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fumbling in the dark
The bunker is a smaller, narratively unambitious left-turn for Frictional. While they tinker away with what I assume is a larger, SOMA-like project, here they've shed much of the weight they’ve accumulated over the years, weight that really dragged Rebirth down, and turned their attention back to the moment-to-moment mechanics. They’ve finally confronted the minimalistic hide-and-seek gameplay that has become increasingly tired, and re-embraced tools & limited weapons (last seen in their Penumbra series).
The immersive sim approach to puzzles allows for multiple solutions & is simple and direct: every tool is a key, a distraction or a temporary defense. Combined with the tight, claustrophobic map, the Bunker asks you to build a mental model of the spaces so that you may eventually navigate them with your eyes closed (& with the lights out). Much of the horror is suggested, a threat conjured in the dark.
Another strength of Frictional’s is their HPL engine and its tactile physics system (surprisingly uncommon in a post-half-life 2 world). Pulling at a loose board clumsily, the creaking drawing the creature, has a weight to it that a pre-canned animation couldn’t carry. Like many im-sims, it is the abysmal failures and inexplicable systemic outcomes that stay with you (especially if you survive them), rather than the authored story.
Some may find it a little too stripped-down (along with a rather abrupt, clumsy ending), but after Rebirth’s incessant narration, I’m happy they had the confidence to just leave you in a desolate space of worn concrete and tangled wire and simply ask you to escape alive.
A very minor experience demonstrating Alone in the Dark may turn out to be a solid early 2010s AA release with a heart, complete with unnerving dead-eyed character models (look at Grace in the poster!), some real iffy contextual interactions (the stairs lol) and plodding movement. With Mikael Hedberg (SOMA) writing, I'm still looking forward to the full game and am curious about how they'll blend the surreal southern gothic tone with the creature-feature aspects, which are a little clumsily combined here.
Was initially worried this was a little redundant after Village and questioned if 4 really needed an update. Ultimately I found this a great time. The combat (once I got a handle on the melee mechanics) is consistently tense and tangible, with the chaotic shifting from crowd control to one-on-one parrying. I loved the almost immersive-sim interactions between enemies causing emergent chaos.
I cared little about the narrative changes as I literally played the PS2 release, so all is a foggy memory, but from what I could recall, I was consistently surprised by moments rearranged, recontextualised. Yes, the island is serviceable compared to the village/castle, but I enjoyed the grungy interiors and the big-boi regenerador sequence. Of all the boss changes, Krauser was a big standout, a metal-gear tier fight.
A few changes I was less happy with (most are hangovers from the recent REmakes): the lack of laser targeting for all weapons, the change from the semi-detached aiming system & less variety of interactive objects u could shoot. RE4 felt so revolutionary as a horror/shooter at the time due to how the gun felt like a tactile tool, taking out doors, knees & plucking weapons from the air. Much of this is still here, but a little stripped down (tho with some new additions, including rampaging farm animals).
Where does Resi go now? Village and R4MAKE have converged, and hopefully they don’t just fall back down into the slump of 5 & 6 (though 5 remake is inevitable lol) Hopefully a complete rebirth like 7 is on the cards. Capcom pls.