Review: Alone in the Dark (360)

Alone in the Dark started way back in 1992 on the old PC DOS systems and later spawned sequels on various consoles, from the 3DO to the PS2. This sequel is set in 2008 and sees you play as the hero of the original game, Edward Carnby, who is looking for answers to strange supernatural occurrences around Central Park in New York. The game "centers around rumors, allegations, and suspicions of clandestine activity in tunnels found below the park” so expect the unexpected throughout the game.

The game starts you waking up after a supernatural ritual to cleanse you of the evil that once was in your body. The ritual caused severe amnesia and you wake not knowing anything. From there, you can tell Atari has gone for the big blockbuster feel as the opening twenty minutes of the game is pretty action packed with big cinematic explosions going off everywhere, really giving you the feel that this is going to be one hell of a night.

The game is split up into episodes and sequences. One of the new features that Alone of the Dark boasts is the ability to skip through the game much like you can on a DVD movie. You can fast forward sequences or even skip entire episodes. You find a puzzle to hard or a boss to hard or just want to see what happens at the end of the game skip it. Of course you do not get those precious achievements, but for the casual gamers out there, this is a welcome addition.

Although the opening cinematic was fast-paced and action-packed that doesn’t correspond throughout the whole game. During the middle of the game things slow way down, to a point of being to slow in areas with lots of walking to get to places taking its toll. The action in Alone in the Dark comes in drips: one minute you can be fighting off dozens of vampires, humans, and other messed up and ugly creatures, and next you will be wondering when and where they will come at you next. The fighting itself is very awkward and frustrating to say the least, and this goes for the controls as a whole.

There are dozens of objects that can be used as melee weapons: steel poles, chairs, axes, wooden sticks, fire extinguishers, huge logs, and so on. When faced against enemies with a melee weapon in your hand, you will need to lock onto them using the left trigger and then by using the right analogue stick pull back then push forward to release an attack, this will unleash an over the head attack. To unleash a swipe, using the right analogue stick again moving it from left to right or right to left. The problem with this is the fact that you are pretty screwed when it comes to facing off against multiple enemies, since, to get a decent hit, you need to lock on to the target and by doing this leaving you vulnerable to other attacks. Of course, there are handguns in the game but to be honest, they are rather useless unless you pour flammable liquid on the bullets to make them fire bullets, as the only way to get rid of some enemies is to use fire.

One of Alone in the Dark’s best features is the inventory, and the ability to use items in the game and combine them to create helpful tools. As I mentioned before, since normal bullets don’t work, pour some flammable liquid on the bullets to make them flammable and voila! you have yourself fire bullets. You see a wall that you think can be penetrated? Get a bottle full of flammable liquid, stick some double sided sticky tape on it then attach a case of bullets and you have yourself a bomb. There are dozens of combinations available from items and each combination brings something new to the way you play game and how you can go about killing monsters.

Now you may be thinking that this is living up to the hype, with me explaining the diverse inventory system, the episode and sequences system, and the big blockbuster feel, but all this doesn’t distract you from the horrible controls, dodgy fighting system, horrible camera, and the overall layout of the game. It’s like Eden Studios spent all of their time on getting these original ideas in the game but forgot about the execution and how they would intertwine with the whole gameplay experience. Instead of using an over-shoulder camera with the ability to move the camera around, Eden decided to have the camera behind the character with no control what so ever.

Overall, the brilliantly creative ideas and blockbuster scenes aren’t enough to distract you from the poor camera, horrible controls, and the overall feel of the game. It doesn’t live up to the hype that was touted from Atari but, and this is a big but, if you can get around the camera and the controls then there is a pretty solid game underneath.

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