Console Monster were kindly invited to a hands-on preview of Alone in the Dark for the Xbox 360. Myself and Thomas Hostler snapped up the chance and hit the road in what resulted in a surprisingly impressive reincarnation of the series. To detail our thoughts and conclusions of the game, we have come together and formed this special conversational preview of the game, we hope you enjoy.

Jumping straight into the good stuff, fire is simply amazing. You can set fire to one particular area of a room, for example say the door, and the fire will spread up the wall catching fire to the ceiling and slowly moving from one ceiling tile to another. As you can imagine, the entire room can soon become engulfed in flames, burning down everything in its path (including you or your enemies). As explained by the developers themselves, fire is easily the greatest friend and enemy in Alone in the Dark.

The other key feature within the game seems to be the ability to manipulate and combine just about every object in the game, which can create some really unique gameplay moments. To give one of my favourite examples, you can use a knife to pierce the gas tank of a car. You can then get into that car and drive off (hot wiring it if needs be). As you are driving, the gas leaves a rather nice trail, or fuse. You can then park up the car, return to the start of the trail, and light the gas. Voila, one time bomb. This kind of interaction is spread throughout the entire game, meaning that you can have completely different experiences each time you play through the game.

Ah good point as that brings in the control system, which can be summed up as ‘confusion’. A good half of the hands-on was spent trying to figure out how to navigate through the real-time inventory to combine items, and then use them before being beaten to death by a handful of enemies. It seemed that the controls were not quite as intuitive as they could have been, and will certainly take most players some time to master.

Indeed, but there are however some really nice elements within the control system, namely the way in which the player wields the different objects. Basically, you can pick up most objects in a room and wield them as weapons. However, instead of the standard ‘press A to attack’ approach, Alone in the Dark brings something new and unique to the table. Controlling a weapon is done by manipulating the right analogue stick in the motion that you wish to perform. In order to perform a sideways swipe, you hold the thumbstick to the right, and then swipe it across to the left. This method of control did take a few minutes to get used to, but it soon starts to feel incredibly intuitive.

Agreed, that is a great control system, but nothing beats the blinking concept. By pressing in the right analogue stick you will blink, removing any water, poison or other fluid like gunk from your eyes. This tiny feature soon turns into “Arggh! If I close my eyes it’s not there!” when things get tough. Moving away from the control perks and issues, the method of storytelling needs to be praised and explained. It has to be said that the developers have taken quite the risk, as they are allowing players to literally skip as much as the game as they wish, however, skipping too much will not allow them to see the finale of the story.

It really is an interesting premise. The whole game is designed like a TV series, with the game being split up into different episodes. There is even a ‘previously on Alone in the Dark’ video that plays when you start new episodes, just to make sure you know exactly what is going on. This setup also really makes you want to press forward with the game, as each episode seems to end with some sort of cliff hanger ending. Therefore just like with your favourite TV shows, you will be desperate to continue the story to find out what happens next. The episodic structure also makes it incredibly easy to go back and replay your favourite sections of the game. By using the pause menu, the player can select which episode, and even which scene within that episode they want to replay.

All of this is presented beautifully, on a graphics engine which does a fantastic job of recreating fire and shadows realistically, especially when combined. The environments look fantastic, especially when they come to life and the characters are equally impressive with vivid facial expressions and great lip syncing.

Speaking of lip synching, the voice acting in the game really is spot on. All of the voice acting sounded believable and the lines were delivered beautifully, and so credit has to go to the voice actors. Continuing on with sound of the game, the musical score rivals a blockbuster movie, with some great pounding tracks for the action sequences, coupled with creepy orchestral and choir sounds for the more eerie sections of the game.

The thing that surprised me the most about Alone in the Dark was the sheer amount of continual action, shocks and surprises. The game relentlessly throws one action sequence after another at you, as would many blockbuster TV series. From the first three episodes of the game we saw this level of pace maintained, and surprisingly enough the developers boast at the very least 15 hours of gameplay from start to finish. If Eden Games have managed to maintain this level of pace throughout the following episodes, then I believe that they truly have something special on their hands.

I agree. From the time spent with the game I believe that when the final version of the game gets released it could be something truly special, and that will really do justice to the Alone in the Dark franchise. From the jaw dropping action sequences to the outstanding visuals, the whole game feels like an incredible package, and like Reece said, if the whole game is as good as the first few chapters then Alone in the Dark is destined to be one of this year’s blockbuster hits.

Reece Warrender

Reece is an obsessed gaming fanatic that finds enjoyment from any console. He began to enjoy games from a very young age but the addiction did not consume him till the days of Zelda – Link to the Past. Currently he is himself trying hard to break into the gaming industry, as a young programmer whilst also forcing his opinions onto the gaming population.

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