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Review: Alone in the Dark - PC, PS2, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360 - 6.5

10 lipca, 2008

Alone in the Dark is a failed mash-up of new ideas and archaic gameplay mechanics.

Alone in the Dark, since its start on the PC, has undergone a roller-coaster ride of good and bad releases. The vast majority of them releases have unfortunately been quite mediocre, especially when compared to other horror-based franchises like Silent Hill and Resident Evil. Atari announced a relaunch of the franchise several years ago, for the last generation of consoles and PC, but was pushed back for the current generation and released June of this year. Does the new Alone in the Dark break the curse?

The game leaves you with an impressive initial impression, with your character making his way through a ruined New York City. As the game encourages you to use items you find around the world, the inventory is a focus of the game. And so, you access your inventory by actually opening your jacket and looking at your objects. This is a concept of novelty, one of several that the game introduces. A huge mechanic of the game is combining your various inventory items into different weapons like Molotov cocktails. As fire is presented as a key weapon/mechanic, many of your improvised tools will involve burning or blowing up enemies and parts of the environment to solve puzzles.

As mentioned, fire plays a key role in everything including the combat. You can take out enemies by setting flammable objects on fire and striking them. Your pistol also turns out to be a useful tool, allowing you to shoot explosive bottles in mid-air or to create flammable rounds. The gun combat is made a bit difficult by the fact that you are forced to target monsters\' fissures, scars left by evil. This can get annoying given the narrow environments and close combat and removes the focus of the game on combat.

Unfortunately, this is when you start encountering AD\'s diverse range of problems. The controls for combat are very difficult and the game often fails to detect when your shots connect with an enemy, forcing you to constantly readjust your aim. Interacting and moving is also a bit broken, with your character being constantly required to be positioned in the exactly the right place to use certain objects. Movement is a huge issue in the game, and can be highlighted by the seemingly simple act of getting into and driving a car. Once you\'re behind the wheel, you can do some pretty cool things like check for car keys or raid the glove compartment. The actual driving is more flimsy, as cars often end up handling like light motorcycles that react too quickly. The damage model is also hit-or-miss, with your vehicle falling apart at the slightest nudge.

Like in many games, you start off as a beaten character who is suffering from an extreme case of amnesia. You make your way through a devastated New York City and into Central Park to solve the mystery of your past and stop the evil powers ripping apart the city. If this sounds terribly cliche, you\'ve got the right idea. The protaganist just can\'t help dropping the f-bomb every step of the way. This ended up grating on this reviewer\'s nerves so much that I nearly muted the game at every cutscene. The story presents itself in an interesting episodic format, allowing you to skip around the game as if it were a DVD movie, letting you skip some truly annoying segments.

The game\'s graphical representation in indoor areas is above-average and sometimes lends to the dramatic set-pieces that occasionally occur. Fire is again a focus, incorporating realistic propagation and some beautiful lighting effects. There are some inconsistencies in the visual presentation that detract from the graphics, such as varied low and high-res textures. The game tries some cool tricks, but ends up looking decidedly bland when looked at as a whole.

As Atari\'s last-chance "hardcore" title, it is quite sad to see the state that Alone in the Dark was released in. The majority of our complaints with the game could have been addressed with debugging the engine and fixing up the graphics. A better play-tester run would have revealed the intense difficulty inherent in some of the strange control design decisions that Atari made. The fact stands, AD is a disappointing title that should only be looked at if you\'re willing to deal with some serious technical problems to experience new and innovative ideas.

Gameplay: 6.0 - Sloppy and overly complicated controls for some actions, driving sequences are horribly simulated, game seems schizophrenic when dealing with third and first-person modes
Presentation: 6.5 - Annoying voice-acting with over-the-top cussing and an inconsistent graphical and sound presentation. At least the game introduces a cool DVD-inspired scene system.
Graphics: 7.0 - Great fire effects but mixed textures and inconsistent lighting.
Sound: 7.0 - Decent music and environmental sound effects, but majority of voice acting is horrible.
Value: 6.0 - Even if you manage to finish the game, you\'ll probably never want to play it again.

Final Score: 6.5 - Alone in the Dark is a failed mash-up of new ideas and archaic gameplay mechanics.

Marcin Skok
The Gaming Corner