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Alone In The Dark
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PS2 & Wii - Xbox 360 version reviewed.
I owe the original Alone in the Dark a considerable debt: it was one of three games that persuaded me to buy a PC in the first place, so leading pretty much to the way I'm gainfully employed today. It's also one of my most fondly remembered games of all time. It's slightly garish, flatly-lit polygonal graphics look oh so quaint today, but back in 1992 it was a hugely creepy and atmospheric experience - every bit as frightening as a Resident Evil 4 or Silent Hill 2, and equally as immersive as a Bioshock or Oblivion. From the 3D visuals to the use of sound and the cinematic way it was all put together, this was horror gaming of the most cutting-edge variety.
And I can see that this 2008 re-visioning has been made with the same sort of ambition. This isn't a slightly lazy move into Resident Evil territory, as was Darkworks' 2001 The New Nightmare, but a bid to use the HD graphics and real-world physics of a new generation of consoles to give us survival horror on a blockbuster scale. It's a game that begins with the destruction of a New York apartment block, goes on to tear up the streets of Manhattan and then delivers a convincing depiction of a Central Park that has - almost literally - gone to hell. Watched on a big screen TV it can be impressive, spectacular stuff. The graphics engine pulls off detailed interiors and suitably gloomy, exterior areas. The human (and inhuman) characters are convincing, if not quite Mass Effect quality when seen close up, and the moody, shock-noir lighting is top notch. It's cut together like a movie, mixing the off-kilter camera angles we've become familiar with in years of Resident Evil, with tracking shots, sudden zooms and pull-outs and some expert handling of suspense.
Meanwhile, the way in which real-world physics has become part and parcel of nearly every aspect of the game shows a real willingness to push the boundaries. Eden always promised that the days of door and key puzzles were over for Alone in the Dark, and the team has come good. If a door looks like it can be busted down with a fire extinguisher or sledgehammer, then it can be. If you expect an obstacle to be blown out of the way by an explosion or catch fire when a flame is brought to it, then it will do. At times puzzles have multiple solutions, some requiring the intelligent manipulation of the environment, some demanding acute observation, and some needing little more than the repetitive application of brute force. Even combat is affected. It's not just a case of picking up a baseball bat and pressing A to whack - you have to use the right analogue stick to swing it left and right and up and down.
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