When a game hits the shelves without a multitude of reviews already hovering, it’s usually safe to say that the game itself is pretty shockingly bad. Especially when its one just like Alone in the Dark which has been consistently "previewed" but very rarely fully reviewed. Until now anyway.
Atari - seemingly constantly in the final throws of financial disaster - have been working on this reworking of the classic Alone in the Dark series for some time. Obviously they’re clinging to the hopes that such a recognisable name is going to help shift a mass of copies, and keep the hefty publisher in business.
Well they had better keep their fingers well and truly crossed, as the quality of the game itself isn’t going to sell any copies whatsoever.
Taking a large slice of the likes of 24 and Lost (the TV shows, not the pair of terrible games based on both series) Alone in the Dark is split up into 8 separate "episodes" each packing a cliff-hanger ending, and at least one major set piece.
This in itself done well could herald a brand new dawn of gaming genius. If utilised to an impressive level then it could be the start of a revolution for story-based gaming titles, with a brand new batch of writing and structural guidelines to follow in the near future.
Sadly, Alone in the Dark suffers from far too many flaws to raise it above anything but mediocrity. And as such, no-one would dare take this novel, and potentially exciting gaming concept of episodic gameplay, and use this title as one that showed them the way.
Let’s start with the much criticised controls. Utilising the left stick to move and turn (à la the early Resident Evil games), the right stick is left to make use of a few objects, and moving your head from left to right to ever so slightly change your viewpoint.
Now while similarly slow-paced controls work wonders for the Resident Evil/Silent Hill series to build tension, here it just feels incredibly unwieldly and awkward.
Everything here is convoluted and awkward to use, with healing and bandaging-up your body right up there with the most awkward examples of stretching out a game as long as humanly possible. Equally as frustrating is the context sensitive pick-ups, particularly when a few items seem to be essentially on top of each other. Violently jerking and twitching your character from left to right in order to snap up that medical spray before your character perishes is a frequent source of irritation.
As a title that promises major scares as part of the story, there’s very little to get excited about. With the story of horrifically poor quality, particularly when trying to get you to actually enjoy the company of the game’s main protagonist, the chances of being scared witless is absolutely zero. With the likes of Eternal Darkness and Silent Hill 2 showing exactly how to force grown men to shriek in terror, there’s no reason why Alone in the Dark should be quite so timid.
Enemies can seemingly soak up bullets without breaking stride, and most of the puzzles that populate the game are nothing more than brief and irritating distractions that fail to inspire. There’s just nothing particularly fresh and exciting. And the infrequent driving sections are just shockingly bad.
On the plus side of things, graphically, Alone in the Dark is firmly next-gen. It’s not ultimately the best on offer, but it’s certainly up there with the better examples of graphical goodness that the HD revolution can handle. But if graphics were all we needed, then the gaming world would be as shallow as, well, everything else in the world. The sound work is fairly impressive too. Probably hinting that the developers failed to concentrate on anything other than the shallow.
It’s a disappointment, but sadly expected, that Alone in the Dark is quite a poor title. While the terrible controls are almost enough to force you to steer well clear, toss in some poor writing, and a total lack of scares, and Alone in the Dark becomes one to be left well alone.