Alone in the Dark (2008) Review for PC

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Great fire can't save Alone in the Dark
Great fire can't save Alone in the Dark

Great fire can't save Alone in the Dark

I've never played a game that has thrown me in more directions than Alone in the Dark. At times Eden's ambitious survival horror game touches on brilliance, dazzles with blockbuster spectacles and revels in originality. Its problem is that these moments make up a small portion of the game - a game which suffers from almost every longstanding gaming irritant and problem I've written about a thousand times over. Despite wanting to love it and enjoy its many clever puzzles, disappointment, frustration and annoyance set in all too often.

You play as Edward Carnby, who awakens in a fairly groggy state at the start of the game in a room with an old man (Paddington) - who soon becomes a pivotal character in the game. Strangely, Ed is the very same character from the old Alone in the Dark games, presumably sent through time to the modern day. From the off you're asked to blink in order to clear your vision, just one of the game's real-world gameplay mechanics which are both genius and immeasurably annoying. You're in an apartment block overlooking Central Park, New York, and soon enough things take a turn for the worst. The building begins to break apart, fissures appear along walls and demons possess the bodies of the living. You must get out alive, and it's here that the game's controls become the real villain of the piece.

Alone in the Dark is really a handful of games rolled into one. At times it's a Resident Evil 4 like third-person game, but it's also a first-person shooter, a third-person varied camera adventure game and a driving game. You're free to switch to first-person at any time, although the game decides if the third-person view should be over the shoulder or from a cinematically placed camera. After only a few minutes it's all too obvious that deciding against a singular view point is one of the developer's biggest mistakes.

The opening sections are really there for spectacle, tutorial purposes and to meet the main secondary characters (the aforementioned Paddington and Sarah, an art dealer), with the proper game not really beginning until you enter Central Park itself, but the foundations have already been laid. From a third-person viewpoint you can use melee weapons, moving the right analogue stick around to attack. Anything you can pick up can be used as a weapon, and while it's a little clunky it works well enough. You'll probably want to fire your gun at an incoming enemy, but you can't do so from a third-person viewpoint. Switching to a first-person viewpoint allows you do use projectile weapons, but here the aiming is so fiddly (and the enemies are often so unpredictable) that hitting anything is harder than it looks.

'As great as the real inventory system seemed on paper and in presentations, in practice it simply doesn't serve to improve the game.'

Throughout the game you'll be constantly switching between the two views, and it doesn't make for good gameplay. A third-person over the shoulder view that also allowed for Resident Evil 4 style shooting would have been fine, as would a Condemned style first-person view that also allowed melee combat. Having both simply complicates matters. This is even before the game's inventory system is factored in to the gameplay - something you'd assume would have little to no effect on the actual in-game action.

Your inventory in Alone in the Dark is accessed in real time by Carnby looking down into his jacket. It features slots for numerous items, with bottles, canisters and other throwable objects on the right, gun and torch in the middle, and everything else on the left. With limited space storage is always a problem, and you'll regularly have to drop items in order to pick up others - whether it be an essential health spray or much needed bottle of fuel. You can equip one item in each hand, allowing for various combinations, and even combine items before equipping, allowing for such things as sticky bombs or Molotov cocktails.

The story and characters can't carry the game

The story and characters can't carry the game

It's an incredibly fiddly and tricky menu to work with, made worse by the fact that monsters can walk up and batter you while you're trying to combine your leftover items to make something half useful. A handy 'favourites' system allows you to assign up to four left/right hand combinations for quick selection (a lighter in your right hand and bottle of whisky with a bandage jammed in it in the left, for example), which removes a layer of fiddling, but there are so many combinations that you'll always be tinkering with things in your inventory. As great as the real inventory system seemed on paper and in presentations, in practice it simply doesn't serve to improve the game.

Take this situation as an example of how mind numbingly annoying the game can be at times. You're in a lavatory, desperate for a health spray (spraying this over your wounds heals you, and yes, it's done in real time) while just seconds away is a group of blood-thirsty crazed enemies. You set the door to the room on fire to act as a barrier, and then loot the room, hoping for that illusive white canister. You see one in a cabinet, but you're not allowed to pick it up as the right side of your jacket is full. You haphazardly dump items on the floor, freeing up space, then return to the cabinet. For some reason you aren't allowed to pick up the health spray until you've picked up everything else around it. Gahhh. The fire is about to die out and you can sense a horrific mauling. Quickly you grab the items, switch to your inventory and dump it all again. You're now able to grab the spray. Quickly you press right on the d-pad to bring up the healing interface, press the right trigger to begin spraying and then get smashed in the face by a demon monster. You're skull has been crushed and it's time to try that all over again. Did I say Alone in the Dark is annoying?

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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: 9,063 164
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