Alone in the Dark – Reviewed – XBOX 360

6 min read
7

By Philip Dunkley 

I once again need to get something straight before I even remotely begin to get involved in the review of this game. Sometimes, it is remarkably difficult to review a game, especially when it has the highest high points, and some of the lowest low points. Being objective is always a specifically difficult strategy to approach, especially when gut feel takes a role, and other factors come into play. What I have decided to do here, and this is the first time we have ever done this, is to give this game two different scores, purely as I cannot think of another way to do this.

Let’s start with the history here. I played all the other Alone in the Dark series when I was a lot younger, and although I don’t remember too much about them, I do remember one thing. They were always innovative, and the story telling was fantastic. Bringing this into current times, this has not changed, in fact, it’s evolved, a lot, and this might be the reason this game is so difficult to review.

 

The story is once again based around Edward Carnby, set in current day New York, and the fact that he is still alive after so many years is explained throughout the game, so I won’t spoil this at all. He also has no idea who he is, so the usual amnesia role rears its head again. He slowly finds out about his past as the game plays out, but the basic gist is that a certain ritual has taken place to awaken a malignant force, and this is what caused the amnesia, and it’s up to him, and his co-stars to start figuring out what is going on, as Central park has literally been ripped up and detached from greater new York, and Demons are pretty much taking over the neighbourhood. It plays out through one night in Central Park, and Atari has done some pretty cool work on the way the game is presented to the player. It plays out like a TV Series, with menu systems allowing you to more backwards and forwards throughout the game, like chapters, at your own discretion. It even has a “previously in Alone the Dark” feature.So basically, if you get stuck at a specific spot, you can jump that section, and move on with the rest of the game, and come back to the other section later.  It’s actually a very nice feature.

Now to the gameplay, and this is where it can go either very well, or very very wrong. Let me start by saying this. This is an adventure horror game that will throw elements of action, puzzle, FPS, ledge jumper and physics game all into one package and this is where Alone in the Dark made its first mistake. They tried to put to many things into one game, and instead of perfecting a few of the mechanics, they tried to get all them “sort of working”. Let me give you an example. The inventory system works in Edwards’s jacket, so you physically have to open his jacket. Then let’s say you want to throw a Molotov cocktail at an enemy. You would then have to open jacket, combine rag with bottle, equip bottle, equip lighter, combine lighter and bottle, go out of inventory, aim flaming bottle, and then finally throw, by which time the enemy is already on top of you and you will end up damaging yourself. There is no pause in the inventory screen.  Sometime it works really well, as you have enough time, but other times, the simplest actions just don’t work. But it’s not all doom and gloom here. The physics engine in this game is fabulous at points, so some the puzzles are ingenious. You will find some of the answers to a few puzzles staring you right in the face, purely by using physics, and not even notice it.

Then we get on to other issues, I played the game for about 3 hours before finding my first bug within the game, and then they came fast and furiously, but different people have experienced different things, and one noticeable and famous issue was the car chase scene in NY, which apparently everyone struggled with, but I did it first time, so experiences can vary.


We then move onto the graphic department, another mistake in some respects. This can be a total marvel to look at, or a total flop due to bugs. Some of the details on characters faces are wicked, and look amazing, and the environments are solid as hell, giving NYC its darkest, most malevolent look to date. The physics engine adds a real live feeling to the game. But sometimes things get a bit one dimensional, that’s the only way I can describe it. Another up and down experience here. Fire looks good here though, and there is a lot of fire!!!!

From a sound point of view, here is one part of this game that shines through on every level, probably one of the best sounding games I have heard. The musical score is haunting and magical, with the “Mystery of Bulgarian Voices” doing a fantastic job of the vocals within the score along with some really dramatic music to accompany it. The actual sound effects are brilliant too, with all the effects of fire, electricity, gunfire and the likes sounding very realistic, so it’s absolute ear candy!!!

How can I sum this game up???? It’s very ambitious, and I applaud anyone for this, and it’s by no means unplayable, so don’t get that idea. It’s just this. If you are going to get put off by buggy graphics and a control system that leaves little to be desired, you are going to hate this game, period. But if you can put all that aside, and endure through the frustrating moments within the game, you will find a game that has an amazing story to tell, and a nightmare that has to be lived through, purely because when the good times roll in this game, it feels mighty good.  I’m going to score this from both angles, one for a person who will shun the issues, and the other from a person who can deal with it.

Scoring (Can’t deal with Issues)
Gameplay: 4/10 [Just too frustrating to deal with]
Presentation: 4/10 [Some good, too many bugs]  
Sound: 10/10 [Fantastic]     
Value: 4/10 [You won’t finish it]   
Overall: 4/10 [You just won’t enjoy] 

Scoring (Can deal with Issues)
Gameplay: 7/10 [Still frustrating]
 
Presentation: 7/10 [Inconsistent]
Sound: 10/10 [Fantastic]
Value: 7/10 [You’ll finish it] Overall: 7.5/10 [Frustrating, but enjoyable,]

Last Updated: July 1, 2008

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