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