When good concepts get tainted
In the later part of the last decade when we were in the midst of a reboot boom which influences can be felt to this day, an interesting thing came out: Alone in the Dark (2008), sometimes called Alone in the Dark 5. Both in the movie and gaming business, rebooting a franchise with its original title was becoming more and more popular, didn’t matter if it was a sequel, prequel or a remake. The game in question was a direct sequel to the very first Alone in the Dark, released way back in 1992 for the DOS, a clunky mess which came to be known as the grandfather of survival horror. When the original Resident Evil for the first PlayStation was released, it had solidified the newborn genre and its gameplay hallmarks: tank controls, fixed camera angles, limited supplies. Well over the years the Japanese franchise really took off while the American/European-bred AitD, while releasing multiple titles over the years and also generating a horrible movie tie-in by Uwe Boll, slowly slithered into obscurity until some years back when they released this disappointing waste of potential. As I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for poorly executed games that had great ideas but even I have my limits and while random crashes are acceptable, completely game-breaking bugs and god-awful controls made me not mad but extremely sad because while I really wanted to play it, it was just freaking impossible!
So let’s try to dissect this and see what went wrong. Well firstly, many big publishers still decided to put their eggs in as many baskets as possible, which meant porting the game onto as many systems as possible. So not a few games were released on multiple generations of platforms, while also having some sort of versions on all the handhelds, including, in often cases, the pre-smartphones. Also, there was a separate team developing the PS2 and Wii version, which meant it was a completely different game. A pointless and wasteful practice as publishers would find out in the coming years. It is also interesting that both the next-gen and last-gen versions were completely broken, even though they were handled by different teams. Splitting resources up in such a way was and sadly to this day is not a very uncommon practice.
I’m hard pressed to believe that the game was bad because of a short development time. The biggest and likeliest cause is no one thing but the fact that the entire project was ran in a completely disgraceful way. Starting from the supposed movie tie-in that thankfully had little to no influence in the final project . The technical issues that plagued the game were extremely serious issues that were not even dealt post-release and only the PS3 version (Alone in the Dark: Inferno) was somewhat playable, being graced with a longer development cycle. While nowadays the community goes completely bonkers when a game is released in a technically broken state (which has sadly become quite a norm in the last few years), the uproar is rarely subsided even when fixes do ultimately arrive but in the case of AitD, they didn’t even bother to fix ANY of the versions retroactively. But alas, this still is a common practice. In the end, it was a commercial success, so why should they bother, right?
Alone in the Dark: Illumination, another supposed “reboot”(read ‘cash grab’) that was just recently released is keeping up with the tradition of being virtually unplayable but hopefully the current eco-system with its endless whining will make sure that Atari won’t be getting away with a million sales this time around.
Again, I’m just deeply saddened how a seemingly good idea is tainted from the beginning by corporate greed and plain stupidity. Trying to cram the same mechanics into machines that are technically inept to handle them, not bothering with problems that completely break the immersion and just out-right destroy the entire experience, while tying the whole thing in with a god-awful movie. So in the end, everything that could have been great was ruined and yet it was still written off as a success, at least by the company big-wigs. Again, I’m just happy they’re not as successful this time around with basically pulling the same stunt.