Alone In the Dark
In Many Ways, I should be grateftil to Alone In The Dark. Over the past few days of playing this horror action-adventure, it's forced me on innumerable occasions to go back and re-examine exactly why I play games. What is the point of this magnificent hobby? Why do we keep coming back for more? The simple answer is that no other medium gives you as much fun. We play games because they're the liest form of entertainment on the planet.
Lofty assertions aside, I can now explain why I'm emotionally and physically battered and bruised from hitting my fists on the desk, grinding my teeth, screaming at the screen and haranguing poor Will Porter about my liained experiences -AITD, for vast amounts of time, just isn't fun. That's the absolute core of it. There are moments of excellence, but they're consistently punctured by jaw-dropping ineptitude.
Fissures Of Men
AITD is a continuation of the HP Lovecraft-inspired series that set the standard for the whole survival horror genre Ixick in the early '90s. Paranormal investigator Edward Carnby returns as the lead character, although this time he begins his adventure in New York, with that old chestnut amnesia and a newly-discovered enchant for saying "fuck" a lot After escaping from a nasty antagonist called Crowley (clever eh?), Camby is then followed around an aiwrtment block by an evil force that cracks open the building, causing massive destruction and some truly awful dialogue - one girl actually says, "These fissures are hunting us!" This action is hectic, and fairly competently done, with rooms collapsing, walls breaking apart, people plummeting to the ground and physics-powered debris falling around you.
The first, and overwhelmingly major, problem you encounter is the game's control system - using the PC keyboard and mouse is virtually impossible. I don't mind using a key-plan for an RTS, but for a console-style action game? You use the standard W, S, A, D to move around in third-person (using the awkward old-style Resident Evil "rotate and move" system), but that switches to standard FPS movement when you press Tab to go into a first person view. To close your eyes and blink, use X; . a quick turn is Left Alt; H brings up healing mode; E is use, etc. As you progress, the game keeps you informed of the growing list of I commands, that change subtly in a different context, like when you're in a vehicle for example. However, in third person, you can't use a fire extinguisher to put out any blazes until you switch to first-person. The same goes for shooting enemies with the gun, or using the torch to fend off one of the game's swirling darkness monsters, both require using the first-person view. The health system is another example of a mechanic that is overly-complicated just for the sake of it. Instead of just having simple health packs that heal you, AITD has first aid sprays that you have to torturously use on every wound of your Ixxly in first-person view. If you cjet a major wound, you haemorrliage and have to find a bandage to wrap around the cut within seven minutes or you die, which is a classic example of semi-realism adding precisely no fun to a game.
The whole system is an utter mess - inconsistent, unintuitive and confusing. The developers obviously designed AITD to lie used on a console pad, so once you switch to an Xbox 360 controller it all makes much more sense - it's as if you've been trying to open a jar of pickled onions with . your feet, only to realise it might be less effort if you used your hands.
After giving up with the mouse and keyboard, AITD begins to dribble out entertainment, and one of the best things I can say about the game is that you genuinely don't know what's going to happen next. One minute you're dangling from a rope over a lift shaft with fizzing electric cables, the next you're negotiating your way through a dank underground sewer system. AITD is structured like an episodic TV series, with each individual episode consisting of a number of sequences -and you can skip past aoy sequence. It's handy if you get stuck... and you will get stuck, but you sacrifice most of your weapons and items. And you will get stuck. I found myself skipping sequences at quite regular intervals, simply because in places the game is just ridiculously difficult, and also any death results in you being thrown back to the beginning of the level - don't expect quick saves here.
Another major disappointment are the enemies: after the story setup and visceral cracks appearing in walls, you're suddenly confronted by a bog-standard female zombie straight out of The Evil Dead. Other creatures are taken straight from Half-Life (headcrabs) or other horror shooters, such as Doom, all of which shows off the developers' desperate lack of imagination. Plus, their Al is average at best, as they lurch and make grabs for you, or simply turn away and stand still, as if all their hellish malevolence has finally tired them out.
One of the major parts of AITD that the developers were keen to hype in previews is the ability to use objects in the environment as weapons.
On encountering a chair, for example, the context-sensitive Use button pops up with an option to pick it up, and using the right analogue stick, you can then swing it about to twat any nearby monsters, although it feels genuinely down to chance whether this works.
Fire is an example of something done well in the game - it looks good, spreads realistically, and if you're holding wooden objects, you can set them ablaze and use them to destroy any of Satan's underlings, on whom ordinary bullets have no effect. Objects can also be picked up and used to smash open doors that are locked, thrown at enemies, or combined in your inventory (shown by Camby opening his jacket) to create new uses. So, if you need a molotov cocktail, you combine a tissue or bandage with a bottle, then hold it in your left hand while using a Zippo lighter in your right. If it sounds faffy, that's because it is. You can assign favourite weapon setups to one of four hotkeys (or a separate menu on the 360 pad), but this doesn't work sometimes, so you have to then go back into the inventory during a battle (during which time you still get hit by enemies) and begin your Blue Peter "let's make something" session again.
Like much of AITD, the idea of creating DIY weapons is a good one, but it's badly implemented and awkward to use. Molotov cocktails explode in your hand if you don't throw them in time, which is another frustrating flourish. Again, semi-realism does not a good game make.
If you die in battle, you lose all your meticulous preparation work, and have to start again - and not everything can be picked up, so you often walk around trying desperately to find a wooden cudgel to set fire to, while a zombie spits blood at you. AITD feels as if Eden Games has actually decided to design elements of gameplay to specifically piss you off -well, maybe they did - time and time again. It manages to flout one of the most important rules of game design -the player should know that any death they suffer is their fault, and not the game. The platforming sections have no forgiveness, so you can just fall off the edge; a crack in the ground can appear and suddenly involve you in a fatal minigame that makes no sense; the switching between first and third-person means that your character can clumsily fall into an electrified patch of water, etc.
The list of hate gets longer the more you play. Take the driving model, which you'd think Eden Games could've got right, seeing as their main staple up to now has been racing games such as Test Drive Unlimited. Well, it's bloody awful. Cars handle like they're made of tin, and glitches mean they often get stuck when you're driving around the open-world sections of Central Park, or flip you over so you have to just get out and find another. On top of that you get stupid monsters that leap ridiculously through the air to land on your bonnet and punch you through the windscreen, which if you're trying to jump a chasm (a bit of a theme in AITD), disrupts the run up and sends you hurtling down the crevice to your doom.
AITD is a bag of pearls and vomit -occasionally featuring inventive ideas, but peppered with bad gameplay design decisions every desperate step of the way. Good: the Lost-style "Previously in..." edited sequences, the slick PDA gizmo, fire, the movie-style camera angles and orchestral soundtrack, the first time you bash open a door with a fire extinguisher, and some of the noncombat levels such as the atmospheric sequence in Room 943, that I won't spoil in case anyone buys the game and gets that far.
Bad: everything else. I was really looking forward to AITD, but it just ended up annoying me until I gouged the words "HATEFUL GAME" into my notepad. Unfortunately, that will be my lingering memory. I just hope I don't have nightmares...
Download Alone In the Dark
The grandfather of all survival-horror games felt more like a dinosaur in its most recent console iterations (not to mention its craptastic movie). But Alone in the Dark's next-gen debut should be chilling. The game's story revolves around Edward Carnby's investigation of paranormal elements linked to the afterlife, but the setting--New York City's Central Park, which is already full of fright at night--is paramount. "People will feel disrupted because this game happens where people usually feel at peace," says Producer Nour Polloni. "It's a city in the city, and we wanted to create a myth around Central Park and raise the question of why there is such a vast space right in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities in the world." And, surprisingly, creepy creatures won't be the catalysts for all of the scares here. "One of the approaches we're using to create fear is to work on people's phobias," says Polloni. "Like fear of heights, suffocation, animal bites, and drowning. Those things that paralyze them from reacting."
DUSTY OLD MANSIONS, fog-filled towns, insane asylums--been there, not so scared of that anymore. The repetitive nature of survival-horror settings is killing the fright factor in videogames, which is why we're looking forward to Alone in the Dark's unexpected backdrop: New York City's Central Park. Even the Big Apple's craziest kooks are afraid of the spooks that lie within its 843 acres, especially when night falls. And after recently learning more about the game (which is a series reboot), we can say the locale isn't the only surprise in store.
It's episodic: While so many games look to the silver screen for inspiration (and pale in comparison), AlTD's structure takes a page from hit TV series like Lost and 24. Each level will essentially act as an episode (the disc will contain around 11, each consisting of 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes of gameplay), complete with plot twists and cliff-hangers. Oh, and you know those times where you put a game down for a while, only to come back and totally blank on what happened previously or what you're supposed to do next? That won't be a problem here. "A ‘coming next' trailer plays when you leave the game at the end of the episode to tease you into wanting more," says Producer Nour Polloni of developer Eden Games. "Then, the previous trailer plays when you come back to help you get back into the story." Also, Eden isn't ruling out offering additional episodes (via download) after the game ships.
It's hot: As you guide Edward Carnby (yes, the same paranormal investigator from the 1992 original) through Central Park, it'll be important to bring out his inner pyromaniac. And whether you're torching stacked-up furniture, wooden roofs, or the game's evil forces, "fire will behave as it does in real life," says Polloni. "It'll propagate in real time across flammable surfaces and objects, moving at different speeds depending on the material." It's got an olfactory bulb: "Enemies can detect you with a full range of senses--including, of course, sight and sound, but also smell," says Polloni. This unique characteristic (at least for game A.I.) does give AlTD's fuglies a leg up when hunting you down, but you'll find instances where you can actually turn it against them. "This lets you actually bait enemies," says Polloni, "with blood trails or a cadaver, which can prove to be very useful."
It's got air-conditioning: Even though most of your time will be spent on foot, you can also hop into vehicles to get around NYC's sprawling recreation area. These aren't the typical videogame rides, though--AlTD's cars come fully loaded with working radios, heat, and AC. More importantly, these features will factor into gameplay. "You won't be turning on the radio for hits of yesteryear," says Polloni. "You'll be picking up distress calls, for example, which can give you useful information like meeting points for survivors. And if it's a cool night in New York City, the heater could come in handy getting that frost off the vehicle's windshield."
Derceto, with its steeply angled roof and sinister appearance, guards in--its basement the secrets of Astarte, the goddess of fertility to whom the house was dedicated. The owner of this mysterious building, Jeremy Hartwood, died a few days ago. The police report concluded that he had taken his own life. Derceto is now empty. Rumors abound of a curse or of an evil power dwelling within its walls. For some days now a cloud of doubt has hung over your mind. What are those lights inside the house at nightfall? What could account for the eerie noises? Why did Jeremy commit suicide? And what compels you toward the house? What is Derceto's secret?
I like the impressive animation and the fact that you can move almost anywhere in the house.
The fighting sequences need to be refined a little because the controls lag.
The game is a great horror story. Some players may even get a few chills running up their spine.
Alone in the Dark is kind of like Out of This World meets The 7th Guest. Kind of, we said. It lumbers along with a polygon-animated, horror-under-the-floorboards theme.
Alone in the Dark is a new virtual-reality ghost hunter that takes place in the deserted mansion of Jeremy Hartwood. Hartwood took his own life, leaving behind a legacy of horrible puzzles that you must solve.
You play as either Emily Hartwood, Jeremy's niece, or Edward Carnby, a private detective. The action takes place in the mid-1800s, which lends the game a Victorian feel. Once you establish who the protagonist is, the rest of the game involves solving riddles, finding dues, knocking off a few undead creatures, and basically getting your butt out of the house in one piece.
Some amenities that help you on your quest include a shotgun, a bow, and mirrors. You open chests, break vases, and serve as the maitre'd at a Ghoul Banquet, to name a few scenarios.
The action is linear, which means you can't progress until certain items are found in order. This tight restriction makes for a very formal, less adventurous game. Then again you'd expect that sort of conservatism in Victorian times.
The sparse polygon-based graphics offer minimal detail. While the game shoots for a more realistic 3D effect, it produces only silly-looking, quirky-moving monsters. Maybe this haunted house is on Sesame Street.
The sounds fare better than the graphics. Weird moaning, zombie laughter, and occasional hands-around-the-throat screams instill the right mood. There's very little music, but what's there does enhance the scenes.
Controlling your character is as hard as getting Queen Victoria to do the Hustle. The sprites' syrupy movements affect your ability to react in crisis situations, especially when you're facing more than one monster.
Alone Again... Unnaturally
Alone in the Dark is for gamers who want a little puzzle, a little challenge, and lots of hang time. While the action is nothing to write home about, you'll marvel at the use of fully animated polygons and 3D views. The problem is, after that you'll be all Alone.
- If you read the fable in the attic correctly, these two gargoyles should have a problem with mirrors. Try the end tables for placement.
- Instead of fighting the two monsters in the attic, move the cabinet to cover the window and move the trunk to cover the trapdoor. Do it fast, because both monsters show up quickly.
- You don't have to tight every monster If you shut the doors quickly enough.
- Check the bookshelf in the attic for a hit-or-myth clue.
- Sometimes finding a clue Isn't enough-you have to search the clue for dues. What's inside the flask?
- Check every possible container In the vicinity before and after a sequence of events, such as a fight
The award-winning PC game comes to 3DO with all its excitement intact. The story line involves a suspicious suicide, a chilling curse, and an evil power. This one-player game features fast polygon graphics, 3D control of your character, and zooming and panning techniques seen in movies. Unlike the computer version, the 3DO version uses digitized speech.