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December 31, 2008
Alone in the Dark: Inferno - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
27/11/2008AtariAtariEden Games1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Graphically Alone in the Dark is solid.
The Alone in the Dark series has been around since 1992 and was one of the first, if not the first, survival horror games ever released. For its debut to the current generation of consoles, including the PS3, development has been handed over to Eden Games (think V-Rally and Test Drive Unlimited) for the first time. With the excellent Siren: Blood Curse games already on the market and the highly anticipated Resident Evil 5 not too far away, can Eden make Alone in the Dark: Inferno stand out from the crowd?

In Alone in the Dark: Inferno (from hereon referred to as AITD) you take control of Edward Carnby, and he's having a very bad day. He's just woken up in a semi-vegetable state, he's suffering from amnesia and he's about to be taken to the roof and executed by some very unsavoury characters. Edward catches his first good break of the day when his would-be executioner gets gobbled up by “something” in the doorway leading to the roof. From there Edward must escape the clutches of the people trying to kill him as well as whatever it was that killed his executioner.

Over the course of the game, AITD offers plenty of variety in the way of action. There's exploration (most of which is quite linear, except when you are in Central Park), fighting, driving, set-pieces and puzzle-solving. The game does a good job in making your next move clear via cut scenes and you can find your objectives on your mobile phone. You can control Edward in both first-person and third-person view, swapping between the two with a push of a button. There are times when you are limited to one view or another, for example when shooting you must be in first-person view and when attacking with melee weapons you must be in third-person view. These restrictions can be a little irksome at times, but for the most part having the two views is very handy as both have strengths and limitations.

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Flame effects are pretty nice.
During your travels you will find plenty of enemies to fight. There's humanz that is humans corrupted by the evil that is infesting New York, making them zombie-like in appearance and highly aggressive to boot. There's also ratz, which look more like spiders or something H R Giger might have dreamed up than actual rats. They can spit poison at you which will obscure your vision, making them all the harder to shoot, though you can blink to get the poison out of your eyes which is done by pressing R3. You'll also come across black goo (for want of a better word) which shies away from light, but will devour anything else that strays into its path. The main villain of the story, Crowley, is rarely seen but will take the time to call your phone and taunt you about your memory-loss and your apparently wicked past.

In order to dispatch all these enemies, Edward has a variety of weapons at his disposal. Early on you'll find a gun which is effective for dealing with ratz, but a lot less effective when dealing with humanz. You'll also come across a variety of incendiary items like fuel, bottles of explosive liquids, mosquito repellent and alcohol. There are melee weapons too, like baseball bats, tree branches, shovels and metal pipe. The only way to truly kill humanz (aside from knocking them off building ledges or cliff-faces) is to set fire to them. As such you'll often stick your melee weapon into a nearby fire and then try to dispose of your enemies before being burned by your own weapon. If you're lucky enough to have some incendiary items in your inventory you might try throwing a bottle of explosive liquid at an enemy and then shoot it when it gets close, causing a decent-sized explosion and wiping out all enemies in the vicinity.

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Dark (perhaps too dark) and moody.
You can also find other miscellaneous items around the place, like medical sprays, bandages, cloths, double-sided tape, glow-sticks and flares. The medical items are self-explanatory, but the way you can use the others to improve your arsenal of weapons is both interesting and entertaining. For example you can create a Molotov easily by combining a bottle of alcohol with a cloth and then setting it on fire with your lighter. Miniature flame-throwers are just as easy to make – simply combine a spray (be it your medical spray, the mosquito repellent or even some rust-remover) with your lighter and hey presto! You can create a useful sticky bomb by combining the double-sided tape with anything explosive and throwing it at your target, be it a wall or enemy where it will stick, just waiting to be blasted. If those explosions aren't big enough to suit you, you could always try combining fuel and double-sided tape with a box of bullets for a much bigger explosion. There's really no shortage of combinations for you to experiment with and it's fun to see what you can come up with.

All of the items you carry must be stored in your jacket, and that means there's a realistic limit to how much you can carry. Four bottles or sprays will fill up the right-hand side of your jacket, whilst there's room for four or five miscellaneous items (bandages, cloths, tape etc) in the left-hand side of your jacket. Luckily there are plenty of items strewn around the game world, so you'll never be out of weapons for long.

During the second chapter you will be introduced to vehicles in AITD. Driving can be a bit hit and miss thanks to frustrating collision-detection where small obstructions like a crack in the road or rocks, can bring your progress to a screeching halt, but otherwise the vehicles handle well enough. Not all cars will come ready to drive – you can look for keys behind the driver's side sun-visor, otherwise you'll need to hotwire the car to get it moving. Although the driving sections are not perfect, they do break up the action and take the game from the confined space of the museum out into the open spaces of Central Park. There are plenty of humanz as well as evil roots (of which you'll have to destroy many to complete the game) around meaning that driving is no picnic.

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AITD's enemies are well designed.
There are a lot of set-pieces in AITD, where you must perform certain actions in a limited amount of time or face certain death. A lot of cliché's are in evidence, but despite that they're still good fun. You'll have to escape from a burning building or from a bus before it falls off a cliff as well as climbing up a rope whilst dodging falling rocks in some of the set-pieces. There are puzzles to solve as you make your way through the game too. Most of them are intuitive enough (shoot the cable so that it drops down then climb the cable to access a new area), though some of the puzzles later in the game will have you thinking for a while.

One interesting (and a little strange) option in AITD is the ability to skip chapters any time you like. In fact it is entirely possible to start a new game, skip to the final chapter and finish the game all in about five minutes. I guess this feature is designed to allow you to skip chapters you're having trouble with, or to replay your favourite sections of the game, but it's strange that it is available from the word go. It would have made more sense to me if it was unlocked after completing the game once. When you load a saved game, or skip ahead a chapter or more you'll get a little cut scene detailing the events leading up to where you are now. This is a cool feature, though it does tend to repeat a lot of information and scenes over the course of the game. The only downside to skipping ahead (aside from shortening the game's length of course) is that you lose almost all of your weapons. You do get to keep the gun and a few bullets, but aside from that you're on your own.

I'll be honest and say I was pleasantly surprised by AITD. It was a lot more atmospheric and enjoyable than I thought it would be. With that said, there are one or two problems that hold it back from reaching the heights it could have hit. First off the controls are clumsily handled at best. In first-person view Edward handles pretty well, though he still has trouble interacting with some items, for example picking a melee weapon up on the move is much harder than it should be, and investigating a key item such as a switch or cupboard can require plenty of to-ing and fro-ing before you find the right spot to stand and hit the X button.

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Climbing down the building.
Third-person controls handle a lot more clumsily. Edward's turning circle is worse than that of a bus, making precision control impossible in certain sections. Melee combat is probably the most frustrating though, in large part because it must be handled in third-person view. If you want to swing your melee weapon at an enemy you have to lock on by holding the L1 button, then move the right-analog stick in a direction to prepare the swing, and back in the opposite direction to finally swing your weapon. It may be realistic, but it's clunky and the fact that your enemies are far more nimble than Edward could ever be, adds to the problem. It's also impossible to out-flank your enemy while holding L1, because Edward will walk sideways rather than circling your opponent, which often leaves you hopelessly out of position and generally not even facing your opponent. Then when you do finally line your enemies up, you'll often find they either jump out of harms way, or you miss them thanks to suspect collision detection. These issues make melee combat a tiresome affair, which is a real shame in a game that gets so many other aspects right.

Another minor issue is that sometimes poor lighting makes it hard to see certain objectives. You do have a flashlight, but even with that it can sometimes be hard to see the cable you have to shoot in order to progress to the next section - it's realistic but it is also annoying. Other minor issues include dodgy collision detection when driving, as well as some graphical problems – once an enemy ended up in a wall and was impossible to kill though he could still attack Edward, and once I saw Edward fall between a the join of a wall and the ground too. Restart points are generous, never leaving you too much ground to repeat before getting up to the section where you died, but you'll often have to listen to the same conversation, or view the same cut scene every time you restart. On the fifth and sixth viewing it can be annoying not to be able to skip these scenes.

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Yar, AITD is a little too dark in places.
The graphics are quite nice in patches, and a little rough in others. Everything looks like it should, and the interiors of buildings do a good job replicating their real life equivalents. Fire effects look great, which is pleasing considering the number of explosions and fires about the place. Character faces have detail but look a little strange close-up during cut scenes. Central Park looks good, and the feeling of openness is appreciated after the claustrophobic confines of the museum. The camera can suffer in confined spaces, sometimes going into your character, or putting a wall in front of Edward, obstructing your view of the action. For the most part this isn't a major problem, but it can be distracting at times.

The sound effects and music are for the most part very appropriate. Bullets sound as you'd expect, and explosions have a satisfying force behind them. The humanz' grunts and groans are standard fare, and the ratz make a sound not dissimilar to the poison-spitting dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, meaning you often hear them before you see them. The music is pretty good, though there are times when it seems a bit too epic for the on-screen action, though it does do a good job maintaining the atmosphere of the game. The voice-acting is quite good on the whole, though there are times when Sarah will really grate on you.

All in all Alone in the Dark: Inferno is a hard game to rate. There is no shortage of fun moments - getting through some sections unscathed, combining your weapons to make a bigger, badder weapons, or solving some of the trickier puzzles late in the game is certainly satisfying. On the other hand melee combat is tiresome thanks to the poor control scheme. Most of the other issues can be overlooked easily enough, but dying over and over because Edward simply doesn't handle well will put many people off. Overall if you like the survival horror genre and have a little bit of patience you will find a lot to like about AITD. For those with a short fuse this game is still worth playing, but maybe you'd be better off hiring before committing to purchase.

Review By: Mike Allison

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GRAPHICSInteriors look good for the most part, as does Central Park and the many fire effects. There are definitely some issues though, with enemies being knocked into walls and Edward falling through a crack that wasn't there. Up close, characters look a bit odd.
SOUNDSound effects are spot on, music is generally atmospheric and for the most part the voice-acting is pretty good. Not a lot of complaints here.
GAMEPLAYThis is the hard part to rate. AITD does a great job in certain areas of the game, keeping the action flowing and providing interesting puzzles. However melee combat, of which there is a lot, becomes unenjoyable due to the terrible controls. If you can overcome that, there's a lot to like.
VALUEThe game has decent length, probably 15-20 hours to complete on the first run through (if you chase down all the evil roots that is). However there's not a lot to bring you back. There's trophy support and the interesting “skip chapter” feature allowing you to replay your favourite bits .
OVERALLAITD was a pleasant surprise to me. There's a lot to enjoy, be it combining weapons, solving puzzles or making your way through the set pieces. Frustrating melee combat is the biggest turnoff, while some graphical issues including dodgy collision detection are a minor inconvenience. If you can look past that, AITD is a lot of fun .

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