The worst part about this game isn’t how Atari should be ashamed of it… it’s how Atari blatantly isn’t ashamed of it.
Developer: Pure FPS
Publisher: Atari (what’s left of it)
Released: June 12, 2015
Copy supplied by Steam
If I had to use one word to accurately reflect the spirit of Alone in the Dark: Illumination, it would be “contempt.” Rare is a game that showcases such sneering disrespect for its own series’ legacy, its potential audience, and the game industry at large. Like Haunted House before it, Illumination sees the walking corpse of Atari trading on yet another established franchise name, hiring cowboys to churn out a shoddy, artistically bankrupt cash grab in the hopes of conning fans out of their dollars.
Steam’s refund policy could not have come soon enough, as this spiteful example of interactive cynicism is a prime example of why Valve needed to implement such a system. If you’ve been unfortunate to enough to purchase this game, tricked by the allure of Alone in the Dark‘s once-respectable pedigree, then please, for the love of God, seek that refund immediately. Atari does not deserve one thin dime of your money, not for this pathetic, disgusting sperm stain of a game.
A cooperative shooter that encourages you to stand in bright lights, the latest iteration of Alone in the Dark is one where you’re neither supposed to be alone, nor in the dark. The enemies, you see, are vulnerable to light, which means that in order to fight them efficiently, you need to run around switching on lamps, lighting fires, and generally brightening up your surroundings. Once sufficiently illuminated, the monsters can then be dispersed via simplistic, brainless, utterly pedestrian third-person gunfire.
Illumination stole its core idea from Alan Wake, then goes on to liberally lift everything else from Left 4 Dead and Operation: Raccoon City – ensuring not a single original concept is to be found. Of the admittedly short amount of time I could stomach playing, I was forced to repeatedly play terrible attempts at copying Left 4 Dead‘s scavenger sequences, with every level I encountered featuring some variation of the “collect four things and bring them to the same place” objective.
I mean every level, too. Each stage is nothing but a poorly signposted maze full of electric cables, explosives, or batteries, each to be arbitrarily collected and brought to whatever convoluted gate stands in the players’ way. Over and over again, until you turn the thing off and obliterate it from your computer’s hard-drive.
As you might have guessed by now, this is an Alone in the Dark game in name only. Even the notoriously terrible 2008 release from Eden Games bore more resemblance to its predecessors than this inferior squad shooter. There’s no horror on offer, just four cookie-cutter character classes with poorly explained abilities, and hordes of generic monsters that resemble a teenager’s first attempt at drawing their own Doom demons.
Even divorced from the galling abuse of the Alone in the Dark name, Illumination is a dreadful experience. At the very most, we can call it a boring, sloppy lump of mundanity. Each level is a lengthy, slow-paced slog through empty environments. The repetitive objectives are joined by equally repetitive encounters with the same dreary slew of monsters who are all fought in exactly the same way.
It’s not like the central gimmick is even done very well. With Alan Wake, the use of the torch was a really clever way of fighting opponents. Here, the torch that accompanies each character’s weapon is practically useless, requiring players to rely on external light sources and hope their foes wander into the target areas. It’s a frustratingly passive way to play, standing back and waiting for monsters to stumble like blithering idiots into the killing zone. The lamps dotted around each stage are temporary, too, and you’ll be constantly sprinting around looking for more.
Not that you’ll be sprinting for long. Stamina drains quickly and regains slowly, because this game hates its audience.
Oh, some creatures explode at random. There’s no reason for it. They’re not special exploding ones, they’re just regular mooks that decide to blow up in your face with a ridiculously large area-of-effect that knocks you down. Why not, right? Why fucking not?
I am not happy with the thing I played.
The game is blatantly unfinished. Irritating projectile-spewing enemies can shoot you through solid walls, many monsters clip through doors, there’s no voice acting or music, and audio for firearms is limp and muted. There are no sounds to indicate when enemies spawn and they can spawn literally anywhere, leading to endless cheap shots from behind.
At some points, half the sound effects stop occurring altogether – usually when something explodes. Explosions, for the record, have no sound effects either. Why would an explosion need sound? Better to just have them go off in absolute cocking silence.
From the walls of text between missions to the barely audible ambient noise, Illumination‘s assets look and feel like placeholders, something you’d find in a pre-alpha Early Access game – except this is an allegedly polished, professional product being sold for $34.99.
Although designed as an online cooperative shooter, nobody’s actually playing it. Doubtless those that did buy it have rescinded their purchases soon after realizing their mistake. The servers are barren, and attempting to host one’s own game is a waste of time.
The good news is that there’s a single-player alternative. The bad news is that it’s absolute shite.
The workaholics at Pure FPS simply did not bother balancing Illumination for solo play whatsoever, to the point where it’s unplayable on anything but Easy mode. Anything above that will overwhelm the player with endlessly respawning monsters who are already annoying enough to fight, wandering randomly as they do around the world.
Unfortunately, Easy mode is so easy that it’s painfully dull. Here, monsters barely spawn at all – in fact, one level seemingly forgot to spawn them at all halfway through, and I trudged through tunnels and tunnels of absolutely nothing. The game becomes little more than a threadbare scavenger hunt, temporarily interrupted by badly animated freaks that spit poison through the walls at you.
Some doors can only be opened by certain characters. Naturally, the game does not indicate which doors can be opened by who. You’ll just have to try them all. Some of these special doors open up into rooms of… nothing. Absolutely nothing! Of course.
Alone in the Dark: Illumination is ugly in every sense of the word, not just visually – though it is about as attractive as an anus in an eye socket. Hideous both inside and out, it’s the consummate fraud that hides behind a recognizable name to deliver interactive poison. The kind of game that has systematically eroded the game industry over the last few years, cashing in the trust and goodwill of the audience for a quick and very dirty buck. Games like this are toxic and have no place in a medium that respects itself.
I’ve got nothing witty or clever left to say about this thing. Alone in the Dark: Illumination is fucking shit.