Genuinely, at times stomach-churing stuff.
While on the surface most horror games draw heavily on Western movies and literature, the slow pace and aching suspense of Japanese classics such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill actually have more in common with The Ring or Dark Water than Romeros zombie flicks. But with the arrival of The Suffering last November developed in the US, with creative input from gore supremo Stan Winston the genre was pushed in a deeply disturbing direction, replacing the ghostly schoolgirls and creepy mansions with convicted pedophiles, sickening violence and more blood than an Italian video nasty. And if you found that hard to take, the sequels guaranteed to turn your stomach.
As with the original game, Ties That Bind plunges players into a dark and distressing story where the jailbird antihero, Torque, battles hordes of hellish abominations while haunted by ghostly voices and horrific hallucinations. But unlike Resident Evils squeaky clean heroes, players can choose to steer Torque down the path of good or evil, their decision to save an old man from a group of muggers or leave him to die, for example, affecting how the game unfolds and unlocking a series of alternative endings.
But where Ties That Bind truly excels is in its slick presentation and harrowing atmosphere; the monsters each based on a grisly form of death are the most unsettling beasts to ever stalk a video game, from the hulking Triggermen that have shotguns protruding from gashes in their bodies, to the sinister Creeper who proudly displays the severed body parts of his mutilated female victims. The luscious lighting, menacing soundtrack and voice talent of Michael Clarke Duncan and Six Feet Unders Rachel Griffiths also help make Ties That Bind a gripping, cinematic experience, and one that gleefully pushes its 18 certificate to the limit.