Final Glimpse: A classic series rises from the grave.
In 1992, Infogrames released Alone in the Dark on the PC to great success. To this day fans and critics alike laud it as one of finest early examples of the survival horror genre. The nightmarish tale put players in control of 1920s-era private investigator Edward Carnby as he sought to uncover the mysteries of a haunted house. While the game spawned three sequels, none of them achieved the same degree of enthusiasm or acclaim as the first entry. Other survival horror series like Resident Evil and Silent Hill soon came to overshadow their predecessor. Perhaps the final nail in the coffin was director Uwe Boll's awful 2005 film adaptation (starring acting ?powerhouse? Tara Reid). Nevertheless Infogrames, now Atari, still believes the franchise has some life left in it. Atari developer Eden Games went back to the drawing board in an effort to re-invent the series and recapture the spirit of the first game. The public will witness the result this June when the fifth installment, simply titled Alone in the Dark, hits store shelves.
Players again stare horror in the face as Edward Carnby. While he is technically the same character from the original game, this time around Eden decided to give Carnby a decidedly more modern appearance. Gone is the dapper mustachioed gent from the 1992 release. Carnby is now clean-shaven, wears a leather jacket, and possesses a mean facial scar. Some Alone in the Dark aficionados may decry this as unnecessary revisionism. However, Eden actually incorporated these alterations into the game's mystery. Carnby starts the story not knowing who he is, how he wound up in modern day New York, or why the Big Apple is teeming with monstrosities (aside from the usual sewer rats).
Atari is advertising that Alone in the Dark takes video game storytelling in an innovative new direction. The ghoulish tale unfolds more like a television series than a movie. The game features a number of 30-40 minute episodes, each with their own twists and cliffhangers. Players are allowed to skip to other episodes if they grow bored or frustrated with the current chapter. In this regard Eden Games clearly took cues from hits like Super Mario Galaxy where players can finish the game without facing levels that may or may not appeal to their individual tastes. Fortunately no one will miss out on Alone in the Dark's story by skipping around since, much like a television series, each "episode" begins with a recap of the tale thus far.
Most of the game takes place in a hellish version of Central Park. Eden attempted to reproduce the park in every detail. After analyzing hundreds of photos and even satellite data, the developer managed to duplicate everything from the park's buildings and landscape to its snack stands. Add a dark, gothic atmosphere and Eden has seemingly created a game worthy of its namesake.
One of the most innovative aspects of the original game was that Carnby could use objects he found around the mansion as tools or weapons. The developers have dramatically expanded upon this concept in this new entry. It seems every object has a number of applications. Carnby can grab a wooden chair and use it to bludgeon a nearby ghoul in true bar fight style. Alternatively he can light the chair on fire and use it as a makeshift torch. A wooden table can be upended and used as cover during a firefight. If Carnby runs out of ammo he can break off one of the table's legs and use it as a club.
The environment also reacts realistically to certain stimuli. For example a metal door will bend from a bullet's impact. Perhaps the most noteworthy illustration is how fire naturally propagates. The player may set fire to a table, only to see the blaze spread to an adjacent wooden shelf and then to a door, causing it to melt away. No doubt there will be some puzzle solving segments that involve the use of this element.
It also seems Carnby can use fire in combat. Some of the enemies can only be vanquished through a baptism in flame. There are also defensive applications. Carnby can pour a line of fuel along a sidewalk and then setting it ablaze, separate himself from several fiends.
Players can mix Carnby's inventory items together in a realistic ways to create lethal and practical combinations. The player equips items in either of Carnby's hands. This means that Carnby can forego the "Doom 3 effect" and actually hold a pistol in one hand and a flashlight in the other. However this just scratches the surface of the amount of unique combinations the player can create. Equipping a lighter in one hand and an aerosol can in the other creates a mini flame-thrower. The player can then switch out the lighter for the pistol and use the canister as a grenade by throwing and shooting it in mid-air. Sticky tape also seems to hold a multitude of uses. One demo shows Carnby attaching tape to a flare and then throwing it on an enemy. The tape sticks to its fur/scales/slime and as the enemy scurries about, the flare illuminates Carnby's surroundings.
This amount of realism applies to other areas as well. The player accesses Carnby's inventory by opening his jacket to see what he is holding. Along with the Halo series, this is one of the few examples of a character carrying items realistically. Inventory selection is also accomplished in real time. This means that the player will have to find a safe spot to equip their weapons, for the monsters will not patiently hang around for Carnby to plan their deaths.
A similar amount of variety comes from the game play itself. Trailers and demos show Carnby in a variety of situations. In one, Carnby drive through the streets of New York as buildings collapse around him. The driving in this sequence appears similar as to that in Grand Theft Auto IV. In fact, much like Rockstar's hit series, Carnby can climb into any vehicle, hot wire it, and cruise the dilapidated town. Another video shows Carnby edging along the facade of a burning skyscraper. A fiery piece of debris falls from above and causes a car on the street to explode. The metal frame flies hundreds of feet in the air and almost knocks Carnby off the building.