It is a failure but it's a failure in disguise which makes it even more frustrating.
The game runs well even on my old system with a Geforce 5700 card which was surprising. Its graphics may be dated for some but they are still good and, more importantly, the graphics and sounds succeed in conveying a creepy and 1920ish atmosphere. In fact, the art of this game is pretty close to awesome with good combinations of claustrophobic and open environments. The part of the game with more alien surroundings feel monstrous in a good way. The horror element of this game is also very nicely done. Hearing our dear investigator turning slightly mad with blurring vision and/or hearing voices fits well within the game and in the right places. The effects of sanity loss, injury and the lack of UI, in general work, very well. Normal injuries result in blood splattering, loss of colour-vision and problems with moving. The effect of breaking a bone and trying to walk still give me goose pimples. Besides some cut-scenes the game usually sticks to the 1st person view and then adds a wide-screen effect when something happens that the player can't do anything about. In short, it's neither the horror element nor the very good atmosphere that fail this game.
As usual with these types of games there is a puzzle element, a shooter element and stealth element. There's also a feel of adventure game to it but that is mostly in the beginning where the game disguise its linear plot nicely story wise. The game also has its share of chase scenes which alone comes so close to make the game a great experience. The game uses a beacon and chapter saving system with limited slots. It tends to place the beacons the right places just prior to and after difficult encounters. To be honest I don't think the usual save-anywhere could have saved the game but it would have helped.
The puzzle elements that consist of figuring out riddles are good enough. The puzzle elements that consist of jumping the right crates or pulling the right levers and not setting off a trap are utter frustration. It's on trial and error base and you found yourself setting off deadly traps deliberately in a vain effort to make progress in the game. Sometimes you get things right in the first try without even knowing it. These kind of puzzles are poorly introduced and the logic behind them often missing. These kinds of puzzles are so frequent, particular in the later half of the game, that it effectively ruined the game for me. Killing the player without warning is forgiven to some point and happens in most great games but here it becomes a rule.
The stealth element of the game is long and the first half of the game is more or less stealth only with no guns. You try to avoid an entire town of madmen in very confined quarters and it makes for some good horror moments. However, the trial and error element is strong here as well. It's easy to be detected and once you are its usually back to a save point. The game does succeed in generating some genuine hate for those townsfolk so when you finally get a gun its not a moment too soon. You really want to blast those people Unfortunately, you are very short on ammo. This happens in many games but I personally hate it. If I get a gun I want to go around guns blazing. In particular in this game because at this point the story works well and you really want to start killing evil people. Until the end of the game ammo is in short supply so stealth is still needed. And luck. The shooting itself is ok when it comes true. The manual aim is nicely done and enemy AI is fair. It does take some getting used to. Weapons are old-fashioned and works ok I liked the shotgun. You have real choices to make when choosing which weapon for any given situation. Combat can be good and intense but ammo usually restricts this. Usually the game throws a lot of enemies at you so you have to "kite" them into somewhere where they can't go or where they line up nicely. There are some chase-scenes and moments that really give a rush. One of them is a long chase through apartments, on stairwells and onto the top of a building. It worked great but probably because I got it right (most of it) in the first couple of tries. There are other greats scenes but they are subject to the trial and error syndrome too such an extent that it just becomes too much. In the end this syndrome made me lose faith in the game. For every great moment I knew there was a lot of frustration ahead to the point where I stopped caring and trying. The final boss scene even had an ugly bug in it. The game tries a lot and fails which is a shame because games with these gameplay elements are needed. In retrospect I would have preferred it shorter and with more shooting and less stealth. This game could have afforded to be easier because of the good story and a good setting.
I only completed this game because I started to use a walk-through. I only recommend this game if you use such and have it right next to you but then you lose the surprise factor. I suppose the hardcore gamers with enough time can get something out of this game but the casual gamers with constraint on time should avoid it.