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Alone in the Dark

It's time for some serious park strife as the original gaming horror returns on PS3...

When it comes to cutting edge trouser-spoilers, Resident Evil is still the daddy. Continually bending the rules of survival horror, the fourth game in the series was not only one of the best games on PS2, but probably one of the best games ever made.

And yet... while they could certainly lay claim to propelling horror gaming forward with arse-clenching frightfests like Resi Nemesis, Capcom can't claim to have invented the genre.

That honour goes to Alone in the Dark, originally developed by Infogrames, which squeaked out in impressively spooksome form as a PC game - and then 3DO conversion - back in 1992, a full four years ahead of Resi.

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Not that that means much when you compare the fortunes of the two series. Alone in the Dark might have got there first, but Resi has been doing it better for years - something all but acknowledged by Infogrames when they shipped the last Alone in the Dark title back in 2001, a game that attempted to shoehorn the action into a replica of Code Veronica.

But in classic horror movie fashion, Alone in the Dark isn't just back from the dead, it's back bigger, better and more dangerous than ever. The fifth game in the series, developed by Test Drive Unlimited coders Eden and pencilled in for a March release on PS3 next year, is a hugely ambitious, brain-hurtingly large-scale ghost story, part-Resi, part-Die Hard, set among the trees, reservoirs and winos of New York's 842-acre Central Park.

As in the previous games in the series, you play Edward Carnby, paranormal 'tec and - in his present guise, at least - lawyer-baiting twin of ex-Kylie squeeze, Olivier Martinez.

The story, penned by Sleepers writer Lorenzo Carcetera, has been sealed off like a crime scene, so how Carnby (who, according to Eden, is the same Carnby that turned up in the original Alone in the Dark - a game set in 1923) ends up crossing time, and why he's busy stoving in faces in Central Park, remains to be seen. What is clear, though, is that this has the serious potential to be one of the most exciting new PS3 games of 2008.

Big claims, of course, but Eden have made huge strides to distance themselves from Resi by creating a tightly focused adventure that also offers bags of freedom.

It'd be wrong to label the game 'open world' - you can explore at will, but this isn't GTA, as the plot keeps funnelling you towards a definite conclusion - but in mapping out Central Park, Eden have delivered a vast, explorable play area, and an inspired choice of setting.

With the game entirely set at night, NYC's city-swallowing greenbelt becomes an eight hundred acre pant-shatter, full of human-shaped foes, creature-shaped foes... and foes that don't really fit into either category.

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You'll be wandering through its Zoo and castle as often as you'll be jogging along its paths and around its lakes, and along the way, you'll have a stack of missions to complete, various puzzles to solve, unusual people to chat to, and - in what promises to be one of the game's greatest standout segments - cars to nick. Yes, you heard us correctly.

Car jacking
As well as being a hard ass detective, Carnby's also pretty handy when it comes to hotwiring vehicles - good job too, as you'll need a set of wheels to get from one end of the park to the other. Given the expertise they showed in Test Drive Unlimited, it's safe to assume Eden will face few problems getting this area of the game right, but we'd expect Parks Board electrocars and motorbikes rather than an endless selection of mega-engined Ferraris as a means of getting around.

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