A couple of days ago I finally located a copy of Alone in the Dark: Inferno for the PlayStation 3. I'm not a huge Alone in the Dark fan in general, but prior to the game's release for the Xbox 360, there had been quite a lot of talk from the developers about different ideas they were trying out, and their approach to making something they saw as fairly revolutionary.
…Of course, it ended up accumulating countless negative reviews and extremely poor word-of-mouth. Last time I checked Metacritic, the 360 had an average score of 58. Basically, pretty much everyone who played it hated it, and it crashed and burned spectacularly.
After this potent feedback, the development team at Eden Studios gave the game a radical makeover and fixed many of the things that sunk the first release. This new and improved version (PS3 only) was subtitled Inferno, and despite addressing the concerns, this release also went nowhere. Currently, a brand-new copy can be had for $20 or less, and last I heard, any hope of a sequel has been utterly destroyed.
It's deeply, deeply unfortunate that Eden released the flawed 360 version first, because Inferno is completely brilliant.
Without meaning to sound intentionally hyperbolic, I can certainly say that it's been the best experience I've had on the PS3, bar none. The development team and director were thinking so far ahead and so far outside the box that I've basically been totally impressed with everything I've seen.
It's dynamically cinematic. The set pieces are fantastic, pacing has been great, and the overall tone and setting are extremely cohesive. In a nutshell, Lucifer’s going to make his grand entrance in Central Park and everyone else is along for the ride. Honestly, Metal Gear Solid 4 could take quite a few cues from what's going on here.
The physics dominate. Within aspect of the game, the developers have implemented a physics engine. While most games using physics employ them to a limited degree, Eden has created a world where everything fits and works together, especially with regard to the puzzles and challenges that main character Edward Carnby must overcome. Rope, electricity, fire… all these things are included in a way that's so straightforward and natural, you'll be surprised no one has really attempted it before.
The design is unique. From the main character’s inventory (pockets inside his jacket), to the combination and manipulation of items, to the extremely bold DVD-style chapter system that allows players to rewind or fast-forward to any segment of the game, it's pretty easy to see that Eden was not afraid to try something that wasn't common-consensus game design.
Although I haven't finished the game yet (in the home stretch right now) Alone in the Dark: Inferno is easily one of the most impressive experiences I've had this generation, and is certainly a title that deserves to be studied by anyone interested in game design or games criticism. It's not a perfect project by any means, but its bumps and rough edges are absolutely forgivable in comparison to how much it gets unequivocally right.
Original, visionary, and with an exceptionally unified approach towards creating the game's world from the ground-up, I'd strongly recommend Inferno to anyone with a PS3 and a desire to partake of something that breaks out on its own and succeeds where it counts.
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