|System: X360, Wii, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Eden Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atari||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 24, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The use of fire in the game is also poor. This was supposed to be one of the marquis features of the title, but it doesn't work well at all. Though the fire effects look quite nice, constantly having to use fire to permanently take out enemies, blast through walls, and light your way is more of a hassle than an interesting mechanic. In fact, gamers will undoubtedly feel shackled to it. After all, there are only so many ways to use fire, and they all feel played out after the first few times.
Finally, the game implements a camera system that allows players to choose between a first and third person view. Maddeningly, players will constantly have to bounce between the two of them, as platforming is superior while in third person view, and combat via the gun is only possible in first person. This schizophrenic approach is decidedly poor. Additionally, while in third person, the nearly-fixed camera positions are out of your control and are reminiscent of older Resident Evil titles. This hinders gameplay in Alone in the Dark. There's a reason RE4 switched to an over-the-shoulder view!
The developers tried to add layers of realism and complexity with these innovations, but in practice they are poorly conceived and superfluous. The only other innovation I actually enjoyed was the use of the PDA. Similar to Niko's cell phone in GTA4 (but far less annoying), the PDA is your in-game menu interface. The PDA will let you make calls to people you meet, gives you a GPS map with objectives, and even allows you to receive text messages with instructions and key bits that can be reviewed later.
Other than some minor button inconsistencies across views, vehicles, on ropes, etc. the button layout is fine. However, picking up items on the ground, making quick turns, hot wiring cars, swinging away and shooting at enemies, driving sequences, item combinations, dragging around corpses, inventory selection, the healing mechanic, and even negotiating ledges and jumps (platforming) are all utterly shambolic. I almost forgot to mention that Carnby can't even punch. That's right; you can only attack baddies with an item in your hand. That means you'll be running around like a chicken looking for its head rather than grappling the various minions in heroic struggles. Unfortunately, the wonky controls and often obtuse gameplay moments will have many players scratching their heads, shouting out expletives, and essentially giving up on difficult sections in order to advance the story.
Visually, the game is incredibly disappointing. This title was touted as a graphical triumph, but it ends up not living up to the hype. For starters, the faces and animations are not very good. Everyone looks and moves like they were made out of wax and rubber. The characters are all very ugly-looking, but not in a stylized, Sleepy Hollow kind of way; it just seems unpolished. The ragdoll physics applied to corpses is entirely exaggerated; I constantly saw bodies bend in half like Gumby simply by walking past them. Textures tended to look flat and out of place - except for metal. For example, the wrinkles on shirts and faces looked completely unrealistic; it looked like everyone was wearing a mask. Finally, the dark environments were exactly that - dark. There was nothing that gave me an eerie feeling; it was just difficult to see. Nevertheless, the one bright spot in the graphics actually had to do with the lighting and shadows, all of which were masterfully rendered.
While the game employs a wonderful score and themes along with solid sound effects, the voice acting was not believable. All the same, I would say the sounds in the game are excellent, but it seems like the amount of effort that went into their creation could have been expended in other more important areas. It's kind of sad when the aural icing on the cake is more memorable than the dry layers of gameplay.
Obviously, Alone in the Dark didn't come close to living up to expectations. It seems like the development team bit off more than they could chew. However, there is an interesting story to be found and many of the components are decent. I think many people will find $60 worth of enjoyment out of the title, but it's not the shiny gem we were expecting. I commend Eden Games on the risks they took and the daring they displayed. In an industry rife with cookie-cutter sequels, it's nice to see someone stick their neck out. Hopefully, the creators will take their time with the Fall release of the PS3 version and address many of the game's faults.
CCC Editor / News Director