For the longest time, Alan Wake was a myth. Remedy announced it, gave everyone a glimpse of hope, and then went dark with the project. Now, five years later it is finally hitting store shelves, and all I can say is: it’s about time. Alan Wake is an amazing thrill ride that gets under your skin and really makes you use your imagination, and grips you to the very end.
Alan Wake opens with a nightmare, and after you experience it, nothing in the game seems abnormal. You soon wake up, and are on a ferry traveling to the town of Bright Falls, a peaceful mountain town in the northwestern United States. You are a famed writer looking for a relaxing vacation and to possibly start your new book. After visiting the local diner, you go to your cabin the and suddenly the power goes out, and you soon find that your wife has been kidnapped. You wake up a week later in a mangled car, not knowing what you did over the past week, and the nightmare the game opened with comes to life. I really don’t want to spoil much more here, because the story is the main draw of the game. The writing is superb, and grabs you and doesn’t let go.
You can tell that the writers of the game are very good at their job, because the writing is some of the best I have ever seen in a game. The story is presented in episodes, with each episode leading to a big reveal, and leaving you with a cliffhanger that makes you want to continue on. The story also does a good job of keeping you guessing, and just when you think you know what is going on, they throw a twist in to throw you for a loop. The story is a compelling masterpiece, and makes the game worth playing through just to experience it.
Gameplay wise, Alan Wake is a very well put together third person shooter. You face the enemy known as The Taken, and you depend on light for everything you fight, needing to shine your flashlight or some other light source on the enemy to weaken them before you can shoot them. A gun and a flashlight isn’t the only way that you can strategically take down your enemies, you are also given access to flare guns, normal flares, and even flash bang grenades to dispose of The Taken. The fighting can get tedious, and it can sometimes be just a distraction for you to keep moving forward to advance the story. You are often stuck fighting the same enemy types, and I believe they needed to change up the combat a little bit more. To attempt to break it up, there are a few environmental puzzles scattered here and there, but they do not take much skill to complete. The pacing is well done though, and ramps up when it needs to, while letting you take a breath in-between large moments. Overall the combat can be fun, albeit a bit frustrating at times, but it is not something that you need to trudge through, as it does a decent job still of keeping you interested.
The game is also very linear, and there are not a lot of things that make you stray from the beaten path. Once in a while you will have little areas where there is extra ammo and treasure that you can obtain, and there are collectable manuscript pages and coffee thermoses’ that you can search for. The manuscript pages are the most interesting, because it will narrate the story before some events even happen, leaving some foreshadowing of what will happen to Alan next. It is an interesting way to weave the tale, and it brings tension once you realize that you have heard what is going to happen to you before it happens. These collectables do a good job of lengthening the game experience, and making the story even more compelling.
Alan Wake is a gorgeous game. With incredible lighting effects and outstanding forest environments, the game has some of the best atmosphere I have seen in recent times. Remedy does a great job of changing up the scenery, and really making you feel the difference between night and day. The environments give a great sense of scale, leaving you with a very cinematic experience. The sound design is stupendous as well, with little noises such as rocks falling down a cliff stopping dead in your tracks and causing you to look around. The animations are also very fluid and well done, with very realistic character movement. The dialogue is amazing too as I mentioned above, and makes you really believe that they are real people. Even the enemies have great dialogue, with the possessed civilians’ spouting off random things they would say in their day to day lives, but in demonic voices. Overall, the presentation is top-notch, and there is no way I could see them improving it.
Alan Wake may not be a perfect game, but is a game that I think everyone needs to experience. With the gripping story, the chaotic gameplay and brilliant graphics, it is a game that stands out among the best games on the system. The game has a perfect length clocking it at around 10 to 12 hours, and the ending leaves you with more questions than answers, but it is worth it to see the end. Now that I completed the game I cannot help but want more, and I hope we all get to return to Bright Falls very soon.