The original The Suffering was a decent enough action-horror-shooter combo set in a maximum security prison populated with all manner of suitably gruesome creatures that attempted to tear Torque’s limbs off at every turn. That is, when Torque wasn’t morphing into a equally gruesome creature himself, and inflicting similar carnage. Ties That Bind kicks off where the first game ended and there’s no prizes for guessing that what’s served up is essentially more of the same.
Sure the same is all well and good we suppose, if TTB was a little scarier. There are times when this feels like you’re just trudging your way through another Medal Of Honor game - only made by Clive Barker. Such as the section where you’re controlling a heavy mounted machine gun and splattering onrushing demonic masses. You could be Jimmy Patterson. They could be the Nazis. With the nigh-on incessant gunplay, there’s just not enough tension or suspense to make this a horror in the true sense of the word - because fountains of gore and abominable beasts aren’t horror.
Where Ties That Bind does distinguish itself from the average shooter is with the heavy focus on plot. If you’ve played the original then you’ll know how anti-hero Torque is - seemingly having murdered his wife and kids in a fit of insane agitation. Intense flashbacks and visions are the main tools used to communicate the story and the way you behave towards 'innocents' will have a bearing on the final outcome of the game - and incidentally, the types of attack that Torque will acquire in his beefed-up monster form over the course of the adventure.
Torque’s path through the sequel is manipulated by several secondary characters, and while this is a decent plot mechanic it also serves to disguise the fact that Ties That Bind is in reality a fairly linear adventure. In any given area there are plenty of doorways and gates that you won’t ever be able to get through, instead have to rely on a trigger in the game to reveal the correct door, or one of the selection actually being open. We’ve nothing against linearity particularly, but giving the illusion of multiple routes and hidden areas feels like a bit of a con, really.
Despite these problems, the game is by no means a disaster. In fact, it’s a decent sequel to a decent original. Gameplay is certainly extremely formulaic - pick your way through sewers/alleyways/rooms until reaching an open area for a massive scrap, a course of events that pretty much repeats itself until the end of the level. But the shooting, which includes Halo 2-style dual-wielding, manages to hang together perfectly well and does enough to satisfy an itchy trigger finger. And the monsters are nicely designed. Especially when you’re blowing chunks out of them.