The grandfather of survival-horror gets a new sequel! - Review By Tren - Page 1/2
To many, Capcom's Resident Evil series is considered the father of survival-horror. Little do they know that it was actually the Infogrames' developed PC game, Alone In The Dark, that was responsible for the genre back in the early 90's. Unfortunately, since then the quality of the series has gone downhill, mostly due to a lack of resources. Also, the later games were unable to compete with the quality of the Resident Evil series that Capcom had begun to craft. Thankfully, with Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare, Infogrames have commissioned an all new developer to bring the classic into the 21st century, and reclaim the series' honour. The new developer, Darkworks, has no previous games to its name but has many an experienced employee within its midst. Many team members are ex-members of Delphine Software, famous for their early 90's classics Out of this World and Flashback.
While this new adventure stars the same lead character as the original titles, Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare features an all new scenario in a different time period. As such, the player needs no experience with the other games or their plots whatsoever. In addition to the original character, Edward Carnby, an all-new female lead, Aline Cedrac, is introduced in AITD:TNN. This results in the game having two separate gameplay paths, a la Resident Evil 1 and 2 with two individual plots which frequently cross-over.
Though the survival-horror genre was created by Infogrames, there have been many innovative additions, courtesy of Capcom, since the original Alone In The Dark was released. The fear is that, despite the promise of a number of exciting new features, the game will end up borrowing heavily from the popular Capcom series. While this may not be considered a bad thing, some may be afraid that AITD: TNN will play too much like a Resident Evil: Code Veronica clone, and thus detract from the gameplay experience. Is that the case? Read on to find out.
The detail in the prerendered backgrounds is pretty astounding.
Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (which I shall refer to as TNN from now on) features absolutely fantastic graphics. RE: CV's fully polygonal efforts are put to shame by Darkworks' intensely detailed static backgrounds. While the backgrounds are prerendered, a meticulously accurate meshing has been created around each object to ensure you genuinely feel that your 3D polygonal character is part of the overall scene. The benefit of such accurate meshing can clearly be seen in one of the game's main graphical features - the flashlight. Each character has a flashlight which can be cast around the screen. And amazingly, light accurately falls on objects as if they were constructed of three-dimensional polygons.
The realistic lighting effects don't stop with the mesmerising flashlight, however. In-game lights cast photo realistic rays and create real-time shadows on every environmental object, including your character. In addition, light plays a key role in the game and its story. For example, in the game's quintessential mansion, there is the temptation to turn the lights on in a room before exploring it, however certain key puzzles can only be spotted or solved in the dark. The flashlight itself, not only creates a beautiful effect but also adds immensily to the gameplay. When cast over items which can be interacted with, the glare of the flashlight will cause them to briefly shine, attracting your attention to them.
The outer walls of a gothic cathedral.
Of course, the attention to detail in terms of light and dark would be essentially be worthless if the game's setting wasn't suitably moody. Thankfully, TNN's main locale, Shadow Island, is a mysterious place with a dark past. The game begins with an amazing FMV sequence, which describes in detail the pasts of Edward and Aline. Both characters were interested in visiting Shadow Island for different reasons. Yet, the pair's ill-fated helicopter crash separates them. From here it is up to the player to decide which character to take control of. Most will find it appealing to begin with Edward's adventure. This is because it is more instantly gratififying and involves more exploration, discovery and action. Aline's adventure is more challenging and features puzzles in greater abundance and of increased difficulty, but enemy appearances are less frequent. Both adventures feature a good difficulty curve, although those completely new to this type of game may find the initial encounters with enemies a little frustrating.
The aforementioned mansion isn't the only place your visit to Shadow Island will take you. During the duration of the game players will also get to visit the spooky grounds of the mansion, an old chapel, a place called Moor Land and some old caves. The game is large, encompassing 2 whole GD-ROMs, with the two character's adventures different enough to encourage the player to complete both without becoming boring first. Thanks to a well written plot, the both adventures cross-over frequently, with the characters communicating in cut-scenes via walkie-talkies and giving each other their current progress. This, in turn, advances the plot and gives the player clues which help solve some more difficult puzzles. Also, the vast amount of readable text in the game is a notable point, all of which needs to be digested in order to solve many of the game puzzles and to understand the fine nuances of the plot.
The survival-horror genre gained its name thanks to the ability to provoke fear and suspense. Resident Evil took this premise and improved on it no end, with scary creatures and set-pieces, haunting music and scares and shocks around every corner. TNN does an excellent job of keeping you on the edge of your seat, and will make you jump many times through the course of the game. Despite the occasional clichéd moment - enemies "bursting out" at you, for example - most of the events take place when you least expect them to and overall the scare-factor of the title is far better than that found in RE: CV.
TNN features good D-pad character control, which feels very similar to that found in a Resident Evil game. Those who've never played the original Alone In The Dark titles but are familiar with Resident Evil will feel right at home here. And as a bonus, the flashlight can be moved independently of your character, using the Analogue pad.
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