Revolutionary, first true next generation game, comprehensive review!

User Rating: 9 | Alone in the Dark X360
In brief, it starts out absolutely brilliant, and, in something rarely seen nowadays, it maintains steam all the way to the end, getting better and better until the unexpectedly Tomb Raider-esque ending moments. The controls and camera are more than adequate. The graphics are fantastic all around, not the best I've ever seen, but they are on the whole fantastic. The story is phenominal and more importantly, coherent and complete. Yes, the ending is a bit abrupt, but that's because the real ending, where you find out just what is going on, comes in Episode 6, not 8. The soundtrack is one of the best I've ever heard, and the voice acting is realistic if not a bit overdone. The game tries not to be many different genres, but rather create one cohesive, organic experience, similar to reality. And it succeeds. It's on the short side, but longer than Gears of War and Halo 3, so if you had no problem with the length of those AAA titles, you shouldn't care about this being on the 10 hour side. It's one of the greatest games I have ever had the experience of playing, and I highly reccomend it. Now, the important parts, in more detail.

What's probably become the most talked about element of the game since people started playing it isn't the physics or fire, but the controls and camera. They are not only completely fine, but also neccesary due to the nature of the game. Let me explain how they work. The right stick moves Edward, up forward, left and right obviously left and right, and back to walk backwards (not turn around, which is a little odd but doesn't cause any problems) and the way he moves is relative to the camera when in third person. First person controls usual, though there seems to be a Butcher Bay like delay. Most of the more adventure sequences feature dramatic, cinematic camera angles, often times with the camera moving to show you a clue as to how to procede. Because of this, the controls MUST BE relative to the camera. The right stick, when nothing is equipped, does temporarily move the camera (to look around) but once something is in your hand, the movement of the stick corresponds with the movement of the equipped weapon. This system is NOT clunky or difficult. It's again, like the rest of the game, organic and intelligent. You have a chair in your hands, a fire on your left, you move the stick left, he moves the chair left. You have a sword in your hand, you pull the stick back, he puts it over his head, you slam it forward, he slams the sword down in a slash, usually knocking enemies down. It's an intelligent system, but also instictual. Which fits well with the rest of the game. But obviously, if the right stick controls his hands, it can't control the camera. Left trigger throws objects, right trigger uses whatever is in the right hand, be it gun or otherwise (say, zippo with a aresol can in the left hand?) while the shoulder buttons move to the next item in each respective hand (I used this pretty much ONLY to draw the gun, and not once hit the left bumper) and the face buttons are interact, jump, reload, and first person. Click the right stick and you blink (first person) which eventually has an incredibly useful purpose. Down on the d-pad goes to his jacket/inventory, left and right go to healing view. In conclusion though, I never found the controls to be remotely hampering to the experience, and think Eden did a fantastic job of making Edward so capable with a set number of buttons. I never once fell of a ledge or died due to camera or controls. I did die many times because of some environmental puzzles and one of the boss fights.

The graphics are pretty impressive, not so much technically, don't get me wrong, they look amazing, but rather for the fact of what they accomplished with the same engine. The third person, dramatic camera adventure-horror elements feel great, the first person shooting elements look and feel like the should, and the driving is suprisingly effective and fun (if not overly difficult.) Also, there are a few scenes specifically, where you can't help but drop your jaw. Specifically, I'm reffering to an explosion in the opening episode (you can see it at Gametrailers, but seeing it huge on your own TV while you're playing is different,) a cab ride on 59th street (one of the most difficult sequences I have ever played, in any game, period,) the end of a reunion in the museum (it's a holy s**t moment for sure,) and the games last few areas, which come as a huge surprise (literally.) There is often so much going on at once, and this is where the graphics are most impressive, not because of the technical prowess, but more because of the workload the engine can handle with relative smoothness. Stylistically the game is also very beautiful, with a realistic gritty style permeating from start to finish. I will admit there are a few, mostly in the beginning, bugs and glitches. I had two glitches, both RIGHT after checkpoints, where I had to reload my game. Both times I was stuck on or in geometry. But it was, like I said, only 2 times, and nothing game ruining.

While I don't want to reveal the details of the story, I will say this: it was engaging start to finish. Not only was it engaging, it was also fantastic in that while the staff in the making of says they were inspired, at least for the episodic idea, by Lost, it's in many ways the anti-Lost. Every episode of Lost brings new questions, and only a handful of them are answered. In Alone in the Dark, there are also many questions. But by the end they are almost entirely answered. There is only one element of the story that was somewhat non-sensical but obviously neccesary for the gameplay. I will put what this was at the end of the review so those who want to know what it is can, and those who don't want to be spoiled won't be. You learn why and how the characters and locations involved are, you learn the complete truth about who/what your enemy is, etc. And it's interesting and gripping. And don't get me wrong, I love Silent Hill, but after playing 5 of them (including Origins) I have to say, it's nice to have a survival horror game that makes sense and can't be written off as "it's all a manifestation of a demonic child or your mind." My roommate, a 21 year old female with no interest in games at all, watched me play almost start to finish, and said she probably enjoyed it as much as I did, and that it was infintely better than the crap on TV. That says something about the story (and the pace as well.)

The soundtrack is great but there isn't much to say, you know? Atari released it on iTunes and you'll see why, it's a really great score, better than most movies. The voice acting is good for the main characters, but some of the random people you'll encounter are kind of silly, especially towards the beginning. A girl at a window in the first episode screaming about the electric wire coming off the wall stands out as a highlight, but it's more something that will make you grin, not bring the game down.

There are a few things that I have seen mentioned in posts or other reviews that I would like to directly address.

The first is the role of the female lead so to speak. I have seen (especially on the forums) people saying that she was naggy and annoying and they wish they could kill her, but this was not my experience at all. She is a very, very strong female character. In one of the making of videos they say they wanted a female character who if Edward wasn't around would be able to pull off most of the game, and I feel like she could. Yes, she freaks out at times, but who, male or female, wouldn't? She plays a central role to the events that happen, and is never in your way. I never was frustrated by "oh my god this stupid person keeps dying." Not once. I found her a great addition to the story, and a great example for other games to take of a strong female character.

The second is the now seemingly infamous "root of evil" sequence. If you don't want to read very minor spoilers, skip this paragraph. Yes, between chapters 7 and 8, you have to go all over Central Park killing (or burning rather) a huge amount of evil trees. There is a story reason for why they exist, and there is a material reason you have for getting rid of them that makes some (not all) of it mandatory. Some reviews said this brought the whole game down. But I'd argue just the opposite. While yes, it does somewhat "artificially" lengthen the game (I'd say easily this one thing is one third, maybe even one half, of the game) it's also putting into practice what they've been helping you and holding your hand doing the first half of the game. Now if you have to light something on fire, you don't neccesarily have a bunch of flammable bottles lying about. You have to figure it out. Some of them are very easy to kill, while others take a lot of work. I will give you an example of one that was my favorite. Obviously this will spoil one possible solution for getting rid of one tree, but it shows the value of this part of the game very accurately. There is a tree on a section of ground that is completely surrounded by fissure (the cracks) that you cannot get to. It looks like you can get to it from the very hard to get to other side. But after maybe an hour of trying, I realized you cannot. So I thought, what if I jumped a car over there? So I did, and it worked. But I died since I couldn't make the jump back. Eventually, after much thought, and many tries, I figured out that I needed to combine a flammable plastic bottle (glass breaks) with some sticky tape, use some bandages for a wick, light it on fire, stick it to my car, jump my car onto the tree area and jump out before it goes over the edge and before the bottle explodes. Some timing aside (took a few tries) it worked! Brilliant! I've never seen anything like that in a game before. And it's this, not to mention the survival aspect (I had to drive around checking other cars glove boxes for healing spray and bandages, with 7 minutes before I bled out, just to stay alive once) that really make this part of the game just a brilliant as the more scripted parts. People have asked, is this a sandbox game? This part is, and it works very well, and is just one piece of the brilliant rest of the game.

So overall, I would say that Alone in the Dark really is a masterpiece, and is a must buy for any gamer who appreciates good games. You'll get used to the non-standard control, and this really isn't an experience to be missed. I'd say 9/10. 10/10 if they got rid of the minor glitches, but somethings are going to fall through the cracks with a game this ambitious.

Stop reading now if you don't want to know the story related spoiler I mentioned in the story section. Edward is supposed to be immortal but if that is the case why can he die? But now see what I mean? It's not so much a story whole, only a gameplay caveat needed.