Paranormal investigator Edward Carnby suffers from amnesia, which is probably for the best considering the night he's about to have. Bloody and bruised, he wakes up in an unfamiliar building as a man is taking him to the roof to be executed. However, the executioner is thrown against a wall by an invisible force and Edward is able to escape in an elevator just as the building starts to crumble.
Oh his way he rescues Sarah Flores from a horde of monsters and the two of them attempt to flee Manhattan as it becomes increasingly infested with bloodthirsty creatures.
From the outset, Alone in the Dark is a relentless game in that it throws the player into the action and leaves them there. The first scene, in which you have to escape from a collapsing building, sees Edward rappelling down a lift shaft, shimmying along a rooftop ledge with burning rubble falling towards him and fighting off monsters with a fire extinguisher. And the pace just keeps on pounding until the end, making for a game that is never dull.
One of its most interesting aspects is the role of fire, which can be both friend and foe to Edward. If he gets too close he will hurt himself, but he can use lengths of wood he finds lying around to make torches with which to light dim areas and attack enemies. Occasionally, fire will block his path and he will need to find a fire extinguisher; conversely, if a corridor is blocked with loose timber he may need to burn it to progress.
There are puzzles to solve in Alone in the Dark, although unlike other survival horror titles there's nary a crank handle or lever in sight, and in keeping with Edward's role as an investigator, most are solved by surveying the surroundings and seeking out clues. An early example is when you come to a locked door with a keypad smeared in blood. At any time you can hold down the L3 button to close Edward's eyes, allowing certain significant objects to glow and point you in the right direction. These puzzles are inventive and offer a respite from the fast paced action sequences.
Combat is never far away as Central Park, where much of the game is set, is crawling with mutated humans, bats and other nasties. Edward has a gun, but ammunition is scarce so you will also need to improvise with what you can find lying around. Chairs, pieces of wood, small tables and many more items can be used to fend off enemies, and they are all the more effective if you set fire to them first. You can also turn gas canisters into makeshift flamethrowers and throw bottles of alcohol into the air and shoot them until they explode.
In that ammunition and health packs are scarce and that there is an eerie sense of tension throughout, Alone in the Dark is a lot like its survival horror forebears. However, the pace of the game is what sets it apart from the likes of Silent Hill and the early Resident Evil titles. It plays like a Hollywood blockbuster, moving from one spectacular set piece to another. The balance between puzzles and combat is just right and the plot tying everything together is original and well written; this is a game boasting some of the best production values of any PlayStation 2 title.
If you're looking for a fast-paced action game with a few shocks along the way, Alone in the Dark is just about perfect.