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Alone in the Dark Review – A Case Best Left Unsolved


Alone in the Dark on PlayStation 5

Ever since it was announced in 2022, my hopes were high for Alone in the Dark. The franchise is the founding father of the survival horror genre, predating the first Resident Evil game by four years and establishing the fixed-camera creepiness that Capcom’s series would go on to make a worldwide sensation.

It’s a property that has long laid dormant; the rights flitting between publishers until this new high-profile reboot from THQ Nordic starring Jodie Comer and David Harbour. The result is a game of contradictions: it simultaneously tries to reclaim its survival horror throne, all while poorly apeing the games it inspired in the first place. Alongside some of the worst technical performance issues I’ve seen in a current-gen game, it becomes incredibly hard to recommend.

Edward walking through Derceto in Alone in the Dark.
Image Source: THQ Nordic

2024’s iteration of Alone in the Dark is a full reboot of the series, loosely adapting the 1992 original. You play as either detective Edward Carnby (David Harbour) or Emily Hartwood (Jodie Comer), both investigating the disappearance of Emily’s uncle Jeremy at Derceto Manor, an ominous-looking asylum.

The game promises diverging stories for each playable character, the extent to which you’re recommended to play through both of them, a la Leon and Claire’s separate campaigns in the 2019 Resident Evil 2 remake. Doing so is much more of a chore than a chance to dive further into the lore, with only about half an hour’s worth of exclusive scenarios and sequences in each one. The only saving grace is that the game is incredibly short: my first run-through as Emily took around six hours, while the second as Edward clocked in at just over four hours. There are a range of endings to see, but having to trudge through the entire game twice simply isn’t worth it.

Edward shooting a skeleton enemy in Alone in the Dark.
Image Source: THQ Nordic

That’s because the gameplay at the core of Alone in the Dark is uninspired, clunky, and not especially fun. If the Resident Evil series stuck to the original’s survival horror roots during the PS3/Xbox 360 generation, this is exactly what it would look and play like. Characters run slowly around the manor, take ages to open doors, and fire weapons that feel imprecise and floaty. Enemies are at best spongey and at worst broken, and have no in-universe explanation for existing in the first place. So much of Alone in the Dark’s DNA feels directly ripped from Resident Evil, but to a much lower standard.

Even the map you use to traverse Derceto Manor – alongside classic features like colors denoting whether you’ve explored the whole room or not, and keys that gradually open up new areas as you progress – is hard to navigate due to a lack of directional arrows on your character, and completely absent during gameplay outside of the asylum.

The only part of Alone in the Dark’s gameplay that is notably fun is the puzzles, which amount to a much larger proportion of the game than you may expect. A lot of them require you to look through notes you collect, translating coded messages into inputs for the mystical talisman you carry around, and there’s a really rewarding feeling when you figure them out. Going back to the sticking point of having to play the game twice to see its proper endings, though, they unavoidably become dull and far too easy on that second playthrough.

Emily walking through a trench in Alone in the Dark.
Image Source: THQ Nordic via Twinfinite

But the main cardinal sin of Alone in the Dark is just how unpolished it feels. The game already went through a fair few delays, but even now it truly feels like it needed much more time in the oven to be ready for a proper release. Simply put, Alone in the Dark is so rough around the edges that I can’t in good conscience recommend buying it until those issues are fixed.

It isn’t just the odd visual glitch here and there: at worst my game crashed entirely, and it doesn’t get better once you’re past those. There were numerous times in both playthroughs my character got stuck in the wall or floor, meaning I had to reboot the game (losing progress in the process) to continue playing. On-screen button prompts are incredibly finicky, sometimes taking upwards of four approaches to show up properly. Boxes you open with these floaty controls sometimes contain nothing at all, entirely wasting your time. The bayou section towards the game’s end is by far the worst offender, with leaping leech-like enemies that sometimes clip through walls to reach you and other times float in the air, static, once defeated.

Emily shooting a creature in Alone in the Dark.
Image Source: THQ Nordic

These technical problems made Alone in the Dark a chore to play through the first time around, and just bitterly disappointing on the second. It’s slightly easier to look beyond the uninspired story and gameplay, putting it down to double-A production and a desire to go back to the series’ roots, but the amount of game-breaking problems I encountered take away any of its charm.

As it stands, it’s very hard – if not impossible – to recommend Alone in the Dark in its current state. Even if you can look beyond the blandness of its design, story, and gameplay, the sheer lack of polish is far too frustrating to warrant spending any money on. It’s a game that, without exaggeration, I had been looking forward to for years. All that’s left now, though, is a sour taste.


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Alone in the Dark

As it stands, it’s very hard – if not impossible – to recommend Alone in the Dark in its current state. Even if you can look beyond the blandness of its design, story, and gameplay, the sheer lack of polish is far too frustrating to warrant spending any money on. It’s a game that, without exaggeration, I had been looking forward to for years. All that’s left now, though, is a sour taste.

Pros

  • Enjoyable and rewarding puzzles

Cons

  • Clunky movement and shooting
  • Divering stories that barely have any differences
  • Awful game-breaking bugs

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PlayStation 5.



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