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Alone in the Dark
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Alone in the Dark (2008)
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Alone in the Dark / Alone in the Dark Inferno - Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (2008)

American PlayStation 3 Cover

Japanese PlayStation 3 Cover

The next planned iteration of the Alone in the Dark series after The New Nightmare, announced in 2003 with the subtitle The Abductions by Computer Artworks Studios, was killed of quickly as the developer closed down, never amounting to more than a few rendered character concepts. Yet nothing seems to be able to really kill Edward Carnby for good. Resurrected once again, the well-loved investigator got another complete make-over by Eden Games. The Atari-owned team behind V-Rally and Test Drive Unlimited also created the underappreciated Kya: Dark Lineage on PlayStation 2. The newest Alone in the Dark was first announced in 2005 and at some point was supposed to bear the subtitle "Near Death Investigation," but that was dropped by the time the game was released three years later. (What's it with major French publishers creating a mess with identically named reboots in 2008?)

In an early build, Carnby was supposed to look like this.

At the beginning of the game, Edward Carnby is afflicted with the most common video game disease: Amnesia. He wakes up in a Manhattan building, beaten to a pulp and threatened to be killed by mysterious guys in trench coats. His only friends are the old man Paddington, who knows something about his past, and an art dealer called Sarah Flores. Soon the building starts to collapse, and a demon appears who seems to be behind the catastrophe. After a spectacular escape, Carnby quickly ends up locked in Central Park, chased by mysterious earthquakes and possessed creatures called Humanz. That's not a joke, they're really called that. In addition to the mutated people and animals, strange fissures race through the city as if they were alive, and if Carnby gets caught up in them, he's in real trouble. He really needs all his wits to find out the mystery dwelling under Central Park, and the key to his amnesia.

As far as screenplay quality is concerned, one might say by this point that the series is cursed. The protagonist's origin story is once again rewritten, and all of a sudden it's supposed to be the same Edward Carnby from the 1920s again, who has been kept young throughout a century through esoteric means. The story never ceases to amaze in its stupidity. Carnby, voiced by James McAffrey alias Max Payne, talks at best like a sociopath, swearing all the time for no apparent reason. The secondary characters don't have a shred of personality, either. Kudos also go to the completely rushed and forgettable ending.

The gameplay has been redesigned from scratch, abandoning the classic survival-horror approach for a much more flexible over-the-shoulder view la Resident Evil 4. While the game should feel like Mikami's cult classic, it doesn't: The camera is awkward and often much too close, and Carnby possesses the inertia of a lorry. The game also sometimes forgets the existence of analog sticks, requiring an additional button press to run. Fortunately, a first person view is available to offer much more precision during the shooting sequences. Still Eden Games clearly missed the call and moving around Central Park is downright painful. Strangely enough, coming from the developers of V-Rally, the frequent driving parts are horrible, as the car will usually get stuck on every bit of small rubble and the bumps created by the earthquakes. Oh, and the Humanz can jump on the car's roof if you're not driving fast enough, too.

Still, everything isn't gloomy in Central Park! Humanz can only be taken down with fire, meaning that bullets will only distract them. You'll have to channel your inner MacGuyver to defeat them permanently: By picking up and combining various items (sprays, alcohol, tape), Carnby gets to create deadly weapons of fire. It's probably one of the coolest features of the game. Since fire is made a pretty big deal, Eden created a fantastic engine to fulfill any secret pyromaniac urges. It's even possible to use a broom to propagate a fire and burn down doors if one pleases. And of course Carnby carries around the good old flashlight to illuminate dark areas whenever there's no fire source around. Pretty much any object can also be used as a melee weapon, similar to Dead Rising (only not as goofy). Most puzzles are either based on mixing objects or using the physics engine to your advantage, quite refreshing compared to typical contrived survival horror logic. Later a special power called Spectra Vision comes into play, which allows Carnby to see details like the enemies' weak points when he closes his eyes. To increase the level of immersion, the whole game gets along without any on-screen interface; instead Carnby actually looks down his jacket to manage his inventory. In a special healing mode he also gets to apply various healing items directly on his wounds, which are counted separately for several parts of his body.

There are a few contextual micro-games, like short circuiting this car engine.

After the first missions force the player in a specific direction, later chapters quickly allow to roam free in Central Park. Like in GTA, plot missions can be accessed in specific places. While there isn't much to do at first, the second part (much better than the first one) plays like a treasure hunt in the park. You need to burn dozens and dozens "roots of evil" (don't ask), which are well hidden all over the playground. Some are easy to spot, others can only be destroyed through puzzles. It's fantastic and redeems most of the usual drawbacks.

Once again, the audio is top notch, from the groaning of the Humanz to the environmental sound effects. Regarding the soundtrack, Olivier Derivier picks up the torch with flying colors. Collaborating with the famous Mystery of Bulgarian Voices, he created a unique choir-like soundtrack. Definitively a must hear. Like Alan Wake, the game inaugurated TV-Show narration with nice "previously on" at the beginning on each chapter, to establish a structure like in a TV drama. This isn't pure pretense, as every chapter can be selected from the get-go, so one can skip as much of the game as one would like.

Finally, the eerie atmosphere coming from an abandoned Central Park allows Alone In The Dark to stand apart from the mass of generic horror games. Although this incarnation of the story was first available for PCs and Xbox 360 only, a PlayStation 3 version came out a bit later, adding Inferno to the title. It fixes most of the problems related to the controls and camera, and added a little subway level. This makes it the best version without a doubt. Unfortunately no one cared anymore by the time it came out. Eden Games had also promised to fix the earlier versions with a patch, but that never happened.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Eden Games

Publisher:

Designer:

  • David Nadal

Genre:

Themes:


Alone in the Dark Inferno (PlayStation 3)

Alone in the Dark Inferno (PlayStation 3)

Alone in the Dark Inferno (PlayStation 3)

Alone in the Dark Inferno (PlayStation 3)

Alone in the Dark Inferno (PlayStation 3)

Alone in the Dark Inferno (PlayStation 3)

Alone in the Dark Inferno (PlayStation 3)

Alone in the Dark Inferno (PlayStation 3)



Alone in the Dark - PlayStation 2, Wii (2008)

American Wii Cover

With the relatively low hardware power of the Wii compared to its competitors and the PlayStation 2 still going strong, many publishers felt compelled to deliver two independently developed variants of their games, rather than just ports. This happened to both Ghostbusters, which replaced the graphics with a cartoon style and added several features, and Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, which turned out an entirely different game.

The SD versions of Alone in the Dark, developed by Hydravision Entertainment, lie somewhere in the between - the plot is clearly based on the same original concept and pounds along similar locations and setpieces, but it has been thoroughly rewritten. Stages are redesigned (and usually made shorter), and many characters appear differently, with a new script and a new dub for the voices. The female lead, Sarah Flores, underwent the greatest change, making her an entirely different character, but even Carnby comes off as much less of an asshole here. The main villain also shows up much later, making the first part of the game feel rather laid back, as there's "only" a skyscraper breaking down around you and a few ordinary Humanz attacking. The whole script features much less "in your face" mentality, and while dialogs are still corny, they're not as awkward and unpleasant to listen to.

The mechanics also fall into the category "similar, but not quite the same." Plenty of stuff can still be picked up as melee weapons, swung by waggling the analog sticks (or the remote on Wii), and fire plays still a role, although a not quite as central one as in the HD versions. Enemies don't have to be incinerated anymore to get rid of them; instead they'll eventually succumb to gunfire. As a result, the MacGuyverism is also toned down significantly. Whereas the big versions open up into a sandbox-like structure in the later chapters, here the stages (whose number is up to ten to compensate their shorter length) remain linear throughout. There are hardly any car segments left, and in most of them Carnby isn't the one who holds the steering wheel. That's definitely for the better, though, since the car controls aren't any better than on Xbox 360. The rabid floor fissures are actually a bit cooler than in the big versions, cause Carnby now has to grab on objects in the fissure's way to pull himself out.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Hydravision Entertainment

Publisher:

Designer:

  • Benjamin Ortiz

Genre:

Themes:


Alone in the Dark (Wii)

Alone in the Dark (Wii)

Alone in the Dark (Wii)



Comparison Screenshots


Alone in the Dark - Movie (2005)

Poster

Japanese Poster

While the game series was trapped in limbo for half a decade, Alone in the Dark was taken over by the movie industry. The setting picks up after The New Nightmare, reintroducing the modern Edward Carnby (Christian Slater) as one former victim of strange genetic experiments with orphans, who now in their adulthood get possessed by shadowy creatures. The monsters have a natural ability to create EMP bursts with improbable conditions (your flashlight still works when you're vaguely close to them). Teaming once again with Aline (Tara Reid), Carnby sets out to do the unthinkable in an action movie - fight them. The whole plot is tied to the Abkani Indian lore from the game, but doesn't make much sense at all.

Being a video game adaptation, of course it just had to be an Uwe Boll film. Boll bashing aside, though, this was no doubt the better one of his early game adaptations. Yes, that bar hangs low, and yes, Alone in the Dark is far, far away from being a great movie. The dialog is corny and awkwardly delivered (hey, that makes it a perfect adaption to the later games in the series!), half the time the action choreography makes no sense, and in its attempt to ape Hollywood action cinema, it only really captures its worst aspects. So viewers are treated to a pointless bullet time sequence, some pointlessly drawn-out shootouts, a pointless self-sacrifice scene, a pointless sex scene, and a pointless female lead. Actually, the last one is worse than pointless. It's painfully obvious that Tara Reid brought absolutely no motivation to the set, and every scene she's in turns out horrendous.

Christian Slater, on the other hand, might have been the best casting choice Boll has ever made, as he appears simply cut out for this kind of trashy genre movie, an he delivers his most ludicrous lines with a sincerity only a real pro of trash can. It also tries its hands at reviving some horror elements Hollywood seems to have forgotten about - like, don't show the monster in the first couple minutes and try to build up suspense instead. (Not to say that it succeeds...) In the end it's still an action flick first and foremost, though. Alone in the Dark certainly has its moments, and just like the director's other video game Adaptations, it can be quite enjoyable when - and only when - watched with the right mindset, as a campy, involuntarily hilarious B-movie.

Uwe Boll also kind of redeemed himself with an R-rated directors cut, which ads more of the silly CGI monsters and proper gore, and disposes of many of the scenes Tara Reid played a central role in. Well, good riddance!

Alone in the Dark (Movie)

Alone in the Dark (Movie)

Alone in the Dark (Movie)

Alone in the Dark (Movie)



Alone in the Dark 2 - Movie (2008)

Alone in the Dark 2 Poster

Alone in the Dark 2 DVD Cover

The second Alone in the Dark movie was written and directed by Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer, although Uwe Boll remained on board as a producer. When trying to obtain a mysterious dagger, paranormal investigator Edward Carnby (Rick Yune - yes, Carnby's Asian now) ends up getting stabbed with the weapon and tainted with a witch curse. This causes gross varices to grow over the body of everyone who touches it (at least until Lance Henriksen as the veteran witch doctor declares: "After all these years I'm immune to witchcraft crap!") and the witch herself to hunt him down. Carnby gets picked up by a cult of witch hunters, and the fight begins.

There's not much more to the plot of Alone in the Dark II. There's a terribly telegraphed and unjustified love subplot between Carnby and the cult leader's daughter Natalie Dexter (Rachel Specter), who also turns out the real target of the witch, and there's one major twist thrown in during a few sentences of exposition, but that's pretty much it. For the first half of the film, Carnby isn't even much of an agent, as he fights the witches curse. His very existence beyond that point makes no sense at all - it is established very early on that the cult will immediately and cold-bloodedly murder anyone who looks at the witch's face in the fever dreams caused by the dagger, yet no attempt is made to do the same to him when there's all the reason to. It's never even established what Carnby even wants with the dagger in the first place, anyway. After questionably falling in love with Natalie, he resolves: "This isn't about just me, anymore." Only it was never really about him.

While the film drops the action focus of its direct predecessor, it doesn't really replace it with anything resembling suspense - the whole movie contains little more than half a minute of scenes where anyone is in fact alone in the dark, and the witch, sometimes a cloud of crappy CGI nebula, sometimes just a woman in a robe, isn't scary at all. She also has her lab right in New York City (where she apparently keeps her own heart in a jar) while her hunters are holed up in wooden houses in the forest.

For all the bad rap Uwe Boll gets as a director, the real stinkers tend to be his produced sequels by other directors; it happened as such with Bloodrayne, and Alone in the Dark II is likewise devoid of even the meager redeeming qualities that the first movie had.

Alone in the Dark 2 (Movie)

Alone in the Dark 2 (Movie)

Alone in the Dark 2 (Movie)

Alone in the Dark 2 (Movie)



Comic Books

Bande Dessinée Cover

Alone in the Dark (Bande Dessinée)

Semic Comics Cover

Like Prisoner of Ice, Alone in the Dark received the honor of becoming a bande dessinée by Glénat. Written by series author Hubert Chardot himself, it loosely retells the story of Alone in the Dark 3. A new version was included as a softcover edition with a special edition of the trilogy. The colors were very different in this edition, and the pencils made it look like a manga. Unfortunately, that version is very hard to find now.

The New Nightmare was also treated to a comic book tie-in, although not very successfully. A monthly comic published by Semic, written by Lofficier and drawn by Matt Haley and Aleksi Briclot was supposed to be serialized in France, but only the first issue ever came out. In it Carnby and Aline team up once again to fight an ancient evil dwelling in Tibet. The story is titled "Life is a Hideous Thing," after a quote by H. P. Lovecraft, and Lofficier reintroduces many references to the Cthulhu mythos that had been somewhat toned down throughout the game series.

Alone in the Dark (Semic Comics)


Related Articles


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Alone in the Dark
Jack in the Dark
Alone in the Dark 2

Page 2:
Alone in the Dark 3
Time Gate: Knight's Chase
The New Nightmare

Page 3:
Alone in the Dark (2008)
Movies
Comics

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