Oh my! Where to start, where to start? If ever there is a series with a checkered past it is Alone In The Dark. In my younger days it was one of the best horror games on the market and I had some very fond memories of playing.
The original 1992 release was something very special, a game that created a true sense of fear, not just using jump scares but utilising psychological fear with it. It got in your head and messed with it in a way I had never experienced before.
It has since been surpassed, but it was that that opened the doors for the genre, paving the way for the likes of Silent Hill. The original was special and deserves to be remembered with great acclaim.
Even the immediate sequels, whilst not hitting that same high, were still decent games in their own rights. Skip forwards a few years and The New Nightmare, which whilst being generally ok, started the decline of the series on the whole.
2008’s Alone In The Dark, which was meant to be a reboot of the series just fell flat and in all honesty was a travesty of a game, both visually and atmospherically, which was a crying shame, as the concept was sound. A horror game presented as if it was an episodic TV show, it looked like a fantastic game until the moment you got to play it and despite some highs, they never outweighed the many lows.
Despite doing well financially it did seem to have killed the series stone dead, until 2015 and the release of Alone In The Dark: Illumination. A game which I am very torn about.
First let me touch on the negatives. The name, Alone in the Dark! Why, oh why is this game being called Alone in the Dark? Can someone tell me, because I simply don’t get it. It lacks any of what the previous games were, hell even the 2008 release felt like it was part of the Alone in the Dark family. This though just seems too far removed.
Here is why. Illumination shares more in common with Left 4 Dead and the likes than it does Alone in the Dark, played in up to 4-Player Co-Op as you navigate through levels trying to ‘solve a mystery’ whilst working as a team to fend of the evil that hunts you.
The only link in fact is that they have given characters slight backstories, such as Edward Carnaby, the direct descendent of the original Edward Carnaby and the witch who is the supposed grand-daughter of Emily Hartwood. The problem here, is that neither of them seem to share any of the characteristics that made those original characters what they were. Literally all they share are the letters that make up the same name.
Anyway, moody rant out of the way, it’s not all despair as the game itself is pretty solid, with a caveat. On your own it is a horrid, horrid game, that almost wants to punish you for having no friends, enemies circle you in a way that makes it nigh on impossible to attack without getting blindsided, through no fault of you own and it feels from the very start you need help.
That is proven the moment you get a lobby of people together and play in co-op, the enemy patterns seem to be the same and whilst they can still be difficult to pick off, it feels much more manageable if you work as a unit.
There are some lovely touches too, such as the use of light to weaken enemies, making them easier to kill. You are able to use your flashlight to keep them back a little, but you also need to make use of potential light sources in the area, whether that be a floodlight outside or inside lights. Again using your skills as a team it becomes a cracking game of cat and mouse at times as you try to survive and also get the enemies going where you want.
But it suffers the same issues the 2008 game did. Plenty of good ideas, but the overall execution just fails, which makes this a game to avoid on the whole. There is nothing for Alone in the Dark fans and for those who love their online co-op there are just too many better options.
In a game like this, where timing is important and being able to outmaneuver your enemy, it is shocking that the movement feel so slow, like your character is caught in thick, soggy mud. It feels like you are fighting yourself as much as you are fighting the enemies.
Hell, I played it, left it alone and tried to go back with a fresh positive perspective, but really is a game where I just wish I was playing something else. I close the game down on Steam and in my recently played list is Left 4 Dead 2, which is the standard any game like this should be trying to hit.
I really wanted to like this, because again the concept was sound, but it pains me to say that this is yet another nail in the coffin of the Alone in the Dark franchise and maybe it is time to let Edward Carnaby rest peacefully.