It's rare that you'll see a game ported to another console in such a short amount of time, but yet having some big improvements made to the actual gameplay. Alone in the Dark: Inferno does exactly that, with improvements made to the camera, character movement, and overall feel of the game that help propel it from the mediocre status that it had on the Xbox 360, and make it into a really decent and engaging experience on the PS3.
That's not to say that Alone in the Dark was horrible on the 360; if you played it for a bit, you could see that it should have been a solid title for the system, but there were certain issues with the behind-the-back view that you were constantly locked into that made platforming segments a complete pain. There were also so many jumping instances early on, and your character moved like he was in a constant trance, so he never had enough pep in his step to stay ahead of the action. Alone in the Dark: Inferno fixes a large portion of the control and camera issues, and the end result is a much, much better survival horror adventure.
This time out, you can opt to control the camera with the right analog stick, giving you 360 degrees of movement so you can see any angle that you need. You can switch between a first- or third-person view, which can be helpful in gauging some of the more difficult, or precise, jumps in the game. Early on, especially in the burning building section, you'll need to get used to the controls and the jumping, and this time out, it's far less frustrating to do so. There are still some hit detection issues, and sometimes the game is very finicky when it comes to the angle from which you need to approach an object in order to interact with it, but everything works much better this time out.
With the additions comes the other parts of the game that still carry over and work quite well, especially the weapon and item skills. Fire, as the name of the game might imply, plays a key part in the gameplay, considering it's the only reliable way to permanently kill the various monsters you encounter. Because of this, you'll find that most of the items you can use have either flammable properties or can be combined with fire in same way. For instance, you can get a simple bottle of gasoline and combine it with your gun to shoot out bullets covered in fire, or you can opt to slap some sticky tape on the bottle and place it on a wall to make a sticky bomb. You can even stick it to an enemy and have him run around with the intent of taking out others, or toss the bottle into the air and shoot it for a quick ranged explosive. You can trail the gasoline around the ground to make a trail of fire, refill the bottle with gas from a car or other object, or simply light another object on fire and then use it as a flammable melee weapon. There are quite a few things you can do with the items you find in Inferno, and it's a really interesting take on the items that transcends the usual mechanics of combining a gun with a scope or a knife with a flashlight.
There's also a great sense of immersion in the inventory system, in that when you bring it up, you default to a first-person view, with your character looking down at his jacket and pockets, where all of the items are visibly stored. You can equip from here, or combine items for different effects. Along with this, healing is done mostly with sprays and bandages, depending on the extent of the wounds. Instead of a life bar, though, you'll see the physical damage on your character and get a pretty good indication of how hurt you are based on the amount of bleeding. Most wounds can be fixed up by the spray, which you'll actually spray directly on the wounds, and those can be located on your arms, legs or chest, while the more severe cuts and slices are going to need bandaging to keep the blood from leaking and attracting more monsters to your whereabouts. It's a pretty neat system, and while we have seen games that use physical wounds to give you an idea of damage, the healing system really drives home the feeling that you're involved with the world around you and the on-screen character you're controlling.
The story itself is pretty well rooted in the supernatural; it's not a story of science gone wrong like Resident Evil, and while some of the concepts are pretty far out there, it's a decent enough tale. It never really gave me any scares or caused me to jump, and it doesn't rely on much in the way of surprises and loud noises to give you a cheap thrill. While horror is still at the forefront in how gruesome the monsters are and the overall dismal feel of the world around you, it's not a game that focuses on actually scaring the player.
Also, the DVD style menu makes a return with this port, allowing players to skip ahead or backward in the game at any time. If you just want to see the ending without playing much of the game, you can certainly opt to do that. If you do skip ahead, the game will give you a quick rundown on the events you missed to keep you in tune with the story, and while I never found the game to be particularly challenging on the default difficulty, if you do get stuck, it's a nice feature that will alleviate the frustration for most players. I'd love to see more games incorporate something like this, and it's one of the better ideas that Inferno has going for it.
The majority of the game takes place in Central Park, where your character gets stuck after a pretty solid bit of gaming that involves an escape from a burning and crumbling building onto the city streets of New York. From there, you jump into a car during an exhilarating chase sequence, and this time out, the car mechanics have seen a much-needed improvement. Other parts of the game will involve driving as well, and actually getting into and using cars has its own set of mechanics, such as searching the visor, seat and glovebox for keys, or simply trying to hotwire the car to get it going. Take too long, and monsters can surround the vehicle and even pull you out through the window or door. Often, looking for the key pays off more than taking the time to wire it up.
I definitely enjoyed Alone in the Dark: Inferno, especially more than the version I had recently played on the 360. The control changes do a lot to make the game enjoyable, and thankfully, everything I liked in the original version has been kept intact in this PS3 iteration. The story isn't the biggest appeal here; instead, it's the inventive item and inventory system, and the interesting uses of fire in puzzle-solving and monster-killing help to propel this game ahead of other, more standard, horror game fare. Inferno is well worth checking out, and even picking up, and it's something that I hope people are willing to go back to if they were left frustrated by the 360 version of the game.
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