Top critical review
Difficult to play and frustrating! But rewarding if you persevere.
on 22 November 2013
I found myself looking up Alan Wake on Amazon and reading the reviews just to see if anyone confirmed what I already thought about it, which was that it was a spooky and atmospheric game which I was quite fond of and had an excellent storyline, and they recommended some similar games - so to speak - similarly atmospheric and dark, I assumed, one of which was this, 'Alone in the Dark'. Also, I'd stumbled across this game's product page before and been attracted to the fact it was set in the whole of Central Park, New York. After looking at the Product Description telling me it had 'immersive gameplay' and 'stunning visuals' and plenty of environmental interaction in the many acres of Central Park, and not bothering immediately with the Reviews, I thought "What a brilliant-sounding game, and similar to Alan Wake into the bargain!" so went ahead and ordered it from Amazon. I received it today through the post and when it was evening I thought "What a good idea it would be to play 'Alone in the Dark' now!" Result: I nearly went on a rampage smashing up the house like the Incredible Hulk (an Xbox game, incidentally, I have also been taking an interest in today on Amazon)!! I have never found a game on Xbox Original (not even Fellowship of the Ring which is the most difficult game I have ever played on that 1st-gen console) or Xbox 360 which is so difficult and almost impossible to play because of the absolutely abysmal camera that makes this game practically and literally unplayable. The one thing that made me jack in this game by the time I got to the bit where the spiders attack you and your female companion early on in the burning building which you have to find a way out of to reach Central Park on the ground below - and then your troubles are just beginning, I assume - was the almost impossible camera controls which had me repeating a scene over and over which with normal camera I could have just achieved once on my first attempt. The problem with them is this: instead of using a 360o camera whereby you can turn your character around full circle like in most games (especially those with superior graphics engines like Crysis 2/3 and CryEngine 3; or games with Unreal Technology like Borderlands 1/2) which use full-directional camera with the right thumbstick, you have to use the left thumbstick to guide your character Edward Carnaby in the direction you want it to face and go, as the right thumbstick practically only turns him for about 90o in a clockwise/anticlockwise direction, making it extremely difficult to line him up with an interactive object (like when wanting to pick up a chair to use as a weapon) or to face an enemy. I also didn't like the melee feature much as it was finicky and you couldn't use your pixel fists like in most games, only an object as a weapon, although it was doable and merely meant you needed to time the blows you dealt on an adversary. Because of these drawbacks (majorly the clumsy camera) I didn't have the patience or the time to complete my escape from the burning building to even experience the (relative) freedom and fresh air of Central Park. I didn't find this game to be like or as good as Alan Wake even in darkness or atmosphere let alone quality as it just proved to be a chore and was likely to be that way to the end with the unplayablility factor influencing my decision to stop trying to get further through the burning building and call it a day (or night) with this one. Who knows, I may come back to it in the future for another bash, but I doubt it. There are better games to waste my time on. This one is a pointless waste of time and is rewarding as having to wash someone else's dirty dishes (a task I felt I was doing the equivalent of for Atari with this). It was a good idea but sadly spoilt by the camera controls, otherwise I would have continued playing it right through, as like with reading books I generally like to finish what I've begun. But this is a first, it's no-go for me, no-man's-land for gaming. If there is no enjoyment to be had from trying to control a character who moves like something with near-paralysis, I wish to venture no further. I thought it was only something to do with being stuck in the burning building and that the matter would be resolved and the camera revert to normal once I reached Central Park, until I read some of the negative reviews on Amazon which led me to believe this wasn't going to change and so that decided it for me and as I said before I decided to jack it in on that note. Atari mustn't have been able to afford to invest in a good graphics engine for this game as whatever one they used is terrible. The graphics themselves are reasonably well-drawn but that's about it. The lighting even downplays that aspect and you're more concerned with finding your way around with a flashlight to take in the scenery anyway. Someone who's played and maybe completed the full game makes for a better judge of it than me, but as for me even this early on in the game I wouldn't recommend it; I'd advise don't bother and go and play Alan Wake instead, which is far superior and excellent by comparison.
Well, what can I say? I originally gave this game a one star review rating, but contrary to my expectations of self I came back to it and continued playing through it with perseverance - and with a little help from a sympathetic friend (I've done most of the difficult bits, mind!) - and whattya know, I now dangle from a cliff on a cable supported by a teetering wrecked helicopter in Episode 7, part 1 after having ran in circles while keeping within the glowing orb of the aforementioned heli's spotlight that shone into some man-eating black oil and then successfully reached a savepoint shortly after. I must say, I have changed my mind somewhat on the quality and playability of this game having now moderately mastered the camera/directional controls - I find that moving the character around with the left thumbstick is easier than using the right stick to focus camera, although this latter is needed from time to time in conjunction with the former - and also been impressed by the intelligence and required strategy for some of the puzzles. It is still not up there with Alan Wake in my opinion but I will recant some of my former diatribes against this game and say that as you progress and start to get the hang of it it turns out to be not altogether unplayable, and some of the most difficult parts are actually doable despite the atrocious camera and in some ways actually enhanced by it. So, I would say that if you like difficult games which require intelligence to solve problems in the non-action sequences or after you have silenced everything in your wake and have breathing space to think you should not be put off buying this game at the cheapest price you can find in the same way that you don't mind paying a small amount for a low-budget indie movie sometimes (Beast of the Alamo is a fairly decent one that springs immediately to mind, Uwe Boll's films do not). It is not all that bad, and the satisfaction of completing an episode of such a difficult game leaves you feeling rewarded and proud of yourself (especially in my case after the scene with the pillars and the huge dragonlike demon which had me breathless and on edge). It is not a game I would recommend because of its terrible camera controls which make the game so much more difficult than it otherwise would prove to be, but if you are considering the challenge I would not want to dissuade you either. As I say, the terrible camera controls have forced me to deduct 1* from an otherwise 3* review, leaving 2* in my overall rating of it, and but for these the game would have been much more enjoyable and quicker to complete. After reading some other reviews and so taking a closer look at the graphics rather than just concentrating on surviving the horrors of this decently-woven Lovecraftianesque story with its brooding darkness and haunting plot but semi-predictable frights and monsters I came to agree that the graphics themselves are really quite good indeed but this is no use if gameplay detracts from that element. All the same, there is quite good artistic content but concentrating on this alone is not good enough, if the Havok graphics engine is inferior, although I have a suspicion that it is meant to be played this way and is not just the result of lazy tweaking. "Bidi-bidi-bidi!" No, I said tweaking, you silly robot, not Twiki! Get back to the 25th Century where there are better games and consoles than the ones I'm talking about here...Anyways, I am well on my way to completing Alone in the Dark now and fully intend doing so, provided I can rack up enough spectral points by setting haunted tree roots scattered throughout each level on fire in the process as you need them (at least 50 out of a possible 100, I'm led to believe) to wrap up the story finale. Seen better games, seen better times...but, Hell, I'm not going to waste my money spent on this one, am I, without being a sportsman and at least giving it a bash.