Zombies! Monsters! Horrible crawly things made of spine and faecal matter that burrow into your skin! That's what you think of when you think Alone In The Dark. Isn't it? Yep, us too. So with the fifth instalment of the series entering the third and final year of production, we packed our bags, soiled our pants (just to get the inevitable over and done with early doors), and hopped over 'the pond' to Eden Games' offices in Lyon, France to get an exclusive update on this survival horror classic. So, the first thing we asked studio director David Nadal was this: with the game close to completion, is there anything you would have done differently? "Well, we wouldn't have any monsters in it. At all." Bwuh? That's right. Forget everything you thought you knew about Alone In The Dark. In this chilling re-imagination, the monsters dotted throughout are going to be the least of your problems.
We got to see monsters, alright; big, foul, gruesome Giger-inspired monstrosities that'll make your guts positively curdle. But, odd though it sounds, they're only incidental, just part of the plot line - not something you'll be encountering repeatedly throughout the game. In a strange turn of events, this isn't a survival horror game. It's a survival game.
Confused? Don't be. Because we've got AITD producer Nour Polloni to explain: "What we were disappointed with in previous Alone In The Darks is that it began to copy from games like Resident Evil, rather than innovate. We needed to rethink the whole thing, to look at what made the original game so great. And we asked, what are people really afraid of?" Saturday night TV? Nope. "They're afraid of a fear that they recognise."
And that's why Alone In The Dark finds itself in the familiar setting of New York's Central Park. We've all experienced what it's like to be in a secluded park at night time - it's a genuinely unsettling experience, not because you're alone but because you might not be. And that's precisely the type of fear Alone In The Dark 5 wants to drum into you. While the paranormal activities drive forward the narrative, it's the park's other incumbents that pose the threat. For reasons unknown, the people who find themselves inside the gigantic park's perimeter during the fateful night that the events of Alone In The Dark unfold, find themselves unable to leave. As a result, desperation begins to kick in and the park's other inhabitants will do anything to keep their head on their shoulders - so if you're wandering around with a desirable weapon, you'd better be prepared to fight for it. And if you're holed up in your car, you'd better remember to lock the door behind you or else you might find yourself being dragged out of the window by your new, floppy, and let's be honest, slightly trampish locks.
That's right; as you can see from this issue's bag, the main character, Edward Carnby, is undergoing a bit of a makeover. It's out with the genero-look you see in these screenshots and in with a more contemporary action hero look. They've yet to incorporate Mr New Look into the game itself (even tiny changes to the character drastically alter the way the game plays out, apparently, so they're still balancing things out), but we saw the new model in action and the detail on the character's face is breathtaking, particularly close-up, where you can practically feel the coarseness of Carnby's scar. But despite the character redesign, he's still the same Carnby that strolled around the Derceto Mansion in the original game. In fact, Nadal claims that canonically, this new game is "the direct sequel" to the original game, which does cause a few continuity basic problems. Not least because the original game, you might recall, was set in the 1920's.