The original Alone in the Dark could be considered the father of the survival-horror genre. The game originally appeared on the PC, and the basic premise behind the series is that a single hero is pitted against hordes of hideous monsters while he explores a creepy environment. He struggles to solve puzzles and piece together clues that will help him solve the game's ultimate mystery. The fourth in the Alone in the Dark series, Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare follows the basic AITD formula but brings a few original elements to both the series and the survival-horror genre. We recently got a chance to sit down with a preview version of the game to experience The New Nightmare for ourselves.
While Infogrames is trying to keep as much of the story a secret, there have been a few major plot points that have slipped past the shroud of secrecy. The game takes place in a modern setting and stars two heroes - Edward Carnby and Aline Cedrac. While Edward shares his name with the hero of the last Alone in the Dark game, he's an entirely different person. Apparently, the Edward Carnby lineage is special: Every 40 years, a child is born without a father or mother and is named Edward Carnby. These children are raised to be modern-day knights, and they spend their lives battling evil and exploring creepy environments. As the game begins, Carnby finds himself en route to the single structure perched atop the mysterious Shadow Island - a foreboding mansion. The corpse of Carnby's longtime friend and coworker Charles Fisk was found washed ashore on Shadow Island, and now Carnby must find out who, or what, killed him. Fisk must also continue his dangerous work of gathering three ancient stone tables of unknown mystical power. Aline Credrac is a female adventurer who's not only handy with a gun, but who's also a brilliant thinker with an excellent memory. It's still unknown why she's stuck on Shadow Island, but it is known that she's somewhat sarcastic and not very happy to learn that she must team up with Carnby in order to survive the island's bloodthirsty creatures. She will probably develop feelings for Carnby as the game progresses.
As you might have gathered from the name, light or the absence thereof will play a huge part in Alone in the Dark. Both heroes will be armed with a flashlight, and they will have to use it extensively around the environments to identify threats and objects. Because of this, the game will sport some amazing on-the-fly lighting effects. Each of the game's 1,200-plus environments has been rendered in both a lighted and unlighted form to properly demonstrate the effect of your flashlight. Not only will the light affect your ability to find objects, but it will also affect all the creatures you will encounter. Some creatures will run from the light, some creatures will be stunned, and some creatures will attack the light, so it's no coincidence that many of the game's weapons will be light based.
The game was present only in a short 20-minute demo version. I started the demo at the base of the island, and then I had to use my flashlight to look around to find a few important objects. One of the objects is a circular stone similar to a manhole cover. From there, I moved into the sub-basement of the mansion structure. There are some excellent backgrounds and camera angles in here that really add to the creepy tension of the game. I got the impression that I was descending into danger, and it made me really jumpy. I had to find my way through the dark, mazelike ruins in the basement until I found this ledge that was hollow, and when I shined my flashlight in there, I found a key. After picking it up, I turned around to find my exit blocked by some very odd floor-moving creatures with long tentacles. The tentacles flew out and lashed at me, and it took a good amount of pistol fire to finally down all the creatures. Once that was taken care of, I found my way back to a huge, locked door and used the key I had just found to try to open it. The door opened, and I stepped inside to find myself in a ruined observatory, complete with some mutated rabid devil-dogs that were hungry for Carnby flesh. Of course, at this point I introduced them to my friend, Mr. 12-gauge pump, and the five of us quickly settled matters. The observatory had a long spiral staircase that lead to a platform with some decrepit machines. Here, the action button prompted me for a numerical input, then showed me a scene outside the observatory, which centered on the starry night. This is obviously setting the stage for later puzzles where you'll, no doubt, use a number combination to identify a certain constellation, which in turn will help you solve another of the game's riddles. But in the demo, I was simply supposed to go back down the stairs, exit through the door opposite the one I entered, and put the manhole-cover piece into this odd monolithic statue. This triggers an event complete with a cool cutscene, the details of which I'll leave to mystery.
Even at this stage, AITD is a stunning graphical experience. The environments and backgrounds are lush and detailed, not to mention extremely spooky. The characters and monsters look and move in a realistic manner, even though most of the monsters have been invented for the game. Cutscenes and CG sequences look marvelous, but the real kicker is the jaw-dropping lighting. The flashlight effect is one of the best lighting schemes I've seen in a long time, and it simply pumps up the creepy factor of the game. The demo build had no audio, unfortunately, but Darkworks promises that AITD will have sound effects and audio tracks that will complement the game's ambient horrifying nature.
Not surprisingly, the game controls almost identically to Resident Evil: Code Veronica. The analog stick rotates the characters, while pushing up moves them forward. There's a button to run, a button to aim your weapon, an action button, and a button to aim your flashlight. There's an inventory screen that breaks up your items by weapons and actual objects, files memos and important notes you've found, and lets you save your game. It's doubtful that the controls will change in the final version of the game, and I'm actually happy that Darkworks decided to keep things familiar.
So far, Alone in the Dark looks as if it could show the Resident Evil series a thing or two about real terror. With amazing graphics, solid control, a compelling storyline, and the interesting light aspect, Alone in the Dark could be the survival-horror game of the year. I can't wait to see a more complete version.