[AL ON] for people who like brackets.
So this won't be the most full OP until I can get home, but this has been looking like a decent game for some time, and Eurogamer now have a review up (which I'm reading at work and will post bits of later, as well as screenshots) giving it a 7/10. Still need to see what other outlets think, a number by itself is arbitrary, but it sounds like it's a solid game. I also believe there will be a demo along shortly, which will help people decide if they want to play it or not.
SO, Alone in the Dark is back, people. Get to talking.
RIGHT, I can now add some more here. I'll stick in some comments from the EG review:
Alone in the Dark offers a counterpoint to modern survival-horror. The genre's core values - inventory management, tension as a by-product of fumbling and panicking, and elaborate puzzles - are as they were, but Carnby is a practical hero: he heals himself by manually bandaging and patching cuts and gashes, and he solves puzzles with his hands and whatever else he can cobble together.
It's simple and versatile, and divorces the game from a genre obsessed with elaborate and contrived clockwork mechanisms, achieving greater subtlety and cohesion in the process. Puzzles are individual, and often special. A blood-smeared keypad has you scratching at the boundaries of your location for a code, but the solution's staring you in the face. A car hanging over a cliff blocks your ascent along a ridge, but you had the tools to pass it when you awoke. The best solutions are the least prescribed: fashioning a time-delayed sticky bomb from tape, booze and cloth, or reading the room and closing your eyes rather than staring at everything in sight.
In its pomp, every room is fascinating. You can pick up chairs, pipes and spades, push furniture around, slam canisters and litter-bins into doors, shoot out rivets and blow up hinges, fish electric cables away from pools of water with hooked branches, hotwire cars and short-circuit junction boxes. The right analogue stick is like a prosthetic hand, allowing you to twist, swing and slam things as you please.
Combat is brutal and unsustainable. Possessed former New Yorkers take a dozen bullets to dispatch, and the more exotic enemies - the fissures that carve bloody scars across every surface, and the black ooze that pools in the dark, swallowing you whole if you set foot in it - demand desperate violence and navigation to evade, so you improvise. Enemies can be shot by entering first-person perspective and aiming, but you can also toss explosives in their direction, watching them arc in slow-motion before firing a Magnum round to detonate in mid-air; or you can sprinkle accelerant across a doorway, and back off and fire an incendiary bullet into the puddle as a monster crosses the threshold. Improvising fire becomes the norm, whether by constructing Molotov cocktails from bottles and rags, powdering bullets with explosive, or grabbing wooden objects, dipping them in flames - situational or hand-crafted - and thrashing them about until they threaten to set Carnby alight.
For all its good qualities though, Alone in the Dark is a frustrating game to play. Having done so well to avoid the tried-and-trusted genre tropes of idols, badges and keys scattered around zombie-infested buildings that have to be transported past endless set-piece encounters to achieve things, Eden messes it up with a hopeless control system that proves just as pointlessly convoluted. It doesn't just grab defeat from the jaws of victory, it has to press a dozen buttons in a complex sequence across a number of different screens and view perspectives to do so.
For example, the left stick has to do movement and turning (both of which are clunky and leaden), with the right stick swinging your head left and right on a narrow arc. This is because the right stick is meant to be for swinging baseball bats and smashing fire extinguishers through wooden doors, so you can understand why they did it, but as a result getting around quickly is always difficult, and manoeuvring in close quarters is clumsy and awkward. There's a first-person option, which separates moving and strafing from turning, but you can't pick one - you have to use both at different times. Third-person is for interaction, while first-person is for looking and shooting. The game switches you between them where necessary, and on a couple of occasions for no obvious reason.
Elsewhere, you find yourself having to concentrate to do even the simplest things, like healing, which involves pressing right on the d-pad, then holding the right trigger as a medical spray is held over an affected area, then pushing the left stick around to move to the next wound. Running away from a monster, turning and throwing an explosive to shoot in mid-air requires a left-stick click to turn swiftly, a pause to equip gun and explosive, then using the left trigger to set up your throwing arc, angling it with the right-stick and pulling the right trigger to fire at the right moment. By this stage the enemy is either upon you or too close to throw the explosive without blowing yourself up too. You can use the left and right bumpers to cycle items available to each of Carnby's hands, and set-up d-pad direction presets for favoured configurations, but these options just complicate the interface further.
It's not just the controls that are clumsy, either: the first couple of episodes are full of glitches, clichéd puzzles and dodgy sequences that don't come off. The car chase sequence through New York streets is the most broken: the city's being torn apart, buses flying overhead, tarmac cleft and buildings toppling, so the peculiar handling and rutted terrain conspire to set you back as much as possible, and each snag usually gives the pursuing scripted sequence a chance to gobble you up and force you to restart. By the time you've watched the same bus fall off the same ledge rising at the same angle for the umpteenth time, any suspension of disbelief has long since snapped like overstretched elastic under a flame. Once in Central Park, things become more straightforward as you move between objectives sticking to the simplest path to avoid being overrun by monsters. In fact the game becomes rather linear, and produces some of its best moments.
Yet in spite of all this, Alone in the Dark is ultimately likeable, even lovable. If you go back and read those opening paragraphs again, there's a game there that every gamer would want. Inventive, flexible, considered. It's stunning to look at it in places, too, and it's capable of classic gaming moments: quieter than the Would You Kindlies and This Was A Triumphs, but just as special. And in Edward Carnby's practical survivor, Eden has a tool players will enjoy sharpening. The problem is that every time you get excited about Alone in the Dark, it shuts you down. At times it's akin to Atari's Boiling Point: Road To Hell of three years ago; throw any score on the ten-point scale and it will stick to something, but there's so much friction on the lower end that it's often impossible to pull away and remember when you brushed past genius. You want to love it, but it just keeps letting you down, and in the end that's the impression that sticks to the wall and stays there.
So it has some good ideas, but the execution is flawed with tricky controls.
The demo is expected to be out this month
, so that should help a lot of people decide if it's for them or not.
And now, spoilered pictures!