Qualitysurvival horror games are woefully hard to come by on consoles thesedays, and its easy to understand why. As hardware gets more powerfuland gamers expectations grow, building a big, beautiful world full ofmind-bending puzzles, creepy creatures and compelling storylines is anincreasingly Herculean task. But its a job Ataris Eden Games studiobravely took on with Alone in the Dark, an ambitious adventure game setin and around New Yorks Central Park. Alone in the Dark (only nominallyconnected to its genre-spawning predecessors) follows the tale of aparanormal investigator who wakes up in a burning building, unable toremember who he is or how he came to be surrounded by menacing thugs.
Hesoon learns that he is Edward Carnby, a foul-mouthed tough guy whosmixed up in some devilish doings. As he makes his way out of thecrumbling skyscraper he meets up with the feisty Sara, and they fleeinto Central Park to uncover the mystery of Edwards background and thesecret behind a stone with mysterious properties.
I love a goodyarn, and I was hoping to find one in Alone in the Dark. Instead I wasintroduced to yet another amnesiac fighting demons and carrying around aspooky stone. It doesnt help that our hero is challenged in thedialogue department, having been endowed by the games writers with anasty blue streak. You can count on hearing the words f*** or s***nearly every time our scarred-up hero opens his mouth, an attempt atgritty realism that comes off as adolescent and trite. Its a shame thattheres not more depth beneath the surface of Alone in the Dark, butits not just the tired storyline that makes it a disappointment. Thereare many genuinely inventive ideas at play in Central Park, but few ofthem work as well as they should and most are failures. As a result, thegame feels loosely cobbled together, and the experience ends up beingfull of inconsistencies, aggravations and contradictions. Its been apoint of pride with the developers of Alone in the Dark that theyveimplemented realistic fire effects in the game, and they have reason toboast. Flames lick the walls to stunning effect; objects catch fire andcan be used against enemies; puzzles, especially near the end of thegame, make use of fires destructive properties; and flames can helplight your way in dark corridors. At times, the flames behave sorealistically that you forget theyre an illusion. Now thats a feat.
Theproblem is, fire is the only way to kill enemies (inexplicably namedHumanz), which is interesting at first but quickly becomes tedious.Although, there are many different methods you can use to dispatch yourenemies — lobbing Molotov cocktails, blowing up cars, using makeshiftblowtorches, touching monsters with burning furniture — your gun (youonly have a single handgun throughout the entire game) is uselessagainst them. Unless, that is, you pour flammable liquid on yourammunition to create fire bullets. Even then, you can only killmonsters by hitting them directly in their fissures, which are glowingfiery scars on their bodies. Most of the time, youll find access toexplosive items severely limited, which means the most effective andconsistent way to kill monsters in Alone in the Dark is to touch themwith burning chairs. Yawn.
Unlike the Resident Evil series,which scatters storage chests around the game for quick access to yourstockpiled items, Alone in the Dark restricts you to only a few slots inyour jacket. And each side can only hold a certain category of items.Manipulating items in videogames can be cumbersome enough without havingto delve into a jacket and poke around while monsters attack you inreal-time. Combining items to make new ones, a central part of the game,is also frustrating. Want to combine a wick with a bottle You cantselect the bottle first — it has to be the wick. Good luck sorting outinconsistencies like these when Ratz and Batz are nipping at yourheels. What was intended to add tension and challenge instead creates asituation in which you must constantly wander around the game, combingglove compartments and trash cans for disposable weapons. And once inyour arsenal, theyre deployed inconsistently at best, both againstenemies and the environment.
Operating System: Windows XP/Vista 32-bit & 64-bit
Processor: Intel Pentium 4 2.8 GHz or Athlon X2 +3800 (Intel Pentium 4 3.4 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 +4000 recommended)
Memory: 1 GB RAM (2GB recommended)
Hard Disk Space: 9.5 GB free
DVD-ROM Drive: 4X speed or faster
Video: NVIDIA GeForce 7600 or ATI Radeon X1950 or better (NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX or ATI Radeon X1950 XTX or better recommended)
Sound: DirectX version 9.0c-compatible sound card
DirectX: DirectX version 9.0c (included) or higher