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Alone In The Dark Nails What I Love About Survival Horror

Alone in the Dark, a 2024 reimagining of the 1992 survival horror classic that paved the way for generations of horror games after it, is out on March 20, 2024 on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows. Following the story of either Emily Hartwood (played by actress Jodie Comer from Killing Eve) or Edward Carnby (played by David Harbour of Stranger Things fame), you’re tasked with exploring the inner workings of an old mansion in Louisiana with the hopes of finding Emily’s manic and missing uncle.

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I’ve spent a number of hours with this new rendition of Alone in the Dark prior to release. It’s a sufficiently weird and creepy game that might be enough to satisfy many survival horror fans who are patient with jank and some doses of “meh.” And while I’m not so sure of its very Resident Evil and The Last of Us-inspired, mostly lifeless combat, the sound design (from its sound effects to its soundtrack) is a veritable siren’s call of terror that keeps me coming back to this modern take on an old-school classic.

Alone in the Dark 2024 strikes an aural mood from the moment the game boots up. A slow-moving, smokey jazz tune led by a gentle drum beat, upright bass, and drifting vocal lines that move about the stereo field before a piano and horns come in to pull you further into its darkness. It’s a perfect soundscape that doesn’t immediately fill you with impactful horror. It lulls you into an auditory liminal space somewhere in between safety and the knowledge that dread awaits.

This dreadfully wonderful sonic joy persists throughout the game, and not just with the music that perpetuates the gentle beat toward madness. The environmental sound effects at work in the Derceto mansion and nightmarish realms you’re frequently transported to also inspire sufficient levels of dread. While exploring the halls of this puzzle-riddled creepfest of a mansion, you’ll frequently hear the scattering sound of roaches running off, spontaneous yet suspicious knocks, and creaking sounds from the walls. It teases you with the expectation that something bad will happen, though these sounds are rarely ever predictable signifiers of a scare. There are jump scares here, sure, but the seemingly random nature of the environmental sounds make them a treat that’s very capable of stirring you in your chair.

The music returns during these moments of exploration as well, with honky tonk pianos and growling horns, and looming droning sounds that sometimes feel like they’re a physical part of the terror of the mansion. It’s a wonderful auditory hallucinatory phenomenon that reminds me of some of my favorite experimental ambient artists like Robert Rich (but way more dreadful).

Alone in the Dark switches between this mansion environment and a mysterious alternate reality. It’s in these places that the tone of the music and environment drifts into more familiar survival horror territory—but that doesn’t stop it from feeling fresh. One space features a massive piece of oil-drilling machinery that sustains a drumming beat of dread as you’re forced to move further into the level where nastier creatures lie in wait.

This is the kind of thing that I come to survival horror for: dreadful sensory experiences. While Alone in the Dark 2024 might risk being too similar to Resident Evil at times (it features standard over-the-shoulder gunplay that, particularly for Emily’s character, feels a little out of character and falls way, way short of the standard set by RE), its tonal palette and the vibe of its mansion is quite unique and has kept me coming back, preferably at night, with the lights out.

Plus, I might feel a connection with Emily, a spinster struggling with the fear that she’s going mad, tasked with the ever-annoying job of correcting people on her name while healing her wounds by taking a swig of some alcohol. Relatable.

But cool sounds is about all Alone in the Dark 2024's got. It’s a shame that this reboot of the classic horror title of the same name falls short in other key ways. It lacks an overall level of visual polish in facial animations. It can feel very clunky. The combat is deeply uninteresting. And the story can be confusing to keep up with as it nearly contradicts itself from time to time.

Alone in the Dark 2024 is out now on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows.

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