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Flesh Into Gear avatar 12:22 PM on 06.26.2008
Alone in the (Dark)Agony.. a player review

First off, let me say that i'm a fan of the series. Ive played all the releases except the one for the game boy. The best being the 1st, of course. It wasn't a gun-fest, it was set in a creepy old mansion where every room yielded something different, whether that be a puzzle or zombies, or suit of armor, .. ect.. you could just about go anywhere you wanted in the mansion from the start if you could get by any obstacles. It was ground breaking, erie, scary, with a good story, and as I read somewhere, very "Lovecraft-ian" which really intrigues me.

Now cut to the new release for the 360. Where do I start.

Lets start with the name.. "Alone in the Dark". That implies some sort of fright due to isolation. Then how are you supposed to get that feeling when its set in New York City? There are people around you at almost all times. The game plays more like an action game than a real survival horror from the opening sequence where you are escaping a falling skyscraper along with everyone else.
Then there is the game play. You have the normal 3rd person view as in most Sur/Hor, with an option to go 1st person. Its a great idea, but never really gives you a good reason to other than the, less than adequate at times, camera angles. It quirkily automatically transfers you to 1st when you equip to use some items which will cause you to lose your bearings on the approach a bit. Another small problem I have, that rolls on to other things, is that when you are hanging on a ledge, and you are moving left or right, if you attempt to climb up while you are in motion, it will keep moving you in that direction. Therefore you must come to a complete stop in order to climb up which doesn't play well with the flow of gameplay, especially if you are trying to scurry along.

A small thing on the gameplay... its very linear. There nothing left to the player about choosing where to go and what to do. They integrated GPS map continuity into the game that emulates the objectives to have to give it that "sandbox" feel. But this fails as how can you deviate and cause an out of sequence event. This is a far departure from the original games.

The Inventory system. Awesome idea! Id like to see this better implemented in some future games that would allow it, but this is not one of them. Its already hard enough to navigate an encounter, now you have to bumble through the imprecise, hard to manage inventory "coat". If feels odd to only be able to carry those limited amount of items, and its a pain having to select all the different pairs of combination in such a small about of time you have to react to a situation. And there aren't really that many different items to use and combine that is lead to believe in the Dev previews. Pretty much what you see in those is almost the extent of the items.

The story. Poorly written. Not real suspenseful. Thats about all there is to that.

Now onto the car sequences. Not that car sequences really fit in to this genre, but anyhow, its not well done. The physics are waaay off. Any small bump you come across, be it obstructions or other vehicles, will cause you to spin out unrealistically like something 10 times your size just hit you. You will find yourself playing the same sequence over and over trying to thread that needle to pass the chapter... which brings me to my next comment; the chapter select.

The chapter select lets you pass or go back to any chapter anywhere in the game at any time. Which could be good, if the game didn't test your patience and make you want to do it all the time. And how many times do you say to yourself while playing a game "man, I wish I could just skip this" but when you beat it, it feels better and you have a great sense of accomplishment of doing so, like Gears of war, or Ninja Gaiden 2. But those games when you die usually due to challenging gameplay, not gameplay that was made by the challenged.

Of course there are some positives. If you have seen the Dev videos around, the fire aspect looks amazing and is. It does play a rotund part in the game and works in most cases. I don't like ,however, that it is the only way to defeat enemies, so if one catches you off guard, you must down them somehow then go get a flammable item to just one-hit-kill them. Also in the Dev videos, they emphasized the ability to wholly interact with the environment, which isnt the case. Its only the objects that they want you to interact with that you can.

All in all, I was very hyped to play this game, and have been disappointed. Its by far, the worst in the series for me. But go try it for yourself.

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