The Dark Pictures: The Devil in Me Preview: Refreshed and Creepier Than Ever

The Dark Pictures Anthology from Supermassive Games has always made for a creepy experience, but The Devil in Me looks to up that spook factor to a new level. The same could be said about any new chapter – why would anyone want to go backwards? – though The Devil in Me offers a different sort of experience by (so far) cutting back on the supernatural elements in favor of the more horrifying potential of human-based terror.

In this latest Dark Pictures game which serves as the finale to the anthology's first season, a hands-on preview presented a dysfunctional film crew visiting a replica of serial killer H.H. Holmes' "Murder Hotel." The group's a bit desperate for work and has more baggage to haul around than they do film equipment which makes them already the perfect foundation for the stressful decisions and dynamics Dark Pictures games so often look to employ.

But someone in the Murder Hotel is playing deadly games. Like any good murder mystery, The Devil in Me keeps its killer masked and in the shadows, but that's somehow more unsettling than specters, wendigos, and other unsettling creatures we've seen in past games. The fact that there's a human (as far as we know so far) behind these cruel traps and tricks means they've got a better understanding of what really scares the cast of The Devil in Me and can use that info to force players into grueling decisions once more. The Devil in Me may eventually unmask its assailant to be some supernatural being, sure, but for now, the assumption that there's a more tangible threat lurking in the hotel works in the game's favor.

Aside from this shift, The Devil in Me further changes the formula by adding things like mobility via jumps and climbing as well as character-specific inventories. After playing Little Hope but skipping House of Ashes, I'll admit I'd forgotten that these elements weren't present in the past games, but that's due in part to the fact that they're integrated so seamlessly here. So far, the tolls different characters use to complete puzzles and the enhanced mobility exhibited used sparingly during some chapters never felt out of place nor forced.

As far as the cast goes, Dark Pictures games always have their standouts, and in The Devil in Me, it's looking like that's Gloria Obianyo as Jamie so far. Jamie offers a refreshingly realistic and practical view of things in The Devil in Me with Obianyo nailing the delivery each time. Paul Kaye as the resented leader Charlie comes in at a close second, but everyone in the game so far is offering a compelling take on their respective characters.

While much has changed, some Dark Pictures annoyances or frustrations remain. Because different dialogue options can lead to such varying responses, the "neutral" expressions and animations some characters take on sometimes contribute to awkward transitions between emotions and actions. And as is the case with any decision-based game, there's always the potential for frustration when it feels like there was no right answer to a solution.

The return of the scene selection feature is therefore a boon for situations like this. I love the fact that these games have so many possible endings and outcomes, but I've no desire to replay the game over and over again to see all of these. The scene selection feature therefore offers an express route to viewing the results of your stressful decisions and has already proven immensely useful in corroborating decisions during the limited preview of The Devil in Me.

While it's a bit too predictive and frankly unhelpful to simply forecast this being the creepiest game in all of The Dark Pictures Anthology since one would hope that'd be the case with any new entry. Its ending – or at least the general direction its conclusion skews regardless of which characters survive and which don't – will likely make or break most of the experience given its narrative-based setup and the premise it's presented so far, but if nothing else, The Devil in Me seems keen on making improvements over its predecessors and offering something different.

The Dark Pictures: The Devil in Me releases on November 18th. A PC review code was provided by the publisher.