Alone In The Dark sees you take control of Edward Carnaby – although when he wakes, blinking, in custody he has no idea who he is – as he tries to find out what is causing the apparent demonic destruction of New York City.
The opening of the game is really good, giving a positive impression of what’s ahead and setting the tone for this US TV style adventure.
Alone In The Dark is a game that has some fantastic ideas and in places the gameplay is fresh and well thought out.
Unfortunately this is also a game dogged by glitches and poorly realised design.
Let’s start with the good.
The music and score used to crank up the tension is brilliant and the script itself isn’t too bad, there aren’t too many cheesy lines in there.
Another great addition that I can see more games adopting as gaming becomes more mainstream is the option to skip parts of the game you’re struggling with.
You then get a recap of the cutscenes that would’ve played if you’d gone through that part of the level.
Some would say it takes away the challenge of the game but if it means more people will actually get to finish games I would welcome it as a standard addition.
Similarily, when you load the game up you get a short ‘Previously On Alone In The Dark’ like you would do with a TV show – it’s a handy inclusion if you’re not playing the chapters back to back.
However the occasions Alone In The Dark really shines is in giving the player control over things that would normally be a cutscene driven or automatically done for the player in other games.
You want to steal a car? If the keys aren’t in it you’ll need to hotwire it. Literally. The camera jumps to first person and you have a selection of wires to try and match up to get the car started.
In one scene you have to perform CPR on someone – rather than it being part of cutscene you actually have to press down L3 and R3 to push down on their chest and then hold R2 to breathe air into their lungs.
Another thing I liked was the ability to combine different items so finding a bottle and a hankerchief could lead you to combine the two to create a Molotov Cocktail.
All of these types of gameplay really make you feel you’re part of the world and initially the game has some strong characterisation – Edward, Sarah and Theo in particular.
However the story stumbles in the latter chapters, becoming a bit confused and I wasn’t very impressed with the endings (their are two alternate ones). I really think they could’ve done something special with the back end of the storyline but, without giving too much away, it all felt a bit like a weak set up.
Which brings me on to the bad.
Firstly – no subtitles. What? In this day and age there is no excuse for this. I often use the subtitles if I’m playing late at night so I don’t disturb my sleeping family and this omission is lazy in my opinion.
The game has a slightly confusing control system (although from what I have read it’s a vast improvement on the original X-Box360 control system) and often the right stick that should be controlling the camera wouldn’t respond – a small thing you’d say, except when it means you don’t/can’t see an enemy that kills you from behind.
The inventory system takes you into first person looking down at the inside of Edward’s jacket. It’s a nice touch but makes things more laborious than they need to be.
One of the problems with the brilliant inventive gameplay I mentioned in the good section is that it’s fine when you’re told what you’re doing but sometimes without direction you could spend hours trying to work out what to do (thank God for Gamefaqs! )
In one particularily painful section I was supposed to have worked out that I couldn’t just set light to a moving creature with a Molotov Cocktail but that I had to put sticky tape on it as well so it stayed stuck to him.
It wouldn’t even have been so bad if I’d had a tutorial on how to sticky tape stuff to things or just some sort of indicator/ direction.
Some of the glitches in the game are surprising in that no-one testing the game picked them up. People disappearing/reappearing, guys falling halfway through the floor, Edward shaking violently up and down like a derranged kangeroo and even one guy I had to kill to finish the section ended up half stuck in a wall and I couldn’t hit him.
I’m the first to admit I’m an easy to please gamer and I try to be as forgiving as possible if a game is enjoyable.
So it’s saying something that I felt these problems actually hampered the game.
Overall Alone In The Dark is a game that pleases and infuriates in equal measure. The ending(s) left me feeling somewhat cheated for the amount of time put in and what I invested in the story personally.
It’s an ambitious game that ultimately fails because of the way it’s ideas are executed in places. Even with all the glitches it seems harsh to give this game too low a mark as a lot of thought and effort has obviously gone into making it.
FURTHER POINT: For anyone who’s interested I ended up taking the Path Of Darkness in my playthrough – if there’s anyone else out there who’s played the game I’d love to hear from you but in the interest of keeping spoilers out of the comments please drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org