"Stephen King once wrote Nightmares exist outside of logic, and there’s little fun to be had in explanations; they’re antithetical to the poetry of fear"
This is the quote that begins the journey of Alan Wake through the small mountain town of Bright Falls, and the dark corners of his own imagination. Anyone who has read my reviews knows it's no secret that I'm a horror junkie and while I was preoccupied anticipating the arrival of Dead Space 2, a little gem known as Alan Wake managed to creep it's way into my possession.
About five years ago the creators of the Max Payne series, Remedy studios, had promised a new type of game for the Xbox 360. Constant set backs and bailouts made people wonder, where is Alan Wake? And for a moment it had almost vanished from the thought of gamers. On May 18, 2010, Alan Wake was finally released, and i have to admit at first I did not have high expectations for this game as it sounded like Alone in the Dark; substituting fire for light and darkness. However, after I found out they it was inspired heavily by Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft (some of my favorite authors) and had music by Poets of the Fall (once again, a favorite) my curiosity had gotten the better of me. About 8 hours later of pure gaming I have to say, the bad taste in my mouth from being just another Alone in the Dark turned to drool.
This game is somewhat of a love letter to action thrillers and survival horror. The story itself takes front seat with a fast introduction, gripping twists, and cliffhangers; enough to make J.J Abrams blush. Scary would not be the word for it though as it is more of a macabre type game, with the purest form of light vs. dark...litterally. But enough gushing, on to the actual game.
The story follows bestselling author Alan Wake who has hit a slump in his writing after the conclusion of his last book series. Tired and out of ideas, his wife Alice suggests a vacation to the rural mountain city Bright Falls. Once he arrives he is struck by a terrible nightmare in which he plows down a hitchhiker in his car, who quickly changes into a creature of shadow and attacks him. Guided by a mysterious light, he discovers the weakness to these shadow creatures known as "The Taken", light itself. Just before waking up he is told a warning, the darkness is here in Bright Falls, it is asleep, waiting for Alan to arrive. Alan wake's (no pun intended) to the real world and he and his wife have arrived in Bright Falls. After picking their keys up to their lodge, given to them not by the original owner but a mysterious old woman, cliche I know but it gets better, they got to their cabin on Bird's Leg Islang; directly on top of Cauldron Lake. On the first evening Alice surprises Alan by bringing a typewriter revealing she took him there to inspire him and visit famous psychologist Dr. Hartman. In a blind rage, Alan leaves Alice in the cabin; the lights go out during the night and Alice is attacked leaving behind only a broken banister as she fell, neigh dragged into the lake by an unknown presence. After diving into the lake Alan wake's up in his crashed car as he leaves, manuscipt pages fall from the sky, the story entitled The Departure by Alan Wake; a story he had no written yet.
Believe it or not, this is simply the first episode. There is so much to the story that i cannot mention as it would ruin the surprises and shocks of the game. Gameplay itself is reletively simple, relying on an over the shoulder tactic while you use a flashlight, light weapons and firearms. Sounds complicated but it works well with reletively simple control that allow players to adapt quickly. Although there is nothing original about the gameplay it works just fine, although being quickly ambushed and surrounded is very easy to happen.
The characters themselves are very colorful, ranging from tragic hero alan wake, damsel in distress Alice Wake and of course the comic relief manager Barry Wheeler. Their personalities are something straight out of a horror novel which highly adds to the atmosphere, a writer trapped in his own creation. Sometimes a little stale with the execution, but the strange part is I was fine with it as it worked well.
I found several annoyances in this game, but in the long run they are very few. The biggest issue I had was how linear it is, there is one path with little exploration; there are secrets but often time they are easy to find. Questing for the actual pages of the manuscript is completely optional but I would suggest finding them, the story within foreshadows the game; finding them all however is enough to cause a migrane. I also felt the game kind of whored itself, allowing product placement...everywhere, close ups of actual brands, billboard I actually shouted out at one point "there are ads in my game!"
As a whole though Alan Wake is a fantastic game, but only for certain people. It has a bit of a cult appeal as only true horror fans would understand all the referances and general appeal; I however say, DO NOT MISS THIS GAME if you like an in depth story. The entire game appealed to me, great characters (bad lipsynch though, just FYI), a story that progresses like episodes of Lost, and just plain fun gameplay. Yet again I must say this game is not for everyone, as it takes a certain amount of patience. It is action packed but you do not play this game for the action, you play to find the answers. The ending itself has a certain sense of brilliance as after beating it you find yourself asking, what? When? why? It's one of those games that can start an amazing conversation about it
So I must ask? Do you wish to conquer the Dark, find the lady of the light and unfold the mysteries of Alan Wake....I would.
Final Verdict: Horror and writing fans, a must buy...everyone else may want to just rent
What did you think of this review?
Alan Wake is a survival horror video game developed by the Finnish Remedy Entertainment and published by Microsoft Game Studios that was released in Europe on May 14, 2010 and in North America on May 18, 2010 exclusively for Xbox 360. A psychological thriller, the plot follows thriller writer Alan Wake in uncovering the mystery behind the disappearance of his wife while both on vacation in idyllic small-town Bright Falls, and having to deal with blackouts and visions of characters and ideas from his latest novel, which he cannot remember writing, coming to life.
The story plays out in an episodic format, with a television show-style presentation where each episode/chapter brings another piece to the puzzle of the main plot. Remedy has confirmed that Alan Wake is only the first season of a bigger story, opening the door for future sequels.
Light plays a significant role in gameplay. The enemies, called "the Taken" in the game, are sensitive to light, encouraging the player to take advantage of environmental light sources and placing significant emphasis on the flashlight as a primary weapon.
A major element of gameplay is the discovery and collection of manuscript pages, which describe scenes that have yet to occur and act as warning and instructions for proceeding through the episodes. Other collectibles include collection of coffee thermoses, ...