Home > Gaming, Opinions (Gaming) > Gaming: Project Pile of Shame – Day One

Gaming: Project Pile of Shame – Day One

The project: To spend two hours playing every console game from this generation that I own but have never touched (the ‘pile of shame’), to see if any of them are worth spending more time with. On the first day I played:

Alone in the Dark

Companions in the Dark

Throughout the part I played Edward Carnby was mostly in the dark but rarely ever alone.

System: Xbox 360

Reason I’ve never played it: Bought by my brother, who played it as far as the driving sequence then decided to wait on the update that never came.

Achievements earned: Four (70 gamerscore)

Thoughts: I’ve always liked the Alone in the Dark games but it’s been a long time since they’ve had any kind of status in the industry, eclipsed in the survival horror stakes by Resident Evil and the subsequent games inspired by Capcom’s effort. The game Eden Games tried to make here could well have put the franchise back on the map but Alone in the Dark‘s problem is that it falls far short of Eden’s vision. When the camera is in a fixed position the third-person controls are okay, but when it follows Carnby it’s clunky and never feels right. ‘Clunky’ suits the melee combat as well, using the right stick to clumsily swing an item at an enemy, collision detection not always letting you hit it before you’re hurt. The checkpoints are poorly placed, spread out too far and before unskippable cutscenes, the game isn’t always clear on what you should be doing, and then there’s the driving…

To end the first full ‘episode’ Carnby and his two companions are fleeing towards Central Park while being chased by the big evil, some kind of underground force that’s tearing the area apart and converting people into monsters. In theory the chase could have functioned like the big finales of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 3, big epic escapes that form some of the more memorable moments in the series, but Alone in the Dark is a long way from having the level of polish Bungie applies to their games. There are no checkpoints so every mistake throws you back to the start, and even if it worked as intended there are enough sudden surprises  – the ground collapsing, buildings toppling onto the road – that it would be annoying, but it really does not work as intended. The car veers wildly on every turn and just doesn’t feel right or fun to control (adding to the mistakes you make that send you back to the start), sometimes you slightly clip objects and are sent flying dozens of feet into the air, or you’ll collide with the road while just driving along and be killed from the force. It’s pretty horrible and doesn’t feel playtested at all. I had intended to finish that episode before stopping with the game but the car sequence is just too annoying.

It’s a shame because there are hints of what the game could have been had it been given more time to iron all the many flaws and bugs. When they work the physics in the game seem pretty good and the spreading of fire works very well, suggesting there’s potential for puzzles like Half-Life 2‘s in there. There’s some good lighting in the game as well, and for a game built around darkness it could be used to great effect. That’s not enough to make Alone in the Dark worth playing though and it’s a bad enough effort that frankly I don’t think Eden Games even deserves to have people play the improved Inferno release for PS3 instead. The game suffers from a criminal lack of testing and tweaking, making the 360 release a beta version that Atari charged full price for and never updated to a truly functional version.

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  1. January 3, 2011 at 19:02

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