David Yun (PSN Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-06-24 18:39:02
Alone in the Dark: Inferno - Rank C
Developer: Eden Studios
The Xbox 360 release of Alone in the Dark was wretched. I couldn't even bring myself to waste the words to review it. Despite some intriguing design concepts, its shoddy execution rendered the game virtually unplayable. The developer had an additional half a year to correct these shortcomings for the PlayStation 3 release, and while the final product is still problematic, it failed to make me curse its makers and the parents who sired them.
Two simple fixes made the most offensive problems disappear. Previously, the left stick was employed for moving AND turning. I incorrectly thought that only the Resident Evil people were obtuse enough to insist that people handle like tanks. Also, the camera was fixed tightly on the protagonist, requiring absurdly fidgety maneuvering to properly view the environments. With the PS3 Inferno edition, the left stick handles movement and the right adjusts the camera as needed. It's amazing how much better a game can be when it adheres to a control scheme that WORKS GREAT IN EVERY OTHER GAME OUT THERE.
The driving controls were also an unholy abomination in the previous incarnation. There was a car chase sequence in the 360 version that I must have attempted fifty times without success. It eventually caused me to rage-quit the game. Inferno improved the horrid physics and added checkpoints to this sequence. To my inestimable relief, I blew through this segment without requiring any blood pressure medication.
It must be noted that these control issues are now improved to "passable". The protagonist handles loosely, and clumsy environmental interaction can lead to frequent undesired actions. Manipulating objects often requires fidgety maneuvering, and button inputs can feel unresponsive or unintuitively arranged. A first person mode is absolutely sluggish, but is a necessity for aiming.
These frustrations are somewhat ameliorated by the game's inventiveness. In lieu of an artificial health meter, the protagonist's injuries are visible on his person. Employing first aid directly treats those specific wounds, as opposed to an abstracted amount of regained health. Alone in the Dark's inventory management system is also terrific. Instead of vaguely unlimited storage space, the carrying capacity is circumscribed by the amount of pockets and belt space, which you can directly see and manipulate.
Items can also be cleverly combined to satisfying effect. "Inferno" revolves entirely around setting monsters on fire, but provides a panoply of means with which to do so. You begin by grabbing a chair, lighting it aflame, and smashing foes with it. As you acquire more items, experimentation yields increasingly more complex results. Empty bottles can be filled with gasoline. Sticking a bandage in it to act as a fuse turns it into a Molotov cocktail. Wrap it in double-sided tape and you have a sticky bomb. Puncturing a car's gas tank offers explosive refills for your bottle arsenal. Then you drive it into a monster, run back, and then set the trail of gasoline on fire. Combining explosive bottles with ammunition to make "flame bullets" is fairly preposterous, but entertaining nonetheless.
Alone in the Dark also presents a compellingly dark and oppressive atmosphere with a cinematic emphasis. (Interestingly, you can skip any section of the game, like jumping forward to the next chapter of a DVD.) It's riddled with plotholes, and cliches like starting with amnesia, but the dramatic moments do pack a punch. The opening sequence revolves around escaping a burning building, and the suddenly collapsing floors and shifting environment gave me a specific sense of unease I hadn't experienced from any other game.
Alone in the Dark is frustratingly inconsistent. It delivers some solid new innovations, but its ingenuity is compromised by its wealth of technical shortcomings, like visual glitches and problems with hit detection and other physical interactions. These problems are no longer completely crippling in the PlayStation 3 Inferno edition, but they do still sabotage the clear potential at the heart of the game.