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Alone in the Dark
Company:
Atari
Website: Official Site
Estimated Street Price: $49.99/£39.99
Review By:
Byron Hinson

Alone in the Dark was one of the first ever survival horror titles released 10 years ago – since then the genre has moved on to produce fantastic titles like the Resident Evil series as well as the top title – Resident Evil 4 on the Gamecube and wii. Atari has decided to go back to its roots and create a new Alone in the Dark title with the same guy in the lead role – Edward Carnby

In Alone in the Dark, Central Park is hiding a secret. Built as a safe haven not only for the people of New York, but for something else entirely, generations of guardians have long protected the truth, preserving the vast parkland while the most expensive city in the world reached skyward on its fringes. Now the truth can no longer be contained. Alone in the Dark’s main character paranormal investigator Edward Carnby finds himself inexplicably cast into the eye of the storm as over the course of one apocalyptic night he must uncover the earth-shattering secret behind Central Park. New York will never be the same again. Are you ready to be alone in the dark?

Inspired by the gripping style of contemporary TV dramas, Alone in the Dark delivers a new degree of narrative intensity, presented as a complete season format of episodes each containing action, twists and cliff-hangers. Bursting with innovative technology, including unprecedented environmental interaction, revolutionary physics, advanced artificial intelligence, stunning visuals, and uniquely immersive user interface, Alone in the Dark breaks gaming clichés to fulfil the next-gen promise and deliver a new kind of entertainment experience.

Central Park: One of the world’s most iconic and best loved urban landmarks, Central Park has been accurately reproduced in Alone in the Dark using satellite data and thousands of photographs.

Captivating story: The story of Alone in the Dark reveals the conspiracy behind Central Park and challenges beliefs on the afterlife, based on ideas and theories drawn from real-world spiritual philosophies.

Narrative Intensity: Taking cues from blockbuster TV dramas, Alone in the Dark is told in a TV season-style narrative structure to deliver the maximum intensity throughout, keeping the Alone in the Dark player hooked.

Real world rules: Revolutionary technology brings a new level of environmental interaction to the gameplay of Alone in the Dark, where anything you could do in real life, you can do in the game!

Immersion: The Alone in the Dark player is plunged into the heart of the action in real-time with full movement control, in-game inventory system, on-body damage and healing system, and physiological effects.

Photographic Rendering: Eden’s proprietary Twilight technology and rendering engine create a lavishly detailed game world for Alone in the Dark, with highly realistic and advanced cinematographic effects including depth of field, camera focus, numerous light sources, moisture, reflections and High Dynamic Range effects.

So does Alone in the Dark manage to bring back Atari’s fortunes and reproduce the success of one of the best loved PC game series of the past?

How Does It play

Well firstly lets get the start out of the way, the game begins with what feels like a tutorial where the controls are attempted to be explained to you, this is where the game loses ground very early on, the controls are a complicated mess, something that really should have been sorted out by now considering how long the game has been in production. The game is played in both first and third person perspectives, you choose which perspective to play in, but a lot of the time you are forced to play in one or the other.

First person mode is the easiest to control – you use you gun and flammable objects in this view as well as a few other features. In third person view you pick up objects, use hand held objects to fight with,  jump, climb etc in. This sounds fine when you read it this way, but moving around can be a pain, getting objects from your inventory is slow and cumbersome and having to change modes just to get a decent view is a very big annoyance.

So what is the actual gameplay like? Well surprisingly underneath the dire controls there is an excellent game lurking below with a number of innovative features thrown in that work well. The platforming is well setup with some excellent set pieces during sections and the inventory, while being a pain in the ass to access items, allows you to combine and create different weapons to use in the game and works well in this respect.

The game also allows a DVD style chapter select, which you can use if you get stuck in areas…which we will come on in a short while. This is a clever feature that works perfectly, though I’m not sure I like the idea of being able to skip areas just because they are too hard – my view is that if they are too hard the difficulty level should be adjusted, not letting you skip sections. It does work well to allow you to return to sections after you have completed the game though.

Now then, talking of difficultly – the game has a strange mix of adventure, first person shooting and driving – yes driving, the game is supposed to be using the Test Drive engine for the driving sections, not that you would know as they are a royal pain in the ass. The default view for these sections is third person – the problem there is that it is very hard to see where you need to go on your pre-determined route when driving in this view, you have to play in first person mode to really get around these levels – dying in them puts you right back to the beginning of the driving sections too which is another needless annoyance in the game.

The game has some great touches though, you are able to use objects to break down doors, you can use wooded objects create fires to burn both enemies as well as wooden items or doors that are blocking your way. You can pick up electric cables and electrocute creatures and electrify water too. You can shoot out gas tanks, blow up cars and more.

The open ended gameplay that we were told about when the title was announced hasn’t come about though – yes central park is large and open for you, but there isn’t a lot to do in it and you nearly always HAVE to heard for your objective. At least there are cars you can get into along the way to speed about in, just a shame they are hard to control!

The main disappointment I have though is that the game isn’t scary one bit when compared to the original Alone In the Dark title – it could have been there is no doubt, especially with some of the excellent lighting work the game has in its engine.

The game has its far share of bugs too – some of them crash the game even on the Xbox for no apparent reason. You can get stuck in areas, the car gets stuck in trees and won’t reverse – lots of little niggles that with a few months more development time you hope could have been fixed and lift this title up another notch.

Graphics and Sound

Graphically Alone in the Dark is a mixed bag – sometimes it looks fantastic with some superb lighting and very good artwork as well as some superb set pieces. Other times it has a dodgy framerate – poor character designs, low res textures and is too dark for its own good.

Sound is decent but never great – the game also suffers with some low volume problems which I haven’t seen on other Xbox titles – I have to turn up the volume a lot higher with this game that any other. It can also be hard to hear people talking because the surround sound doesn’t seem to be perfectly calibrated either. A shame as some of the voice work is decent. Music is good though, but again nothing to write home about.

Final Comments


Byron's Gamertag

It is a shame that the game has been released in the state it has been, the controls are very poor, and I can’t blame Atari’s rush for that as the developers have had enough time to sort those problems out  - the bugs and crashes would have been fixed though. The gameplay itself is excellent in general, but the controls really hamper the enjoyment of the game and because of this it doesn’t score as highly as it easily could have done, a disappointment and a real shame as there is an excellent title waiting to come out of the dark.

 

Specs & Package
Overall Score 71%
Version Reviewed Alone in the Dark (PAL)
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 1 Alone in the Dark (PAL) DVD-ROM
1 Set Of Instructions
The Good Points Some great graphics
Good Puzzles
Decent Story
Some innovation
The Bad Points Buggy
Buggy
Bad Controls
HD Resolutions 480p
720p
1080i
1080p


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