Alone in the Dark (2008)

Alone in the Dark (2008) Review for PC

On: PCXbox 360PS3WiiPS2

Next generation outing for this classic of the survival horror genre.

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6Out of 10
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You heal yourself, but the nice touches are outnumbered by problems.
You heal yourself, but the nice touches are outnumbered by problems.

You heal yourself, but the nice touches are outnumbered by problems.

It's so disappointing as the game's puzzles are often brilliant. Fire plays a big part in the game and thanks to its realistic propagation across objects it reacts as you'd expect it to. That's generally a rule that applies to most objects in the game. If you think you'd solve a puzzle a certain way if you were actually there, then chances are that's how you solve it in the game. Electrical cable dangling in some water? No problem. Just hook the cable with a long object and move it to one side. Need something with a sharp blade? Simple. Just shoot down that sword on the wall in the museum. Need to set fire to something that is out of reach? That flaming car positioned at the bottom of what appears to be a seesaw might hold the key. You encounter clever yet logical puzzles throughout the game's 8-10 hour duration, yet they're simply not enough to overcome the substantial problems.

Combat is frequently one of these problems. Enemies in the game are only really vulnerable to fire, which means you can't simply shoot them in the head and be done with it. It's pretty cool when you first encounter them, as you're forced to set alight a chair and then swing it around like a mad man, but when you're trying to go from point A to B in the free-roaming Central Park it's a chore. You can combine fuel with bullets to create flaming ammo, but these still take a few shots, and combining a spray with your lighter to form a flame thrower is effective but a huge waste of resources. Home made bombs are good, but you'll burn through them very quickly, and there aren't all that many chairs lying around in Central Park for you to set alight.

Carnby moves terribly when he's not injured, but even slower when hurt, his turning speed in first-person is awfully slow and the camera is hopeless when you're in third-person, often switching to a cinematic view for no real reason. When you're not having to contend with enemies the game is far better, but they're only ever a few minutes away. One of the more interesting enemies is the black water that overpowers Carnby if he enters it. It's afraid of light though, so shine your torch on it and it'll retreat, throw in a glow stick and you'll clear a large area. However, even this is plagued by problems. Equipping and throwing a glow stick is fine, but you have to re-equip after each throw - fiddly, unnecessary annoyances like this sum up Alone in the Dark.

Towards the end of the game, when you've finally got to grips with the inventory system (at least to the extent that it's tolerable), you're sent on a hunt for demon roots, which you need to burn. This is the first time you really need to explore the free-roaming Central Park, and it brings into play the terrible driving model that you first had to endure during a spectacular looking but terribly annoying sequence early on in the game. Sarah remarks that "This isn't driving. This is murder", which sums it up better than I ever could. This hunt also stretches your resources to the limit and will test your patience to breaking point. While many of the roots require some clever thinking to access, this whole section seems designed to extend what would otherwise have been a fairly short game.

'Much has been made of the game's episodic structure, but it adds very little to the experience.'

Much has been made of the game's episodic structure, but it adds very little to the experience. Being able to skip through to later parts is fine (although not past the root hunting), but why would you want to? Its only real use is to access parts you enjoyed so you can play through them again. It's all presented nicely, with "previously on Alone in the Dark" montages greeting you before you play, but it's nothing more than another bullet point feature on the pack of the box. It would have been far preferable to play a game that featured impressive storytelling and voice acting, but this area of the game felt severely lacking. The story is decent enough, but the voice acting and on-screen portrayals aren't great.

Carnby looks nothing like he does on the game's cover art, instead appearing to be a 70-year-old, and all the characters swear as if trying to be cool in the school playground. Despite the impressive tech on display, characters have that plastic sheen that we saw an awful lot during the first year the Xbox 360 was on the market. It's certainly a next-gen title, sporting some impressive lighting and fire effects, and detailed environments, but animations are poor and the Xbox 360 game suffers from a sporadic frame rate and some ugly screen tearing. This isn't an issue when playing the game on a high-end PC, but there you have to contend with the awful keyboard and mouse controls unless you have a gamepad.

Your quick select favourites are a god send, but the inventory is still fiddly to use.

Your quick select favourites are a god send, but the inventory is still fiddly to use.

For a game set in an eerie looking Central Park, with monsters around every corner, Alone in the Dark isn't really very scary. You'd assume this would be a given. You even have the trademark torch that runs out of batteries, yet there are few scares. When a monster lands on the roof of your car for the first time you might jump, but then when you've seen another magically fly 100 metres in order to do so it ruins the mood somewhat. There's a constant fear of death, but this isn't down to the setting but the inevitable fumbling in your inventory. One of the scariest moments occurred early on when Carnby appeared to be having some kind of seizure, his body uncontrollably gyrating on the spot. Alas, this was a bug, just one of many that occurred during my play through of the game.

Atari's ambitious next-gen take on Alone in the Dark is packed full with potential. It has more than enough good ideas to make a brilliant, must-own game, but features even more bad game design and gameplay issues. As such it's without doubt the biggest disappointment this generation of consoles has seen and a game that's impossible to recommend. With the PS3 game not due out for a few months, we can only hope that Atari takes the time to deliver the game this should have been.

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Wonderful game

I can't disagree with all of you any more I think this game was awsome and I believe the more camera angles the better it gives the gamer freedom of choice in this ever enslaving world. I think it was a wonderful game I give it 4.5 stars
Posted 01:29 on 01 August 2008
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Anonymous

Not happy, I waited in great anticipation for this game on PC and gee what a let down! All it needed was plain old 3rd person view with keyboard movement controls and the mouse to move the camera angle and to attack. But no they have gota go and stuff it up with the stupidest controls ive eva used. How hard is it? I do love the idea of combining inventry and being able to use anything you can pick up as a weapon but what is the point if you cant bluddy control him to hit anything! major let down, cant even bring myself to play it anymore and im only an hr into it.
Posted 08:30 on 06 July 2008
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Anonymous

Good game. On the pc anway. Combat is brilliant against multiple enemies. Lock on, hack and slash, pull out a gun, blast them and once down make a flamable weapon from rubbish in your inventory to finish them off! Controls a bit naff but you get used to them. Graphics fantastic with some blocky walls to let things down a bit. Voice acting very good and believable. Overall sound excellent. Physics based puzzles are excellent but CPR with a mouse? What the hell was that all about? Feels like a cheap console port, should've made more effort to tune for the pc market but still an enjoyable survival romp.
Posted 11:51 on 05 July 2008
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Anonymous

I have the PC version - review is spot on. Terrible interface. Just aweful.
Graphics are average too - shiny skin and walls on a 8800 GTS card ruin any immersion - fire and lighting look great but compared to recent PC games like CoD4 the over all graphics are not impressive (and he DOES look like a 70 yr old - I just don't get it). So far sound is pretty good - voice acting is acceptable if nothing flash.

I don't rate this on release - perhaps a patch can help it improve but I doubt it - too much would need to be done and they obviously don't care much about the title to release it in such a state.

IMO I would steer clear of it - there's bound to be something more polished to spend your money on.
Posted 14:52 on 04 July 2008
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Anonymous

pile of rubbish, played it for 20 minutes and was bored out of my mind
Posted 17:53 on 01 July 2008
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Anonymous

I bought this for PC and I’m enjoying every minute. I read all the ‘negative reviews’ before I got stuck in and wondered if I had made a mistake. It may turn out to be a short game and yes there’re a few bugs but on the whole, I can’t understand why this game should score anything less than 70%.

Crappy controls? Eh? If you have a half decent keyboard and mouse combination, you can remap every key. I use the keyboard to control the character’s movement using a traditional FPS arrangement and use the mouse buttons to access the inventory and healing system. I took to the combat really well and love the tactile feel of swinging pipes and axes around my head before clobbering the enemy. I was surprised how natural it felt, evading and returning blows with ease. Brutal stuff. Works well for me. As does the hybrid third person and first person. Adopting different view points to overcome different challenges keeps everything fresh. The only moan here would a true third person perspective would’ve been better instead of occasionally using a Silent Hill type fixed camera thingy where you could walk down a corridor, turn a corner and the camera would reverse your controls. But slipping into first person mode at these times helps. You do get used to it and it isn’t often, thankfully. Driving is good too. Simple and effective and I don’t like racing games either.

Graphics are spot on. Again, on a pc with a high resolution and all the details on high, Central Park and its inhabitants look glorious. A few poor textures here and there but nothing too horrible. A good atmosphere and some outstanding visuals. Sound is generally of a high standard with all the reverb you could want from gunshots and impacts from your weapons. More grunt from car engines and heavier thuds when smashing down doors would’ve helped but again, you get used to it. The soundtrack is exceptional.

The entire presentation is unique. You don’t have to use the DVD menu select interface, of course. Handy if you want to replay favourite parts of the game, I imagine.

After a ropey start that in hindsight works perfectly well in setting the scene, the pc version is well worth a look. Shop around the various vendors and you can get it at a good price, because there’s little value for money. It’s a one shot game, unless the developers release additional episodes, which would extend the lifespan of the game on your hard drive. Still good fun with a huge variety of gameplay options.

Fresh, ambitious, fun in spades and with faults but nowhere near as bad as what some folk would have you believe. Stick with it...
Posted 14:33 on 01 July 2008
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Anonymous

It is way better than 3.5!!!
Posted 22:32 on 28 June 2008
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Hibariresident

I'm just glad that this game's actually out, especially I was waiting for something different this year. I got my copy & I'm actually quite impressed especially with the really creepy atmosphere. To each of their own opinions I guess, although there were some childish like comments already out on some other pages (best that if you can't write something meaningful, then don't do it). Anyway, this one's reminded me of the first ever Alone in the dark, a bit twitchy with the controls & combat, but that won't stop me re-playing it whilst waiting to get call back to travel back to Japan.
Posted 16:28 on 26 June 2008
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Sunny155

Even if the game controls are terrible in PC the player can still adapt to it if he truly like to enjoy the game. Assasin's Creed PC and Resident Evil 4 PC are the good examples of having terrible controls but than also they were successful and enjoyable. Previos AITD had some issues with maps,inventory and enemies but still it was enjoyable adventure game.
Posted 08:21 on 26 June 2008
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fyrflash1969

its still just a conclusion that it plays bad using a mouse and keyboard.. why does it play bad? Are the controls non responsive? Is the setup horrible and you cant remap it? Is the turn rate bad? Is it harder to target? What about the mouse and keyboard makes the game play terrible?

People read reviews because they dont have the game, and just putting conclusions in your review means nothing to the reader. All I get out of it is you dont like the PC controls because all you wrote is a conclusion, I have nothing to base if I would like them or not.


I also have to take issue with your final score, you say the puzzles in the game are great, and Alone in the Dark is an adventure game at heart. Most of the stuff you were critical of has always been a part of the Alone in the Dark franchise, and even though you dont like it, you need to review the game as an adventure game. If it has great puzzles and a decent story, it should score high as an adventure game. This game isnt meant to be a FPS, and I think you are holding the control standards up to that type of game. I understand it is an issue, but people interested in the game and expect this to be like the old AitD games will look at the score and think that the game isnt that good, when in fact, the old games had horrible controls, real time inventory issues and they were still great games, as adventure games. We dont hold it against sports game that they dont have good stories, we shouldnt put too much weight into the action sequences of adventure games. I realize this game is a bit more of a hybrid, but honestly, from reading your review and knowing what i know about the series, it seems like it would score higher to a fan of the original games. Its probably a love hate game that just rubbed you the wrong way.

Anyhow, I thought your review was well written, dont get me wrong, I just think people try to decide what versions of the game to get, and you dont really offer insight into the differences other than your opinion on the controls. Are the inventory systems EXACTLY the same, and is it the same difficulty manipulating inventory on the pc? It could be, but I find that hard to imagine.. How about the fact that the pc version retails for 20$ less.. which would you suggest getting?

The fact that you have the only review currently up on the PC version on gamerankings is probably what will draw a lot of attention to your article, and I think people will be let down that this isnt a pc review, its a mixed review of the 360 and pc, which honestly sounds more like a 360 review
Posted 15:20 on 25 June 2008
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TomO

To be clear I did play the PC game. Both games are identical except for varying performance depending on your hardware and the control options on PC. The game plays terribly on the PC using a mouse and keyboard, which is why I recommended using a gamepad.
Posted 10:20 on 25 June 2008
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Sunny155

I think fyrflash1969 has got the right point this review is based on Xbox 360 and adds a single line abt pc in the end. Alone in the dark in the PS was great bcos of chilling environment even if inventory, enemies and map system was bad. I think same is going with this one. Almost all the sites are rating the Pc version low based on Xbox 360 Review. All of them are ranting abt contols are bad in 360 but are they really bad in PC and why? hopefully these issues mayl be resolved with the patch. Im gonna wait for a month.
Posted 09:39 on 25 June 2008
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fyrflash1969

Obviously a 360 review by the focus on d pad inventory, turn rates and such. Only mention of pc comes in one paragraph in the form of a conclusion about mouse and keyboard controls with no justification why. If you are not going to bother to honestly review the pc version, dont bother posting it in the PC game section as well.

People expecting an Alone in the Dark game, like 1 and 2, will get exactly what they want. People expecting a shooter with puzzle elements will write crappy reviews like this one.
Posted 01:42 on 25 June 2008
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SupErnie

Renting at moment. Just about to start Episode 2. Can understand negative comments but DEFINITELY worth a rent at least. Who knows, you might actually like it. I do.
Posted 22:09 on 24 June 2008
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dfghj

its a love it or hate it game and i actually quite like it. for people who would like a mix of zelda style puzzles and resident evil horror and quite a lot of strategy, this is your game. Hard puzzles, a few jumpy horror bits and a tiny bit of comedy in gameplay are all included. But the fact that it is realistic is actually quite cool, like hotwiring cars and spreading fires through wooden objects. great physics and graphics on the 360 make it a really good game- worth buying.
Posted 21:01 on 24 June 2008

Game Stats

Alone in the Dark (2008)
6
Out of 10
Alone in the Dark (2008)
  • Some great puzzles
  • Impressive fire technology
  • Real-time inventory is awkward
  • Terrible controls
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 20/06/2008
Platforms: PC , Xbox 360 , PS3 , Wii , PS2
Developer: Eden Games
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Survival Horror
No. Players: One
Rating: BBFC 15
Site Rank: 3,500 5
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