SummaryThe innovative features does not make up for frustrating controls and the embarrassingly bad story and dialogues.
The GoodIn most survival-horror games your main method of fending of the monsters are to find weapons such as pistols, shotguns, flamethrowers etc which all magically fit into your pockets. Not so in AITD: Inferno. Here, the main way of defence is not spelled firearms but.... Fire! You see, all the hellish creatures are highly sensitive to fire (funny, huh? You'd think that they, of all the nasty monsters in the universe, should be able to stand a little heat:)) and fire comes in abundance in this game, very nice-looking realistic fire at that.
Now, how do you use it against the monsters? Well, you could pick up a hatchet (or any of a number of melee weapons you'll come across) and chop down that zombie and drag it into a nearby bonfire before it wakes up again. Or you could destroy it directly with a broomstick you have set aflame. However, the real fun lies in making improvised weapons out of household items you will find in various places. For example, you can combine a bottle of booze with a cloth to make yourself a molotov cocktail which will fry the monsters nicely. Perhaps you rather prefer holding a spray-can to your lighter as a makeshift flamethrower? Or why not pour some flammable liquid on the ground and light it when an enemy steps onto the trail? Improvisation is the key to survival here and I thought it was a nice, fresh breeze to the genre and an admirable (though not flawless) attempt to move away from the somewhat stale run-and-gun convention.
Many game-designers of today seem to overlook the strength of good, engaging puzzles but AITD have managed to pull of some good ones. Most of them requires you to use the environment in clever ways to get by obstacles, for example, you may have to find a way to get a severed power-line out of water or find a heavy object to smash open a locked door. Overall, most of them aren't a no-brainer but are still perfectly logical. There was certainly, at least occasionally, a nice, old-school-adventure charm over this game.
The BadSadly, there's far more things to dislike than like about this game. The biggest flaw of this game is without doubt it's story. It's an illogical and disconnected mess of cliches, such as a protagonist suffering from amnesia, an ancient stone with evil powers, a satanist sect and the knights templar. Sure, cliches can be good if they are used effectively but they certainly aren't here. The main problem , I think, is that instead of focusing on the horror-aspect, the developers saw fit to throw in a lot of elements from action-games such as driving (I will go into more detail on that later) and climbing and therefore diluting the overall atmosphere. AITD simply tries to be so many things at the same time that in the end it doesn't really do anything particularly well.
What about the dialogue? Well..... apparently, according to some other reviews, the designers tried to create a gritty, dark atmosphere. Fine and well. But seriously, do the guys at Atari really think a game will be more ”gritty” or ”dark” because the characters says f**k and s**t in about every third sentence!? Add to this such original and well-written lines as ”Run, save yourself”, ”Bah, I'm fine, just a fleshwound” or ”who the hell am I?” and you should have a pretty god idea of what a great storyline you can expect from this game. I would like to add that normally I find it quite annoying when a game doesn't have the option of subtitles. However, in this particular case I doubt I would have been any happier of reading the dialogue in it's entire awfulness as well.
Now on to the next, miserable aspect, namely the controls. You will find out that turning and rotating the PC (Player character, if you didn't know that abbreviation) is so clumsy and imprecise in third-person view, it will be a major hazzle getting him aligned properly to first pick up a baseball-bat or branch or whatever and then struggle to try to hit the enemy and not just dead air which becomes quite a serious issue in close combat. Another thing which complicates getting up close and personal in battle is that instead of the standard ”one button-press does it all” approach to close combat, here you have to mimic real arm-movement by moving the analog stick in the direction you want Carnby to swing a melee weapon. While this sounds like a nice and quite original idea in theory, in practice it's mostly just clumsy and unnecessarily difficult to master, even if it allows for some intuitive puzzles near the end. And to top this of, Carnby ”runs” at a pace which would have been suitable for a relaxing jog in the park but certainly not for running away from badtempered zombies.
Ah, yes. About the aforementioned driving. I will contend to say that early on in the game, an entire section consists of driving through narrow streets littered with various obstacles where the slightest crack in the road can cause you to become hopelessly stuck and fall to your death as the road crumbles under you. I found this section so frustrating and unforgivingly difficult that the real horror of this game lies in thinking what the ps2-version would have been like which I have read had even worse controls than this ps3-version. (Shudders!)
The Bottom LineOverall, Alone in the Dark: Inferno is a game that could have been something really good but unfortunately it tries to bite of far more than it can chew and falls flat. If Atari is ever to make a sequel I sincerely hope they spend time and effort to polish and refine this, after all, promising concept.