand, it feels like something written for folks who are obsessed with true crime television series, while the game wears its horror movie inspirations on its sleeve, like Saw, Halloween, Friday the 13th, and The Shining. It seems difficult to reconcile true crime with psychological horror and slasher flicks, but The Devil in Me pulls it off with aplomb. The result is an entertaining and terrifying horror spectacle that will leave players screaming "don't go in there!"

To elevate this horror even more, players can find Dark Picture collectibles around the map that give players premonitions of potential deaths, but like any good premonition, they are not always what players expect. This leaves players debating whether they can trust something as simple as a boat, or if they should be on the lookout for certain rooms. Even then, it's not as simple as avoiding X or Y to avoid a certain fate. Of course, death in a horror game is nothing new, but losing any character in The Devil in Me is heartbreaking. There's the spectacle of the death, but the writing is excellent too.

In its co-op game modes (including online and/or up to 5-players in local co-op), players will take control of characters that only exist in the prologue, as well as the main cast: Kate Wilder (played by Jessie Buckley, serving as this entry's star power), Charlie, Mark, Erin, and Jamie. Each character is distinct in their personality, deals with the horrors in their own ways, and is influenced directly by the player controlling them. By the time players could potentially lose their first character, the attachment is there, and horror awaits on an emotional level.

As a choice-based narrative adventure game, most of its gameplay and combat come in the form of QTEs and puzzles. The bigger puzzles of The Devil in Me add a nice fun factor to the game, but they're not necessarily innovative. The same goes for its QTEs. The Dark Pictures: The Devil in Me's QTEs are often used to great effect, accentuating the horror of any scene or driving home the point players are about to be caught, but they are QTEs as seen in other Dark Pictures games. They're not bad, but they're nothing memorable.

The Dark Pictures Anthology has always been something different, and this entry in the franchise brings out the best of its differences. However, it also serves as a testing ground for new features that don't necessarily support The Devil in Me's gameplay. One new feature, for example, is character inventories, but these are underutilized. They serve mostly as finding a key for a door, and then immediately using the key. Each character has a unique puzzle they can solve with certain character-specific equipment, but these aren't anything special in terms of gameplay. And while the addition of jumping, crawling, balancing, and so on add some nice variety to the franchise, most of these new features feel like first iterations. Overall, these new Dark Pictures features show promise that's just not executed well here.

And therein lies the biggest problem with The Devil in Me. It's mostly negligible, but there are quite a few inconsistencies throughout the game. For one, each and every character will look incredibly detailed in one cutscene, look almost life-like in bigger cutscenes, but then in equally important cutscenes look like Play-Doh. There are also strange audio bugs that seemingly change at least one character's voice that we couldn't replicate in-game or on other games. It'll sometimes seem like, visually and audibly, players are checking out 2-3 different games within the Devil in Me.

Furthermore, because each character has a distinctive personality, it's entirely possible to make dialogue choices in The Devil in Me that make the character act out of turn, only to be completely undone in the next scene, or have them act as if they don't know key information that they certainly do. Likewise, this sometimes results in characters also acting like they know something they couldn't possibly know. And, despite these characters having a clear established history, they'll often act as if they know nothing about each other. However, despite its inconsistencies, technical issues, and head-scratching moments, The Devil in Me is a ton of fun.

The Dark Pictures: The Devil in Me packages an enigmatic killer, stories of true crime, the spectacle of horror movies, and a group of shy misfits and powerful personalities into a plot that feels deserving of its own big-budget film. It'll leave players questioning everything they know about the killer and each other, and yearning to dive in once again to see other endings, discover more secrets, and try to save everyone.

The Dark Pictures: The Devil in Me releases on November 18, 2022, for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Game Rant was provided a PS5 code for the purposes of this review.