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Tuesday | September 25, 2018
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Alone In The Dark (X360)

Alone In The Dark (X360)

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The horror gaming market has been craving a quality console title for quite some time. Atari are keen to address this with the release of Alone In The Dark on the X360. A vast, inspiring world full of horrific creatures and mind warping puzzles is a hard goal to achieve; can developer Eden games deliver the goods?

Alone In The Dark is set in New York in the area of Central Park and you take control of amnesia ridden Edward Camby, a paranormal investigator who wakes up surrounded by a group of mafia type guys, preparing to kill him.

As the game slowly progresses it becomes clear that Camby is in the middle of a rather horrific supernatural scenario. He meets up with Sara and they flee from the building into Central Park in the attempt to uncover the mystery of his past and the secret behind a stone with unknown properties.

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So far it sounds great and initially it is as the graphics and concepts throughout the first building section are sublime and breathtaking in both their stature and execution. At times it feels as if you are in the middle of a Hollywood movie.

For those of you heavily into the history of Alone In The Dark you will already be aware that placing Edward Camby into a modern day New York setting would make him well over a hundred years old. You would think that a guy off his age would have perhaps enhanced his vocabulary beyond basic swear words, however regardless of the situation he normally greets it with a “f**k this” or “holy s*&t”. In fact there is not much in general to like about our hero, he is a moody, grumpy self absorbed loudmouth with a fondness for swearing excessively.

As i mentioned briefly, the game starts in a building which is being torn apart by some evil malevolent deity, devouring any human lifeform it encounters. As well as this mysterious evil presence the building is littered with undead creatures who can only be killed by fire. Yes, if you hack them with a sword or beat them over the head with a fire extinguisher for long periods of time, they will get right back up. This means even if you unleash 100 bullets into their corpses you will still need to light a chair to torch them for good.

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The first game episode was actually one of my favourites as there are some amazing looking sequences throughout the building, with Camby scaling across the outside walls as the structure collapses underneath and around him.

As the first level nears completion we receive our first taster of frustrations to come, hotwiring a car to escape the building. Once you work out how to do this it is extremely easy, however the initial failures result in you being dragged from the car to fight numerous zombies only armed with a club and some fire. After many deaths and listening to cutscene dialogue for the 20th time I finally succeeded in the hotwiring.
This leads into the first of many driving sequences in which the car feels like it is made of polystyrene and handles just as badly. While these look wonderful as a bystander, they are simply awful to play.  The problem is, they are totally scripted and some of the sections can only be learned by dying, this results in a complete replay of the whole level. All the games vehicles handle exactly the same and the sequences are all scripted which results in some of the most arduous and insanely frustrating game design I have ever played.

Things take a turn for the worse when we finally reach the main focal point of Central Park. You do battle with more undead, crawly monsters, flying monsters, and blobs of green slime which can swallow you whole if you don’t use light to scare them away. This section is enjoyable for the first hour or so, but it quickly becomes a mind numbing chore, and if I didn’t have to review this game for you guys I would have turned it off.

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Why? Well all these tedious sections could be forgiven if we had a decent combat system throughout, but we don’t. It is to be quite honest, absolutely appalling. You can pick up objects and then wield it with the right stick. This means if you waggle the stick, the object you are holding also gets waggled. A nice theory, but once again the translation to game fails horribly, it is not only hard to master but even when you do it remains a cumbersome and frustrating experience. When you compare this methodology to similar games in the same genre like Resident Evil 4 they fall horribly short.

Other cool ideas which don’t really work? Breaking through doors with objects. Sure, the first few times you do it, there is a certain amount of “wow, I just bust that door with a dustbin” but after the first level there are really no doors ! Especially in Central Park.

The plot is very weak, and granted you do not always need a killer storyline to get engrossed in a great game, however Alone In The Dark just gets dafter the more you progress. I eventually just gave up trying to make sense of it and tried to endure the frustrations of the scripted driving and combat sections. The simple puzzle sections would be fun if the control method didn’t turn them into dull repetitive chores.

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One of the games quite original aspects is the inventory system, you use it by “looking” down to your jacket to access one of the 10 objects you can carry. Again, while this is probably realistic, the game does require you to have access to multiple objects so you end up dropping and picking up objects on a regular basis, which adds to the monotonous nature of the game.

So far so bad, and disappointingly there is little to recommend, apart from the dramatic and compelling first level which I found extremely impressive to look at and rather fun to play. The mood is tense and eerie in the earlier levels however later you will be so frustrated by aspects of the design that any semblance of a horror setting is quickly lost.

The graphics are for the most part impressive, although the movement and animation at times can be wooden. There are some great particle effects as the building collapses with only slight frame rate issues as the Xbox 360 struggles to keep it rolling.

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The audio side of the game is excellent and I particularly liked the soundtrack which is available (as well as an art book and figurine) as a CD in the rather expensive collectors box set.

All in all, Alone In The Dark fails short of the promises made, the art design is good and the graphics range from extraordinary to rather mundane. The most annoying facet of the game, is that under the annoying sequences there is a fantastic concept which occasionally is able to poke its head from under the plethora of quirks and issues which land this game firmly in the one to miss category.

After a rather promising first level, things go quickly downhill. Frustrating levels, awful fighting and a terrible control system.
Some brilliant design and ideas, however they are hampered by some frame rate issues and terrible execution.
A great soundtrack and decent ambient noises.
If you want to go bald, then a purchase is recommended.
(Not an Average)
It may appeal to a few people, but generally this is doomed to fail.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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