The birth of the survival horror game as we know it was in 1992 when the influential Alone In The Dark was released. This creepy adventure was one of the first games to show us full 3D rendered polygons and had you fighting to stay alive inside a haunted mansion. In 2008 the Alone In The Dark series has been re-imagined for a new generation of gamers, crammed full of creative ideas and littered with flaws.
Anyone expecting to be skulking around haunted mansions looking for clues will soon be surprised to find they are jumping over fiery chasms and fallen sky-scrapers in a yellow cab. This is not the Alone In The Dark of old: although there are plenty of torch-lit corridors, there are also some explosive set pieces, driving sections, and a token open-world element to cater for the action-hungry modern gamer. Unfortunately the game's plentiful ambition and vision is never matched by the quality execution it deserves, and the whole thing reeks of insufficient play testing.
Upon loading up a saved game you will be greeted with a gruff voice announcing “Previously on Alone In The Dark” accompanied with TV style logo and, well, previous events catch-up montage. Now this is a very good idea, most of us will have loaded a game we haven't played in a few days only to think “What the hell is going on here” and lose some interest. Maybe Eden Games had noticed this phenomenon in other narrative-driven games and didn't want risk their masterpiece succumbing to this fate, or maybe they realised no one was going to follow the nonsense going on in this story without a little help. Either way it is effective and I dare say we shall see it repeated in future games. New moving picture influences don't stop there; the game is divided into sections that you are able to skip through using a chapter selection story-board if you get stuck.
One interesting feature is a novel inventory screen where accessing items is done using a first-person view of the inside of Edward's Jacket. Here he can store explosive bottles, flammable liquids, batteries, sticky tape, a gun. You know... guy stuff. Combing different items creates weapons or explosives. For example, a cloth and a bottle of spirits creates a handy Molotov cocktail. The game does not pause whilst in the inventory so you had better be quick deciding on how you are going to skin the impending metaphorical cats. Explosive items can be thrown and shot mid-air to blow stuff up from a distance, all in slow-motion revelry. A decent idea, but it doesn't ever feel skilful and its often unclear whether or not you are going to be in the blast radius. Success in combat is mainly achieved by ensuring your cruelly limiting inventory slots are fully stocked with explosives. Another nice touch is that you are able to blink to close your eyes (when in first-person view) which serves the function of clearing your vision and enabling the spooky 'spectre vision', a supernatural ability to see the paranormal.
The dismal selection of enemies you encounter have only a handful of character models, are quite challenging and only occasionally require resourceful use of the environment to defeat. By the time you reach the open-world section where you are free to roam Central Park the only thing you are likely to fear is your progression being slowed by these miserable, repetitive chore-beings who don't have the common decency to explode gorily, but evaporate with a puff of smoke. In the open Central Park 'Humanz' can be avoided by simply running directly away from them, get into a car however, and its a different story. Enemies suddenly remember they are able to jump impossible distances, stick to the roof of your car and pummel you through the windscreen; the only way to remove them is to deliberately crash. As it happens, crashing is not a problem thanks to the glitchy collision detection. Humanz are able to get up and repeat the attack pattern until you wish you had never seen that car.