Alone in the Dark Review

An ancient horror slumbers...
Alone in the Dark Header

Alone in the Dark is the definition of slow burn horror – something that’s pretty much a given when playing, reading, or watching anything that takes heavy inspiration from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. A modern take of the 1992 classic created by Infogrames, it’s easy to see why THQ wanted to take a punt at reanimating the series, especially when you consider the back-to-back successes Capcom has enjoyed with its recent string of Resident Evil remakes. After all, it was Alone in the Dark that inspired Shinji Mikami in creating the very first Resident Evil all those years ago. Both games took place in a sprawling manor complex teeming with jump scares and puzzles, though Alone in the Dark veered more towards the occult and committing to a period setting.

Enlisting the help of Detective Edward Carnby, Emily Hartwood arrives at Derceto Manor, a psychiatric hospital where her uncle Jeremy was being treated before his sudden disappearance. Immediately, there’s a foreboding atmosphere and after an initial search of the grounds, players are introduced to Derceto’s colourful cast of staff and residents who don’t seem to be entirely forthcoming when asked about Jeremy’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, Derceto itself is somewhat of a maze: a beguiling network of rooms, hallways, and corridors that gradually unspools as you piece together clues, solve puzzles, and discover keys to unlock new doors. In true cosmic horror fashion, the deeper you delve into the game’s story, the more reality starts to fall away.

Alone in the Dark offers a compelling mystery, and one that encourages players to thumb through journals, letters, and other written materials left by other characters to help piece together what’s happening at Derceto Manor. It’s not afraid to flaunt its adventure game roots with a large portion of playtime spent gathering clues, and immersing yourself in its creepy setting.

Alone in the Dark characters

THQ clearly wants you to care about its two protagonists, brought to life by David Harbour (Stranger Things, Black Widow) as Detective Carnby and Jodie Comer (Killing Eve, The Last Duel) as Emily Hartwood. Casting Hollywood talent to lead a video game is not unheard of but, even so, this particular pairing of actors came as somewhat of a surprise given their acting chops. Does Alone in the Dark benefit from this injection of star power? Yes and no. Comer brings a lot of convincing emotion to her portrayal of Emily – a niece desperate to untangle the dark web of conspiracy her uncle has become ensnared within. Harbour, on the other hand, doesn’t sound all that enthused, leaving you with barely any chemistry between the two. This isn’t helped by the fact that you only get to play as one of the two characters during a playthrough – a strange design choice that fails to capitalise on Comer and Harbour’s involvement. Then again, there’s a reason why the game is titled Alone in the Dark and not Together in the Dark.

The inevitable comparisons to the aforementioned Resident Evil remakes are hard to ignore. Predictably, Alone in the Dark looks to emulate their success by completely overhauling the original game’s visual style and gameplay mechanics for a modern audience. Gone are the fixed camera angles and tank controls in favour of a more familiar, over the shoulder, third person setup. Those wanting a more authentic, old school experience can turn off certain guidance features such as the dynamic map which shows whether areas have been fully explored and highlights puzzles that are ready to solve. Even with these features enabled, you’ll still need to don your detective’s cap with some puzzles requiring a second take as you review your investigation notes.

Alone in the Dark Emily combat

Much like the original game, combat here feels like an afterthought: mostly functional though lacking some finesse in its execution. As Emily and Edward delve into Derceto’s mire of madness, they’ll come up against a small yet imaginative menagerie of twisted, swamp-dwelling creatures. Throughout the game players will unlock an arsenal of period appropriate guns while also being able to pick up melee weapons – these will break, and with ammo being scarce, there’s at least a degree of tension. However, guns can be hard to aim and lack feedback with enemies clumsily ambling around, soaking up a handful of bullets before idly falling down.

There are some light stealth mechanics at work as well with players able to sneak past monsters and stay out of their line of sight. You can also create noise distractions by hurling bottles that are liberally scattered around each combat zone though spotting one can nullify the surprise of an enemy lurking in the shadows nearby. A series of glitches also conspire to break the game’s immersion with enemies snagging on terrain and the audio dropping out completely on a handful of occasions. In one instance, we were able to interact with an object that was supposed to be out of reach, skipping an entire level and breaking the game as there were key items now missing from our inventory.

Alone in the Dark Edward exploration

Alone in the Dark’s action elements are where the game suffers most and almost feel like a box-ticking exercise to meet the defined quota of third person shooting that’s expected since Resident Evil 4. Doubling down on the exploration and investigative gameplay could have been the better option here but would have undoubtedly limited its appeal to the wider survival horror audience. The game could also have done with more interactive puzzles – while some require inventive solutions, many of them can be solved by using item X on object Y, sometimes located within metres of one another.

Alone in the Dark also finds itself in an awkward spot, visually speaking. On one hand, it wants to commit fully to Lovecraftian lore and the mind-bending cosmic horror imagery that comes with it, but the developers clearly want Emily and Edward to look as much like their actors as possible, even if it means that other character models look strange in comparison. Thankfully, the environments are suitably creepy, showcasing the decaying decadence of Derceto manor and its surrounding fog-shrouded Louisiana locales.

While it’s great to witness the return of survival horror royalty, Alone in the Dark haphazardly follows modern genre trends where it once invented them. While it mostly succeeds at drawing players into a Lovecraftian mystery, it's hard to ignore the underbaked action elements used to patch these story beats together.
  • Creates atmosphere through its creepy environments
  • Investigative puzzles that require detective work
  • Fails to fully capitalise on its Hollywood talent
  • Clunky combat worsened by braindead enemies
  • Bugs impacting puzzle and combat sections
Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualSense at this point.