Alone in the Dark 5 Preview
While it's probably true that Resident Evil brought the survival/horror genre to the mainstream gaming public, many will argue that the original Alone in the Dark was technically the first game to fall into the category. Since then, both franchises have continued on, but RE has undoubtedly enjoyed far greater success, possibly due to the initial impact made way back in the early ‘90s. But Edward Carnby is about to come back in fine form for this new generation, as Alone in the Dark 5 is scheduled to arrive some time this year for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. Carnby is going to have to survive Central Park and New York City this time around, though...and that can difficult even without the scary monsters. So far, Eden Studios has divulged plenty of information, and they've even offered up an early build of the game for limited viewing by several sources. Here's a look at what you can expect from the fifth entry in this series, and why you should definitely consider a purchase when it hits store shelves.
First off, you need to remember that this isn't your straight-up survival/horror game, as you will encounter everything from platforming to puzzle to driving elements. For example, while you may have to avoid several dangerous obstacles during your exploration of the sewers beneath Central Park, you'll have to speed your way to safety in a car later on in the game. You will also be able to manipulate various aspects of the environment to both solve puzzles and assist in the dealing of damage to nasty foes. For example, Carnby will be able to pick up just about anything - from pipes to pieces of wood - and use them to his advantage. Now, you may have to find a way to deal with a particularly tricky situation that doesn't involve denizens of the night, or you might be able to dole out some pain with the right accessory. Thanks to the Havok 4.5 engine, which provides plenty of realism in how you interact with the background, everything should look great and move/react accurately. Without any doubt, the environment in Alone in the Dark 5 might just be the most dynamic and involving you've ever seen in a survival/horror title.
But let's talk about the AI for a second. So many times in games like this, we deal with mindless, ambling enemies that have no real sense of anything. Zombies aren't exactly the most demanding foes in gaming, but don't think for a second you'll be dealing with brainless flesh-munchers in AitD5. No, these baddies will actually have fantastic sensory perception, as they'll be able to not only see you, but they'll even be able to smell you, which allows them to hunt you in the dark. However, even though they're definitely smarter and more capable of giving you trouble, you can also use their intelligence against them. Because they're so sensitive to certain things, you can distract them by making a noise and then hiding, letting them go by. Better yet, we've heard you can actually set up ambushes of some kind, and you can lure them into your nefarious trap! Think about it: you can interact with many different aspects of your environment, so that being the case, shouldn't you also be able to set up a few diabolical schemes, ala Deception? It's definitely one of the more intriguing aspects of this game, and one we can't wait to experiment with.
There is one thing you will be limited by, though- just like in the RE games, you won't have a bottomless inventory. You will have to carefully select what you want to bring with you as you traverse the creepy terrain, and that could include anything from tape to adhesive grenades. See, Carnby can actually create new items by using stuff like tape, and you can imagine what he might be able to make...the possibilities are truly limitless! It's a very unique inventory of items in this game; heck, you can even use glowsticks to mark your path, just in case you get lost in the dark, or you're simply sick of being "alone in the dark." The only real problem we have with this setup is the actual possibility of too much freedom, which can often lead to a confusing gameplay experience, rife with players saying things like, "...what the hell am I supposed to do now? All I've got is tape and a piece of wood; how in God's name am I supposed to get past this wall with that?" In other words, just how much tinkering and "item creating" are we going to be doing, in contrast to fighting the enemies of the night? Thing is, while we always appreciate depth and diversity, fixating on any one unique aspect - as cool as it might be - can shift the game's focus in a negative way. We'd rather not have this happen with AitD5.
Alone in the Dark 5 is definitely trying to implement a variety of features we've never really seen in the genre, though, and we can only call that a bonus at this time. We still don't have anything but a vague "TBA 2008" release estimate for all regions, but that's okay. Eden Studios seems to be on the right track with this one, and we welcome the pioneering title with open arms, especially because we love the idea of an involving experience that goes well beyond attacking and defending. We want a visceral and intense experience, yes, but we all know that true fear comes from the atmosphere. "The anticipation of death is worse than death itself." This is the theory all scary games and movies should operate off of - and so few do - so let's hope the developers get it right with this particular title. We'll keep an eye on it and make sure to fill you in on all new details and info; the game certainly has caught our attention!
1/24/2008 Ben Dutka