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Alone in the Dark (Xbox 360)

Rated: 15.

Story: You wake up with amnesia and in close proximity to an elderly gentleman who believes that only you can save the world. Then you have to fight your way out of a zombie-infested, burning building via a poorly lit underground parking lot. Somebody's after the philosopher's stone, Lucifer is preparing to make an appearance and pesky spider things keep jumping at your head.

Fortunately, this pretty much uses up every gaming cliché in existence and things finally begin to pick up. You find yourself roaming Central Park in the dark.

You aren't alone...

Gameplay: This is an adventure game with plenty of combat. You can swap between a third-person view and a first-person view at the touch of a button. First-person is good for shooting; third-person is compulsory for hand-to-hand fighting and for solving some puzzles.

There's a huge mixture of gameplay styles. Sometimes you're creeping round dingy buildings searching for clues like in Resident Evil, other times you have to drive around at high speed, then there are shooter sections and occasionally there's lots of jumping and climbing as it all goes Tomb Raider. Although this means plenty of variety, it also seems to mean the developers didn't have enough time to make any of the different styles work properly.

Save System: Regular checkpoints that can be saved manually at any time. Quite where you'll end up and what you'll be carrying when you load a saved game isn't quite as predictable as you might like, however.

Comments: Few games in recent memory have made me want to throw my controller through a window quite as often as Alone in the Dark. The control scheme generally varies between awkward and broken. Even selecting an item from the inventory screen is a pain. Since much of the game is spent selecting items from the inventory screen while being rushed by hungry zombies, this is something of an issue... I came close to giving up on numerous occasions because I simply couldn't get the main character to do what was required of him without blowing himself up, falling from a great height or getting his brain munched. Grr.

Nonetheless, I persevered. For every stretch of pain, Alone in the Dark throws up a superb edge-of-the-seat sequence, an atmospheric location or a great puzzle. Exploring the spooky, totally open environment of Central Park is a revelation for survival horror games. Having to actually think to find a way forward makes a change. Throwing a bottle of petrol and then shooting it in mid air never gets old.

There are definitely many great gaming moments to be had.

If only the bits in between weren't so daft and annoying...

Conclusion: A game to love and hate in equal measure. Then hate a bit more. Then love. Then to have very mixed feelings about as, just at the point you think you're almost finished, you discover it's twice as long as you were expecting. And then...

Oh, just rent it and see what you think...

Graphics: Fantastic. Great fire effects and lighting. Plenty of nice animation touches and some excellently designed locations. Only the monsters are a little generic.

Length: Well, that depends... You could bury your controller in the front of your TV before the first hour is up. That would make it a very short game. Then again, if you're persistent but ham-fisted it might stretch out to medium length.

Rating: 4/5.

(The Wii and PS2 versions are supposedly very different. Be warned.)

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