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Alone in the Dark

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Yahtzee reviews Alone in the Dark while surprisingly neither alone nor in the dark.

Transcript Edit

I make a policy of never reading other people's reviews, because it can taint my own recollection of a game and because I'm increasingly certain that I'm the only person on Earth whose brain works properly. But it's been pretty difficult to avoid the popular opinion of Alone in the Dark, what with it being apparently the latest in a long line of "Worst Games Evarr" and responsible for the deaths of several of my correspondent's families, judging by the way they tearfully email me requesting that I verbally assassinate it. "Well," I thought, "fuck those bereaved bastards who think I'm some kind of sweary ninja for hire. I'm going to play Alone in the Dark and damn well try to like it." A few days have passed since then, and you may be surprised to learn that sometimes even the majority can be totally, totally right.

So, Edward Carnby from the very first Alone in the Dark is somehow still alive (and thankfully no longer made out of folded crepe paper) and wakes up in modern day New York with a bad case of plot-convenient amnesia and being hunted by rips in the wallpaper. Then all restraint gets tearfully bade farewell and put on a bus to Azerbaijan, when a load of buildings blow up and Edward finds himself forced to fight against his standard Satanic apocalypse scenario while coming up with several contrived excuses to drive cars over ramps in slow motion, creating a feel somewhere between Prince of Darkness and The Dukes of Hazzard.

He gets joined by a female sidekick who sweeps the Horrible Game Character Awards, taking "Most Obviously Crowbarred-In Love Interest," "Most Irritating," "Least Useful to Gameplay, Least Necessary to Plot," and "Lifetime Achievement." Perhaps the crowning moment of her hideousness is when she nearly dies and the game forces you to press a button sequence in order to revive her with CPR. Although the spiteful cow never actually dies, no matter how many times you deliberately fuck up.

What's tragic is that the good ship Alone in the Dark can see Port Good Game without a telescope, but they were apparently in such a hurry to get there that they accidentally landed at the Cock-Up Peninsula. It's full of good ideas balanced by terrible execution, which I will illustrate using two hypothetical designers I'm going to call Terry and Gonad.

"Hey," said Terry, "let's have a damage system where you actually see persistent wound decals on your character's body."

"Ok," replies Gonad, "but let's put them on the outside of his clothes so they look like someone glued slices of ham to his jumper."

"Hey again," says Terry. "How about a dangerous gooey black floor that becomes neutralized by bright lights?"

"Okay again," says Gonad. "Now let's make the flashlight incredibly ineffectual against it, and make it a one hit kill."

Then a broken and jaded Terry starts sniffing glue, while Gonad goes into the fetal position and softly giggles to himself.

Another interesting idea that got royally buttfucked is the inventory system, in which players are theoretically encouraged to pick up scrappy bits of junk and combine them into MacGyver-style improvised weaponry. In practice, the player will find that the people of New York casually throw away an anomalously large amount of nitroglycerin. And all you need to do is pour some of it onto your bullets, then pop a hankie into the bottle and bingo, you're equipped for absolutely anything the game can throw at you. In all fairness, there are quite a few combinations to find, and some actually turn out to be useful. But Gonad's presence is felt once again. Firstly giving you an aggressively small number of inventory spaces, in which your essential ammo, lighter, and plot-important MacGuffin all take up a space. And secondly by not pausing the game when you go into the inventory screen. So your attempts to fumble a wick into a vodka bottle at short notice can be interrupted at any time by the monster you intend to use it against running up and biting your nipples off.

Ordinarily at this point I'd say that overambition has once again shot the kneecaps off a production as The Adventures of Edward Carnby, Serial Arsonist attempts to incorporate combat, driving, puzzles, plus Prince of Persia platforming, perplexingly. But I genuinely think that it could have pulled them all off. There was potential for true greatness here that just a little more polish could have brought out, if they hadn't booted it out the door before it could even brush its teeth. Combat would have been tolerable if the camera had been a team player. Driving would have worked if they'd tightened up the severely broken physics engine, which at one point caused my car to go flying into the skybox after driving too fast over a piece of paper. And I'm not even exaggerating when I say that the fire physics are the best in the entire history of gaming. Seriously! Lean to close to the screen and you're in danger of losing your eyebrows. It could have made a good game fantastic. As it stands, it just makes a bad game pretentious.

As a series, Alone in the Dark has always been about subtle, claustrophobic horror, as is sort of implied by the name. Now it makes no sense, because you're not alone, and it's not even dark, because everything's on fire. I knew Atari were idiots when they let Uwe Boll make a godawful action movie out of the franchise, but I never thought that they were big enough idiots to use that film as inspiration. They've clearly been regarding Grand Theft Auto with envious eyes, hence the sandbox Central Park driving aspect, which the linear story renders needless until they make you go hunting around looking for the spots where Satan's infernal willies extrude from the ground and then set his pubes alight. The final straw came when I spent an hour driving laboriously around the park taking care of them all, and then after a brief puzzle sequence thirty more popped up and the game told me I had to take care of them, too.

"No." I replied, "No, I do not. I reject your stupid, fucking, arbitrary, gameplay-lengthening World of Warcraft grind quests, and I'm sick of putting up with your bullshit! I know you provide the option to skip to the next chapter, but I'm not going to use it. I've had enough. If someone serves you a dead dog for lunch, you do not stick around for the pudding." I suppose I should have realized something was up when I saw that the chapter skipping feature was proudly touted on the back of the box. So not only did the developers think that not having to play the game was a point in its favor, but there were apparently so few other selling points worth mentioning that they put it in the marketing blurb.

So to summarize Alone in the Dark in a pithy newspaper headline sort of way: "Glimpses of Brilliance Buried in Clipping Issues and Spunk."

AddendaEdit

Throwing parties in broad daylight: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

To the people who complained about Holocaust jokes in the last video, I think when everyone who died in something would be dead of old age by now anyway it's OK to start taking the piss

So has the music grown on you yet


ScreenshotsEdit

Alone in the Dark 1

There was potential for true greatness here

Alone in the Dark 2

Driving would have worked if they'd tightened up the severely broken physics engine, which at one point caused my car to go flying into the skybox after driving too fast over a piece of paper

Alone in the Dark 3

"No." I replied.

External LinksEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart

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