Alan Wake has been in development for a long time, and during the course of its creating, changes were made.
The game is finally out and really to give you the willies on your Xbox 360, but is it all that we were hoping for or have Remedy Entertainment left us all out in the dark? I dimmed the lights and loaded it up to find out.
Full review after the jump.
Alan Wake tells the tale of a famous novelist, who after having an extended issue with writer’s block and also being plagued with nightmares, decides to take a vacation with his wife to a scenic little town called Bright Falls.
Things go very pear shaped after not too long though as his nightmares start becoming his reality.
On it’s surface, Alan Wake comes across as a survival horror but in reality it is something quite different. Alan Wake could be better described as a horror-themed action thriller.
What maybe impressed me the most, is that Remedy (despite all the perfect opportunities) made a very strong point of not taking advantage of the usual cheap scares that are so common in this genre, opting instead to keep you immersed in the tension and atmosphere rather than using old tricks to scare you out of your chair.
If you aren’t a fan of scary games (I can’t say that I am particularly fond of paying money to scare myself half to death), but have wanted something to try in the genre, then you will be pleased to know that by keeping the horror theme alive and well, but keeping the focus on story and action, you are able to enjoy the genre for what it is, without feeling the need to stop playing for fear of having a heart-attack in your own living room.
A lot of focus is placed on the storytelling, with most of the gameplay comprised of tense action sequences, that while not entirely revolutionary, definitely feel unique. Alan Wake, being the writer that he is, constantly narrates the game and while some may find it annoying, I believed it to be a fantastic tool to keep the story constantly moving, and allowing the player to know where they stand.
In Alan Wake, light plays a very important role. While many stealth games have gotten you used to the idea of sticking to shadows, in Alan Wake it’s all about keeping to the light as much as possible.
Throughout the game you will make use of your flashlight in more ways than simply illuminating the path ahead. In Alan Wake your enemies have been taken by darkness, and you are required to use light to burn the darkness away, leaving them vulnerable to gunfire. Many weapons are made available to you over the course of the game, and they all feel nice and meaty, with some close range shotgun action always going down well.
The controls themselves can be a little finicky at times, and some of the button layouts don’t full make sense but thankfully, you have the option to change things up in the menu (I’m very sad I only realised this near the end of the game). While the gameplay is fluid and enjoyable, there are a few issues here and there that stick out like a sore thumb, namely the dodge mechanic.
Just like the torch, many other non-lethal (well, supposed to be) items become your most necessary tools for survival. Flares are necessary to buy you time or grant you safe passage, while spotlights and flashbangs can instantly dispatch your shadowy foes.
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of focus is still placed on Alan Wake’s story. The story itself is the real bread and butter of the game, with the action, while still very fun, coming in as the stuff you get to do while learning more about the story. The story features some great writing and will expose you to many colourful, dark and even plain ol’ crazy characters and with Bright Falls standing tall as a character of its own, it’s very easy to allow yourself to become immersed in the story that Remedy set out to tell.
The individual episodes of Alan Wake (There are six in total) are presented in a similar vein to that of television shows, complete with a new chapter starting with a “previously, on Alan Wake video sequence”. There is more to the storytelling than cutscenes and interactions, but for the sake of keeping this review completely spoiler-free, I have opted to leave it out. All I will say is that it involves finding manuscript pages and has a very different take on the story’s progression.
Many of you will already know that Alan Wake was initially designed as an open world game, but eventually became a linear experience as the development went on. While we would all like to think that open worlds are more fun to play in, Alan Wake really does suit a more linear experience, especially when it comes to delivering the narrative in an effective manor.
That said, the fact that the game was originally made as an open world really shows, and only in the best way possible. Even though you may be on a linear path to your next objective, the levels don’t feel like your standard single player linear experiences. The world feels massive and especially believable. It’s a sandbox, it just isn’t a free-roam sandbox.