Cognition Episode 4 – The Cain Killer: What We Think
After a gruesome journey through both physical and mental crime scenes, Erica Reed is finally zeroing in on the Cain Killer. She has pursued the Hangman, the Wise Monkey, and the Oracle. Now, through some uneasy alliances, she seeks to put an end to the nightmare.
While The Cain Killer – the final chapter in the Erica Reed saga – lags early on, it finds its legs in time to make for a thrilling and satisfying conclusion.
Through the point and click interface, Erica will have the ability to see the past and the future of objects and the people who have (or will) interact with them. The future-viewing abilities are handled by having a second playable character on screen for some scenes, and it makes for a preferable division of psionic abilities than those in play in Episode 3: The Oracle. Switch back and forth between between controlling Erica and her ally, and both aspects of the time spectrum are covered.
The Enemy of My Enemy
To take on the most elusive of Erica’s opponents, she’s going to need to overlook past wrongs and repair a few burnt bridges. This chapter features a trust meter that appears on the right side when interacting with characters vital to the game’s conclusion. While dialogue sequences are occurring, Erica must select the conversation options that best suits that character’s personality, so knowledge of their personality type is key (and really, playing this chapter without having played those that precede it is pointless). The right response fills the meter, and governs how likely the character is to go along with Erica’s suggestions.
I enjoyed this aspect; Erica uses all she’s learned to get everyone on the same page, but she needs to be a strong joining force to get all the players in the right place without having them destroy each other. The conversation choices that lead to this increase in trust aren’t always obvious, and often, the right one is just a shade of gray lighter or darker than the response that will rekindle doubt in your target.
It’s handled delicately, and seems the strongest indicator that some of the muddier plot aspects encountered in the previous chapters were gearing up for a clear end game. It also softens the edges on some of the more extreme characters, humanizing them considerably.
Sickly Sweet Sounds
The rock soundtrack has always been a strong feature in the series, and this was never so true as it is in this final installment. As the game nears its ultimate resolution, the music lurches and lumbers like an animal that’s been punctured, purposefully dragging itself forward. Behind it all, a persistent heartbeat pulses sickly in the background. It’s I-swear-there’s-someone-in-the-bushes creepy, it makes you want to take a shower, and it fits the tone of the game perfectly.
Some Major Assembly Required
One of the main puzzles early on requires a lot of detective work involving the memories of Rose, and (without giving anything away) the reveal at the end feels as though it could have been imparted much earlier on in the saga. To be honest, I assumed it from the first time I was introduced to her. It offered up some touching revelations about past events that helped to shape her, but as the payoff was a little light, the delivery made it feel more like pointless busy work.
Nova-Cain For the Soul
The final segments of the game play out like a well-oiled machine (and one sporting an intricate array of moving parts, at that). With the exception of the final puzzle defying a bit of basic survival logic, the end moments are gripping, unrelenting in their ferocity, and truly satisfying. The story arc of Erica Reed has experienced its peaks and valleys, but Episode 4: The Cain Killer emerges as the strongest of the tetralogy.