Walking into the meeting room in Eden Studios' Lyon abode is like wandering into a teenage woodpecker's sordid bedroom. Pictures of trees litter the walls, from all angles, under all levels of lighting. Some are photographs. Others are rendered screenshots. It's admirably hard to tell the difference between the two as well.
The attention to detail and thirst for realism within Eden Studios to create a believably authentic Central Park has seen the developers go to great lengths to get every last facet just right. They've made dozens of trips to 'The Big Apple' to scope out Central Park's scenery (now you're beginning to understand why they set Test Drive in Hawaii, right?) and to take pictures of even the most banal lump o' shrubbery from every conceivable angle. What they discovered out there was that once the lights went out, this eerie, 800-acre-plus park is one helluva scary place to be. The secluded nature of the park's forestry is a truly jarring contrast to the hustle and bustle of the metropolis that surrounds it. Danger could lurk somewhere within every shadow. And as nightfall lurks, shadow is all that there is. As we mentioned in our first look back in issue 49, it's an experience that leads to one question: why? Why is there this massive expanse of green land, where you can be completely isolated from mankind, lying smack-dab in the middle of one of the most congested cities in the world?
Well, now, that's the focal point of the new titbits of plot information that have crawled their way out of Eden's mouth. As we mentioned in our previous exposť, Atari are keen to suppress many key areas of the plot up until AITD's release, but the latest folder of top secret info they dumped on our desk invites us to 'uncover the earth-shattering secret' behind Central Park.
A STAB IN THE PARK
Apparently, Central Park has been built as a kind of safe haven, an area that cannot be paved over, designed to protect not only New York's denizens but something else entirely. For centuries Guardians have fought to preserve the park's secret, but on the same fateful night that ghoul-magnet Edward Carnby tumbles into the Park, an apocalyptic presence threatens to blow the terrible truth sky-high, causing... aargh, no, it's only a game, it's not real... Whimper, etc.
Er, yes. Atari are clearly setting themselves up for an epic storyline - one which they hope will outlive the boxed version of the game and inspire owners to download new 'episodes' (or 'levels', to the initiated) on a regular basis over Xbox Live. But will what publisher Atari's now calling an 'action blockbuster' be good enough to convince punters to shell out again and again? It's hard to say for sure, as they've still yet to show us an extended portion of in-game action. Come on, Atari!
Alone In The Dark could certainly be described as 'comely' in the visual stakes, and we love being able to pick up every item in-game and use it as you would in real life - but to what end? We maintain that this latest AITD could well be a sleeper hit, but it would also be so easy for its tower of innovative ideas to topple into generic rubble.