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Atari Alone in the Dark review

Verdict:

Review Date: 15 Aug 2008

Price when reviewed: inc VAT

Reviewed By: Martin Korda

Our Rating 3 stars out of 5

High-quality PC horror games have been thin on the ground of late.

Sadly, while Alone in the Dark's fright-fest is often highly cinematic and at times genuinely terrifying, it possesses far too many irritating shortfalls to be considered an essential purchase.

You play Edward Carnby, a paranormal investigator stripped of his memories and embroiled in a sinister supernatural conspiracy. After escaping a burning New York skyscraper, you must embark on a quest through the city to piece together your past and thwart the plans of an evil cult.

Played from both first- and third-person perspectives, you have to leap, climb, fight and think your way through a series of tightly scripted levels. At regular intervals, you're treated to some excellent cut-scenes that expand the solid, if slightly hackneyed, plot.

However, these well-crafted cinematic snippets are marred by some serious navigation and AI issues. Controlling your character during the third-person melee action is hideously unwieldy, and you'll often find yourself swatting air rather than an enemy's head. Not that it matters too much, since the enemy AI often verges on the moronic, regularly launching a barrage of inaccurate attacks.

One of Alone in the Dark's strongest features is its use of fire. Flames spread and can be extinguished with impressive realism, while chairs can be set alight and used as makeshift torches or weapons. Although the licking flames certainly look impressive, the same cannot be said for some of the character models and locales, which often lack detail.

Filled with an endless succession of thrilling cinematic moments and lashings of unwieldy combat, Alone in the Dark is a game that ultimately succeeds in entertaining and frustrating the player in equal measure. Consequently, it never quite has the impact that its name suggests.

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