by Chris Scott
reviewed on X360
Alan Wake is finally here
Alan Wake had been in development so long that it was starting to take on mythical status. Many gamers, including this one, thought that the game was just vapour ware. But the developer Remedy Entertainment, of Max Payne fame, has delivered the game to us and even more surprising, it is good. Very good.
According to Remedy, Alan Wake is a Psychological Action Thriller and I think that is a pretty fitting description of the game. The game deals with the psyche of its main character, it is packed with some high octane action and it is quite the thrilling ride. However, if you require a more concise, if somewhat over-simplification of the game's genre, it is a horror game. A horror game that draws a lot of inspiration from American horror master Stephen King.
The titular character, Alan Wake, is a famous writer with a serious case of writer's block. Since writing his last best-seller two years ago he has been unable to write anything new. In an effort to get him out of his funk, his wife plans a vacation to the sleepy town of Bright Falls. But things start to go oddly for Alan and before you know it, his wife is missing and he is thrust into a dangerous game of cat and mouse with something completely evil. The evil manifests itself in the form of darkness and, fortunately for Alan, it can be held at bay with light.
Bright Falls is located in the Pacific Northwest and as such is enclosed by mountains and deep forests. Remedy spent a lot of time researching the real Pacific Northwest and the game has the same majestic look that the real geography has. There is an amazing sense of reality in the environments, and everything from the small town diner to logging bases look authentic. This adds a sense of realism to the game that helps establish the mood of the game.
Mixing action with a strong story
As Alan attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding his missing wife and the darkness that seems hell bent on killing him, the game will play out in two very different styles meshed together near perfectly. On one hand, the game is very heavy on story and exposition with most of this happening during the daylight hours. On the other hand, the game plays like a traditional third person shooter except for the fact that light, not bullets, will be Alan's strongest weapon. The ultimate goal of a horror game is to scare the player and Remedy, especially early on in the game, does a fantastic job of building tension. The realistic nature of the environments had me sitting on the edge of my seat.
Remedy set out to make Alan Wake play out like a television show and they did a great job of doing so, with the story (or season) playing out over the course of six episodes. A television show, no matter how good the story, relies on effective performances from its actors and the voice acting in the game is some of the best I have ever experienced. The conversations, while sometimes a little too contrived, are always entertaining and informative. The story itself is quite dense and doled out judiciously between cut-scenes, in-game conversations and by discovering pieces of an unpublished Wake manuscript that describes the events that are taking place. Each episode plays out with a distinct beginning, middle and end and each feels like its own mini adventure, just like a real television episode would.
Features a fantastic narrative that is genuinely creepy.
The game can pull you out of the experience by sometimes feeling a bit too gamey and with its overuse of in-game advertising.