The Devil in Me Review – Direct from Holmes

The Dark Pictures: The Devil Inside on PC

The Dark Pictures Anthology, a series of standalone horror games fans know as some of the most immersive and interactive experiences in the genre, recently released its fourth installment. The Devil in Me is the final “episode” of the anthology’s first season and takes its plot straight to the 19th century, focusing on none other than HH Holmes himself. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, you haven’t missed any exploits. Holmes was a grave robber and serial killer, notorious for his tales of his “murder castle” to which he would lure potential victims. Taking inspiration from Holmes and his castle, The Devil in Me presents the game’s characters and players alike with a modern-day recreation of the deadly abode. There are puzzles, platforms and decisions to be made, but how does it fare overall?

While The Devil in Me harks back to Holmes, it’s by no means an accurate retelling of his murderous career. The tutorial takes place in the past, in 1893. A young husband and his wife have come to Chicago and booked a stay at the hotel owned by none other than Holmes himself. The couple are murdered by the killer and then used for his own profits.

In The Devil Inside, Holmes is a criminal in every sense of the word. He kills and steals, selling both bodies and the lucrative goods that come with them. While Holmes wasn’t necessarily the kind of killer being portrayed (the idea that his hotel is there to lure potential victims is widely regarded as wrong), the idea of ​​a place designed to serve as a second home, a deadly trap is unsettling and fits the theme of the games. Holmes himself is a unique portrayal of a murderer in the media, as players would find no reason to empathize with such a man who senselessly and shamelessly profits from his victims. This is definitely not a case of romanticizing like other serial killers in modern depictions (I’m looking at you, Ted Bundy Stans).

Devil in Me crew
Image Credit: Bandai Namco via Twinfinite

The tutorial ends and the setting transports you from the past to the present. Here we are introduced to the diverse cast, a group of five characters who work as a film crew. As they all grapple with personal issues, from breakups to potential relationships, they receive a mysterious invitation that could mean real business for them. The reality series they worked on, Architects of Murder, goes bust. Luckily, a mysterious man named Granthem Du’Met invites her on a tour of his hotel. The hotel turns out to be a replica of HH Holmes’ infamous murder hotel, except it turns out this replica isn’t just for show.

The hotel is littered with traps, as Holmes said, and figurines made from the bodies of the victims. Du’Met is a terrifying copycat killer, an extreme version of contemporary humans romanticizing past psychopaths. I found the game’s spooky elements really scary, but there were points that broke my immersion. Crime fiction fans, horror story fans, and interactive game fans who rely heavily on their own choices… we all want the same thing. A smooth scary experience. Some of the puzzles in Devil in Me didn’t work very well, and the way the game mechanically differed from previous titles left me confused at times.

Granthem DuMet card
Image Credit: Bandai Namco via Twinfinite

The season finale introduced new movement mechanics like climbing, jumping, and running. It also presented players with a new inventory system and puzzles that are more practical and require the use of tools. I felt that many of these new features could definitely be added to the game well, but might have been better used in next season’s pilot than in the game that serves as the season finale. The one thing I would definitely commend in terms of the changes is the fact that each character had their own unique item to use. That was pretty cool and added some depth to the characters.

If you’ve ever played a Dark Pictures game, you’ll know how much a game like this relies on good narrative design. I feel like Devil in Me was a bit lacking here, with long periods where I simply had to shift things that could have been devoted to story building to progress. While I definitely value exploration, this isn’t really the series of games I’m visiting for exploration, more for the experience. I want more character and story driven moments than long “in between” moments. The finale of the anthology would have been more immersive to me if it had shifted more towards a story-focused experience rather than veered a bit to allow for newer gameplay mechanics.

Devil in me mannequin
Image Credit: Bandai Namco via Twinfinite

Regardless, the changes are positive in that they served as an introduction to the future of the anthology. Perhaps we’ll see longer, more polished experiences that strike the perfect balance between immersion in the horrific story and exploration to piece pieces together to progress through that very story.

The Devil in Me definitely sticks to the series’ beautifully constructed world, but sadly falls short when it comes to feeling less empty. There are far fewer dialogue options with characters in this title than in the previous ones, further adding to the list of changes that were unnecessary in the finale, the game that could have left a real mark on the series.

Overall, I don’t find The Devil in Me boring by any means, but also not nearly as impressive as I would expect from a season finale. If you’re a fan of the anthology and don’t want to miss this installment, you should definitely get it. Otherwise, start with another season one title that resonates better, like House of Ashes or Man of Medan. I would applaud the concept of a copycat killer, especially at a time when many seem to worship such characters, but wouldn’t do the same for the gameplay changes that have caused this title to stray from the anthology. The story, as always with entries in the anthology, is definitely unique and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy my experience with it.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil Inside

The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil Inside Me Critic's Review

Reviewer: Anna Koselke | Copy provided by the publisher.