Sunday, June 29, 2008

Being alone isn't that scary.

When the end of the year comes and the best and worst of lists are written Alone in the Dark will not doubt top many "Biggest letdown" lists. It's sad to because Alone in the Dark shows alot of promise. It's easy to see the developers had the best of intentions and where trying to make something revolutionary how ever most of if not all of the aspects implemented into the game aren't realized to there fullest and bring the experience down.

Lets start with the story. You play Edward Carnby who awakens with no memory of who he is, where he is or how he got there. He is then thrust into a situation that is very much beyond his control but it seems it is up to him to get to the bottom of it. The game at first glance seems to have a great plot but it's hard to care much when the voice acting is so bad that you will find yourself wanting to skip the cut scenes. It also doesn't help much that what is supposed to be scary in the game is either not scary because of the voice acting or because of the rigid animation the game has going on. Which leads to the next problem.

Control. The game is so clumsy and slow in everything it does it gets very very frustrating. Some may say the controls are supposed to be like that it helps induce scary situations. To that I say that is no longer acceptable after Resident Evil 4. The game is so hard to control it's a wonder you can even defeat enemies in combat. Which again leads to the next problem.

The combat. Now if you were following the game like I was and watched the tech demo released on the web and on Xbox Live then you were no doubt impressed by the fire in the game. The fire indeed looks great and acts and works just like a real blaze would which is an integral part of the game. Why you ask? Well the monsters and enemies you come across can only be killed with fire. A great thing to add for story sake we all remember John Carpenters The Thing in which the only way to complete kill the alien was to burn it. That added alot of tension and terror to the film and I would imagine that they were going for the same thing in Alone in the Dark. However in practice it's very annoying and slows down the game quite a bit. Let me explain. The game utilizes a coat inventory system in which Edward will open his coat Ala the merchant in Resident Evil 4 and display everything he has acquired. A nifty way to show the inventory indeed. The catch is that the game isn't paused while viewing this screen so the monsters can still attack you. Why is this a problem you ask? Well at many points in the game there is no fire to utilize and you will have to make your own be it Flaming bullets or a bottle of flammable spray with a lighter to make a mini flame thrower. The problem here is that nifty little inventory screen isn't the best thing to sift through while being attacked and makes getting armed enough to fend off the beasts attacking you a chore. Were you able to simply attack the monsters with a nearby object and finish them off without flame that alone would make the game far more enjoyable.

In addition to all that Alone in the Dark is host to one of the most horrid driving sequences ever put into a game. There are more bugs and glitches in this little section then there are in the entirety of other games. It is so bad in fact that I would argue that if a player is unaware of the chapter skip function(that I wouldn't be surprised was added because of this horrid driving section) that this section of the game would cause them to give up and return the game.

Alone in the Dark is a bit of a mystery to me. Some of the problems with the game could have been fixed had it stayed in development for a while longer. We are talking about bad collision detection, jerky animation, bad camera, along with a few bad design choices some of which could be removed entirely for the benefit of the game. The game was delayed many times so I don't think it was being rushed that caused this to happen. It's sad really because you can see by what there is that the people behind Alone in the Dark really wanted to make something great and through out the game there are hints of that greatness but there are so many things both large and small that bring it down it's just so hard to recommend.

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