Alone in the Dark is, to put it simply, one of the most important franchises in PC gaming. It was one of the first truly 3D games and set the tone for survival horror long before Resident Evil was even a glimmer in Capcom’s eyes.
Unfortunately, like most revolutionary series (see Star Wars, Doom), the game fell into the usual pattern of peaks and troughs. Though the first game blew our minds, the follow-ups quickly fell down under scrutiny. Somehow Alone in the Dark had ended up getting lost in the void.
Naturally, when Uwe Boll hammered home the final indignant nail in the coffin, we all presumed that the once-great king of creepiness was finally dead and would stir no more.
It turns out we were wrong though and no, like some unfathomable evil imprisoned beneath Central Park, Alone in the Dark has re-emerged to tell the story of an unfathomable evil trapped beneath Central Park. We check out the PC version of the game to see if it can recapture the strength of the original games, or if it’ll be Godfather Part 3 all over again.
It’s the year of the reboot it seems and Atari doesn’t want to buck the trend by making the new Alone in the Dark consistent with the old games in the series, or that awful Uwe Boll film. Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider – all the other cool kids are doing it, so why should Atari be any different?
Alone in the Dark isn’t just using a new story though, it’s harnessing a whole new presentation and style. The new Alone in the Dark is fully modernised and up to date, so there’s no more boring old mansions and graveyards. Instead, the focus is on a cinematic presentation and lots of more wide-open spaces – hence the setting in Central Park.
Not all of the story is explained right away though, so going into too much detail here is verging on spoiler-riffic, but suffice it to say that Solid Snake is really a woman you are cast once more as Edward Carnby and tasked with re-capturing an ancient evil tied to a mystical stone.
At the start of the game, Edward is drugged up and almost totally amnesiac. All he knows is that he is in a New York hotel and is being hunted by living cracks which continue to burst out of the walls. As time goes on he learns more about himself and how he has come to be involved in the whole mess – but in the first hour or two you’ll be very much on the backfoot.
This isn’t a bad thing and when the game really gets going the story is the most massively interesting thing about the game. The details themselves (ancient evil, lost memory, zombies, blah blah blah) aren’t all that important on their own, but the frantic presentation and truly cinematic storytelling bring it all together beautifully.
There are car chases, gun fights and some really, really gripping moments when you have to race back and forth in search of bandages before you bleed to death. If you like your survival horror with a touch of platforming too then there’s plenty of that too – escaping from the collapsing hotel in particular is especially exciting.
This new focus on high-action and adrenaline-pumping battles and chases do show that the game has changed significantly from the original template. The new game is larger and more open, but also strangely linear and combat-centric at points.
It’s not entirely bad and we actually quite like that the series has endeavoured to get with the times some more, but fans of the slower and more puzzling approach will be put off possibly – the majority of puzzles that there are tend to be built around mini-games for hotwiring cars for example.
Of course, that’s by far the least of the problems facing Alone in the Dark and on the PC version there are some things you’ll want to bear in mind...