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Alone in the Dark

Destructoid Review: Alone in the Dark

Jul 11 // Conrad Zimmerman
Alone in the Dark (PS2, Wii, Windows, PS3, XBox 360 [Reviewed])Developed by Eden GamesPublished by AtariReleased June 23, 2008The game follows series protagonist Edward Carnby, who awakens with no memory in a modern Manhattan hotel room as a malevolent force threatens to tear apart the city. As the plot continues, it's discovered that something ancient and evil has been hiding under Central Park and Carnby is the only man equipped to stop its reign of terror. At least, I think that's what happened. The story is a muddled mess of prophecy and destiny culminating in an ending that will either enrage you or put little more than a smirk on your face, depending on how much of an artfag you are.If you're willing to even make it that far, that is. The pacing of this game is abysmal, surging foward at incredible speed only to come to a dead stop midway through as the game forces a collection quest on you that can span the whole of the considerably large overworld. Once completed, things pick back up again briefly before it inflicts the same collection quest again. It's an obvious ploy to stretch roughly eight hours of gameplay into twelve, and an infuriating ploy at that. No, Alone in the Dark is all about style over substance and, to its credit, it has that in spades. There's a concerted effort to give a cinematic feel, using a third-person camera that shifts from being over-the-shoulder to fixed angles at dramatic points. Camera control is practically non-existent, allowing the player little more than a few degrees of angle adjustment. While inconvenient, to say the least, it does have a certain immersive quality, like a third-person perspective shoehorned into first-person. There is a first-person view available, switched to automatically when aiming a firearm, and it has some intruiging characteristics. Pressing a button blinks Carnby's eyes and is necessary to clear his vision when injured or poisoned. As the game progresses, he gains a level of second sight when his eyes are closed, highlighting weak points on enemies or revealing hidden symbols in puzzle sequences. Since the right stick is unused for camera control, it is freed up for the manipulation of objects. When holding an environmental object, the direction the player holds the right stick determines how Carnby holds it. This object use is critical for solving some puzzles and doubles as a melee mechanic for the swinging of chairs, lead pipes and other assorted bludgeons.  It's a good thing that the melee option exists because using the gun often feels like an exercise in futility. There is an auto-aim function, which works wonderfully for the smaller enemies. The teeming undead mass of humanity is a different story. The tiny fissures along their bodies are difficult to hit when they are standing still. In motion, they move like a high-school track star on a meth binge and successfully shooting them at that point becomes as much a matter of luck as skill.What's easily the most interesting aspect of Alone in the Dark is the manner in which it manages inventory. Carnby's coat has a series of pockets where he can stash an assortment of small items found in lockers, trash cans or just lying around. Once he has them, he turns into MacGuyer and can combine them into useful or lethal tools. A liqour bottle can become a powerful bomb by taping a box of bullets to it or a molotov with a handkerchief. Glowsticks can increase the area they illuminate by affixing tape and throwing them on to a surface. There are over twenty-five ways to combine items, some being utterly useless.The inventory system operates in real-time, so trying to put together a weapon while under attack can be challenging to do, especially since the sequence in which you select items to combine makes a difference (it shouldn't and that may annoy some). To help in this and to spare the player some annoyance in reproducing the same things repeatedly, you can set four configurations of items for quick creation. When you want something you've designated as a "favorite," two button presses are all it takes for Carnby to whip one up, provided you have all the necessary materials.Vehicles have a considerable presence in the game, both for general travel and the occasional action sequence. I always worry a bit when a car gets thrown into a platforming/puzzle game but they are passable here.  Cars are littered around Central Park and are really a necessity for covering the expansive map. Many of them have their keys still in the ignition, others might have a spare behind the sun visor, but you'll have to hotwire one from time to time. This is a pretty cool little bit of realism, as you choose the right wires to connect and press the accelerator at the right time to start the engine. Just like the inventory, it's all in real-time and a pursuing enemy may have the time they need to rip the door off its hinges and drag you out.If there were one feature that drew some confused expressions on the faces of gamers when announced, it would be the somewhat controversial level-skipping feature. The game is broken down into chapters and, with a DVD-style interface, you can hop from one point to another. There are advantages to using it, as you can move beyond the more boring middle section of the game and go back to something resembling fun. There's an early car chase scene which requires such precision that a single mistake will result in death that I seriously considered using it for. And, should you finish, you can hop right back to the last chapter and see the alternate ending without subjecting yourself to the whole experience a second time. Serious credit should be given to the sound design. So many survival horror games get it wrong by inserting music to heighten the tension in a scene but, in doing so, they warn the player that something "scary" is about to happen. Alone in the Dark largely avoids this trap, keeping the bits intended to frighten a surprise until they've happened. Alone in the Dark feels incomplete. The game is chock full of grand ideas but not a lot of polish. A few glitches present themselves when manipulating certain items in the environment or when driving through the park. When I played it, the animation of Carnby's jacket stopped working correctly in the late game, covering up my inventory so I couldn't see what I had without selecting it. They're annoying and really should have been fixed in a game that otherwise tries very hard to immerse you.  It kills me that I can't encourage anybody to pay to own this because there really is a lot that you should like. The last hour of the game has some of the best puzzles I've seen in an action-platformer in some time which, if not particularly challenging, earn major points for creativity. Interacting with your inventory and the environment, seeing the results of your experimentation, is a joy. As a tech demo or proof of concept, it would be electrifying.Sadly, this isn't a demo. It's a completed retail product and one that disappoints on so many cylinders that it's impossible to overlook the issues for the merits. The game is boring for long stretches, has an uneven level of difficulty and no worthwhile story. Give it a rental and at least see what they've attempted because I'd warrant that some of the concepts presented will be finding their way into future games of the genre. Just make heavy use of that scene-skip feature so you don't wind up cursing my name.   Score: 3.5 (Poor. Some excellent ideas marred by an incomprehensible plot, dull gameplay progression and glitches) 
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As a series, Alone in the Dark has a bit of a tainted history. Its first title is credited with creating the feel of the Survival Horror genre and is a landmark game. From that lofty peak, however, what started it all has pro...

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Atari goes on the offensive to protect Alone In The Dark legacy


Jun 20
// SRVSLPS
Word on the net has it that a few reviews of Alone In The Dark are based on illegally obtained code for the game, and Atari is none too happy about it. They're so displeased, in fact, that their lawyers went on the offensive ...
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Alone in the Dark screenshot time: Inventory


Jun 13
// Jim Sterling
A little later than usual, this week's Alone in the Dark screenshot post shows off Edward Carnby's inventory. Carnby gives us a flash of what's inside his dirty coat before splashing a white substance all over the floor. That...
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Alone in the Dark screenshot time: Central Park


Jun 04
// Jim Sterling
Another week, another batch of Alone in the Dark screens for you all. Last time, the general theme was pyromania, while this week's images explore the Central Park location. I could write a lot of words here, but every time I...
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Don't you wanna know why Alone in the Dark keeps starting fires? Also, pictures


May 29
// Jim Sterling
Vague Electric Six references for the win! We have a whole heap of new Alone in the Dark screenshots for you to sink your teeth into like the murderous dogs that you are.The ridiculous amount of screenshots do a lot to show o...

Pew! Pew! Preview!: Alone in the Dark

May 22 // Tiff
"Episodic" GamingThe new Alone in the Dark will feature series protagonist Edward Carnby, this time faced with the bizarre and supernatural mysteries that riddle modern-day Central Park. In an attempt to develop a compelling version of the series for today's gaming audience, Polloni stressed that the impending cross-over between film and videogames heavily influenced the "truly cinematic experience" of the game. In this spirit, the game will feature a chapter-based format divided into eight individual parts, each laden with carefully developed story arcs of revelations, conflicts, and cliffhangers. If you happen to forget what was happening the last time you were playing, you can watch the 'Previously on Alone in the Dark' trailers that conveniently precede each episode.As was earlier announced, one can pause the game at any point to access the 'DVD Chapter' select menu, which allows players to rewind, fast-forward, and skip around between 75% of the game. While the multiple endings (reportedly, two) aren't accessible without unlocking them through enough gameplay, this allows a player to progress through the game without being frustratingly hinged by a difficult task that can be solved later. Although this innovative feature could potentially destroy the progression of a game that is pinned around film-like plot development, I highly doubt it will encourage players to wreak havoc on their narrative experiences. When I went to play the game, my first instinct was to fast-forward and play various parts that were anything but the beginning. However, realizing that this approach left me generally confused and misplaced in terms of what the hell was going on, I recognized that linear progression through the game is obviously the more optimal experience.What concerns me more is the player's seamless ability to transition between their role in the game and their role of the person fast-forwarding to the next part of a movie. While convenient, this feature could potentially deter the player's involvement with the role as Edward's character if used too casually. Dynamic EnvironmentBeyond the episodic format, the game features other attributes that attempt to blend the interactive with the cinematic. The game is lacking any obvious UI with the exception of the occasional tutorial tips, providing a movielike perspective on-screen. This experience was particularly impressionable in the first part of the game, where Edward wakes up in a blurry first-person perspective that requires the player to continuously blink by pushing the right analog stick in order to regain clarity. As Edward is shoved ahead by a henchman, the perspective necessitates the player to continue blinking, truly evoking a confused and bleary-eyed introduction into the madness that's on the brink of unfolding.  A highly dynamic environment continues to flavor the gameplay in cinematic fashion, as rooms literally crumble away in real time through the first part of the game. As giant fissures suddenly crack open in the floors, live wires swing down from above, and explosions of various magnitudes blockade your path, the player must pay careful attention to all angles of their environment in order to successfully progress. This fact became apparent whilst I was sidling along the edge of a disintegrating building and had to cautiously avoid both rubble falling from above and an exploding car that flung up nearly close enough to smolder my feetsies. Dynamic fire and light effects also greatly play into many of the puzzles the player will encounter. Polloni noted that every surface has an applied degree of flammability that can often be used towards the player's advantage, while simultaneously posing as a toasty trap. Furthermore, by way of glowsticks, Molotov cocktails, and other brightly lit objects, all environments can be dynamically lit to foster illuminated pathways in the dark or glowing distractions for enemies.   Combat and Object UseWith all the bloodthirsty undead goons teeming in Central Park, Edward will naturally need to engage in combat. While this can be administered by shooting the enemy or hacking them to pieces with an axe, Alone in the Dark encourages a flexible and object-savvy approach to demolishing obstacles. Edward will only be able to carry what can fit inside his jacket and can equip one item per hand, thereby forcing the player to pay close attention to pocketable resources and how they can be utilized with the environment. These objects are not always obviously placed, and may require intensive searches through cabinets, shadowy corners, or even behind visors in abandoned cars. The player may also find various non-pocketable objects within their environment that they can pick up and swing around using the right analog stick. This puzzle-like quality to the gameplay was aptly demonstrated by Polloni's previous tech demo, and for me, initially denoted an adventure game-like puzzle experience. I stress initially.When actually playing the game, the object-oriented action was a lot more clunky and difficult to wrangle. Picking up a trash can, for example, and attempting to wield it against a blocked door, took many tries before I was actually successful. The same case applied when swinging around an axe to mince a foe to pieces, as the process was just not as easy as it was made out to be. In regards to the use of pocketable objects, while the concept of using sticky tape on a bottle of flammable liquid to devise a cleverly delivered explosion is fairly interesting, this function distracts the player from the game's horror-themed pursuits. Complicating oncoming zombie attacks with these object-oriented tasks places emphasis on the action as opposed to the scary obstacle, thereby making the experience much less scary overall. Perhaps this experience is more fully developed as one becomes accustomed to the gameplay mechanics, but overall I was never truly fearful of anything that was attacking me, because I was too busy figuring out what object combo to use next. AfterthoughtsAlone in the Dark does make some interesting impressions by exploring features that break some gaming molds, but I felt that the overall experience was somewhat inconsistent to the developer's aspirations. While the real-time explosions and environmental effects are compelling, the clunky object-oriented gameplay had me distracted from much of this impressive presentation. In the same vein, although much of the visuals are laid out to capture a compelling, cinematic experience, the character designs and interactions are so unconvincing that I developed very little interest in the actual story. Altogether, this game is teetering on the edge between success and failure for me. If I had more time to become accustomed to the gamplay and give the narrative a chance to sink its hooks in, perhaps the current disconnect between features would seem less of an issue. But while the core ideas surrounding Alone in the Dark seem to be all there, many of the key features seem poorly executed. Alone in the Dark will be available June 24 for the PlayStation 2, Wii, PC, and Xbox 360, with a PlayStation 3 release aimed for this fall.
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Impatiently lurking with bated, fetidly undead breath, Atari's upcoming game Alone in the Dark has a June 24th release that will launch it into 2008 as the first blockbuster survival horror game of the year. This Monday, Atar...

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O HAI, got some Alone in the Dark screens


May 13
// Jim Sterling
Now that the GTA IV craze is at least starting to die down, we can focus on other videogames -- yes, other ones exist. Alone in the Dark, for example, is one such game that is not GTA, even though it's set in New York. So, yo...
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Atari launches the official Alone in the Dark site


May 09
// Colette Bennett
It's no secret that Destructoid is pretty excited about the upcoming release of Alone in the Dark, and I'm sure that's nothing next to the amount of readers that are salivating over the upcoming survival horror title. Not con...
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Alone in the Dark hits PS3 in Autumn, with bonus fun!


Apr 15
// Jim Sterling
Atari has come out and said that the PlayStation 3 version of Alone in the Dark will be out sometime in the autumn. While talk of a delay is rarely good, the news should be salved somewhat by the fact that it will have bonus ...
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A demo for Alone in the Dark will be available near launch


Apr 14
// Jordan Devore
An Xbox 360 demo for Alone in the Dark has been confirmed for "around launch" by an admin for the Atari Europe forums. The game launches on 360, Wii, PS2, and PC on June 20 and June 24 in North America and Europe re...
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Infogrames CEO hopes to break even with new Alone in the Dark


Apr 11
// SRVSLPS
They have been through more than their share of tough times, but Infogrames has always managed to trudge on -- they are survivors. Even if the company has been dancing around the red since 1999, CEO David Gardner feels that t...
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Alone in the Dark's 'They Lied' trailer is masterful


Mar 31
// Jim Sterling
Okay, so it's a bit cheesy, but that is what's so great about this Alone in the Dark trailer. I don't often talk about the quality of a trailer itself more than the footage it shows, but I have to say that this particular vid...
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Necro Boogie: Alone in the Dark trailer brings more excitement


Mar 15
// Jim Sterling
 Alone in the Dark looks like everything Silent Hill 5 could be, without being Silent Hill. As one of my favorite series' ever fails to generate the kind of "DO WANT" excitement it should, Eden's Central Park n...
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Alone in the Dark special edition looks fantastic


Mar 03
// Jim Sterling
Edward Carnby may be Alone in the Dark, but he's certainly not alone in the box if the above image is anything to go by. Eden's fire-fueled survival horror sequel is looking amazing and it seems to have carried over into the ...
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Another nifty tech demo for Alone in the Dark 5


Feb 27
// Jordan Devore
Before you watch the video above, I highly recommend you catch the first episode of the Real World Rules series, so that you'll get a better idea of what Alone in the Dark 5's engine has to offer.In this episode, we learn tha...
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Ever wish you could skip the hard parts? Alone in the Dark 5 is going to let you


Feb 19
// SRVSLPS
After seeing Nour Polloni's walkthrough of the tech demo the other day (and your response), it's clear that I wasn't the only one to be impressed by the footage of Alone in the Dark 5. No doubt about it, Eden games has done a...
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Alone in the Dark 5 tech demo raises the survival horror bar to a new level


Feb 16
// SRVSLPS
Resident Evil and Silent Hill may be the most famous names associated with the genre, but when it comes to survival horror, one mustn't forget their roots. The name that planted the seed will soon be back -- and judging by t...
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Alone in the Dark Web site launches, NYC tourism drops 40%


Feb 07
// Nick Chester
Atari has launched the official Web site for the upcoming game, Alone in the Dark, and the New York City Tourism Board is going to be pissed. CentralDark.com focuses on the strange happenings and unexplained phenomenon t...
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Alone in the Dark trailer should tighten trousers


Jan 22
// Jim Sterling
 The more details that arise about Eden's upcoming Alone in the Dark sequel, the more amazing it begins to sound. This latest trailer shows off some of the fire-based gameplay that has been previously discussed. The grap...
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A HUGE wad of Alone in the Dark details: KILL IT WITH FIRE!


Jan 02
// Jim Sterling
NeoGaf is absolutely crammed with delicious details regarding the new Alone in the Dark game for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. While the series has had its fair share of problems according to most critics, this new one is looking und...
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Don't be scared: PS3 version of Alone in the Dark not 'delayed'


Sep 06
// Nick Chester
Despite previous reports that have fluttered across this here Internets, the PlayStation 3 version of Alone in the Dark is not "delayed." According to Atari, the title will ship simultaneously with the Xbox 360 and ...
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Alone in the Dark II news; Alone Harder?


Jun 25
// Earnest Cavalli
Alone in the Dark 2, Uwe Boll's amazingly inevitable sequel to last year's tax-dodge that was only vaguely based on the eponymous video game series, has just scored a cast. Bloody-Disgusting reports Lance Henriksen (...

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