After a lengthy development cycle it is finally time for 'Alan Wake' to see the light. Choosing May as its emergence point, we will see if Alan’s nightmarish tale was worth the wait.
For everyone who likes to do a little research before they buy, 'Alan Wake' has already been scrutinized by the gaming media, and has come out on top-- Ranking in a solid 84% on 'Gamerankings.com.' It is obvious 'Alan Wake' has made an impression, however, what you are here for is not a summary of what other sites think, you want to know what we at 'Extreme Gamer' think. Well, like rest of the media, 'Alan Wake' has also made an impression with us... and without zooming down to end of the review, I can say, ‘Alan Wake’ is above the average for us.
'Alan Wake' is an action game, but it’s not your typical 3rd person shoot em' up affair. Aiming to push gaming into a new direction of storytelling and action, 'Alan Wake' is a psychological thriller that wraps the action around a thoughtful, mind-bending tale. Developed by 'Remedy Entertainment,' the gaming wizards behind the equally impressive 'Max Payne,' 'Remedy' knows how to push buttons, creating engaging action games like we have never seen before. Like 'Max Payne,' 'Alan Wake' hits hard, walking the line of fighting enemies and telling a story. Something that is easier said than done.
Welcome to my Nightmare
In 'Alan Wake,' you play 'Alan Wake,' a best-selling author who is suffering from a case of writer's block. Influenced by his wife Alice, the Wake's escaping to the small town of 'Bright Falls' for some much needed R&R. Unfortunately for Alan, he will be recharging his batteries in another way, by saving your wife. Moments after you settle into your picture perfect cabin on lake getaway, Alice abruptly disappears, and your nightmare begins. In a stream of lucid gaming moments where the shadows become your enemy, Alan finds himself trapped in a paradoxical existence where the lines of reality blurred.
'Remedy' approaches this nightmarish dilemma with absolute freedom. Alan's mind is a playground with a narrative that twists the tale between multiple realities and perception. 'Alan Wake' feels very much like a 'Stephen King' novel (which they reference several times during the game) that has been dosed in a little bit of 'Twin Peaks' goodness. Fans of thrillers or suspenseful packed games will be easily wrapped up in this devilish tale into the mouth of madness. It would be a shame to give away any more information on the plot that was deliciously crafted by 'Sam Lake.' All you need to know is that 'Alan Wake' is like nothing you have played before, and be prepared to jump, 'Alan Wake' is more than a juvenile prankster, this is the real deal, a real "lights on" thriller that will put you on the edge of your seat.
'Alan Wake' also takes the approach of telling its story in episodic form. This breaks down the game into six chapters. Each chapter is fairly long, depending on how much you like to look around. For an average I would guess three hours, however I wasn't really watching the clock while playing. 'Alan Wake' will suck you in, and before you know it, hours have dissipated. 'Remedy' did an astonishing job with the pacing, and even though a few sections are a little drawn out, when the action hits, it hits hard.
I should also mention that 'Alan Wake' has a number of collectibles that will also keep you busy in your travels. These include finding hidden coffee thermos, pages from a manuscripts, radio signals, secret chests, televisions (with some good programming), and more. Adding all these extra will probably motivate you to run through 'Alan Wake' a second time. 'Bright Falls' is fun to explore, especially the playground being so detail and expansive. For a linear experience, 'Alan Wake' has a larger than life feel that mimics the feel of a sandbox title.
Blinded by The Light
As you can tell, 'Alan Wake' delivers on the story, that much should be obvious, however, a great story doesn't make a great game, unless the gameplay can deliver. The main focus in 'Alan Wake' is dynamic between darkness and light. In the traditional sense, our protagonist is the good, the light, and the bad guys are the darkness. Alan uses light (however he can get it) to fight off other humans who have been consumed by the darkness-- called "the taken." The Taken are defeated by first burning the darkness of them with a light source, and secondly, taking them out with manufactured led, bullets.
The flashlight is your primary weapon in 'Alan Wake,' which continues with other "light" based weapons like flairs and flashbang grenades. This will keep the shadows at bay, but you will have to finish them off, and to do so you have a selection of standard guns at your disposal. The shotgun and rifle being favourites. The only adjustment I would have made is by adding melee weapons. Up close, Alan is almost useless, and given that the enemies mainly use blunt objects like axes and knifes, it seems ridiculous that Alan can't. It would have been nice to pick up an axe to give them a taste of their own maliciousness.
Aside from the normal combat mechanics of dogging and shooting, you will get to drive around in a few vehicles to make road kill out of 'the taken.' Driving is elective, although the walking the long stretches of road would be pure suicide, however, you could still do it. Precisely placed vehicles (cars and trucks) make it optimal for you to hop in and push the pedal to the floor. In a splendid alternate from the usual, you can exit and enter the vehicle at anytime, giving the player freedom to approach each situation however they wish. The driving mechanics could have been smoothed out a little more, but its not the end of the world. -- oh, and in case you where wondering, you can use your high beams to make quick work of the baddies. Yes, it is as fun as it sounds.
Didn't I Already Kill You?
Even though 'Alan Wake' is justly stand-up with its combat and storytelling craftsmanship, it can be rather repetitious at times. Once you meet the final type of enemy (I will leave it as a surprise) there isn't much variation aside from the level design and story path. The combat boils down to fighting the same type of invaders over-and-over. Sure they get bigger..., some get faster, but ultimately it is the same type of enemy, wave-after-wave. 'Alan Wake' could have benefited from a little more diversification in the antagonists, and even within the gameplay. Given the scale of the environments, brilliantly crafted atmosphere, and strong narrative, it’s a shame we didn't see a little more diversity in how you interact with the world.
Rock on, Old Gods of Asgard
Likely you know the graphics in 'Alan Wake' are spectacular. Heck, take one look at the screen shots and you will see the dynamics in the lighting engine. 'Alan Wake' more than makes the cut in the graphics department, but the real-story is the production in the audio. In a thriller audio matters and 'Alan Wake' has all the tricks employed to make you jump, run, and creep through its atmospheric landscapes. 'Petri Alanko' composed the soundtrack, which is delightfully mood and pitch perfect placed within the game. The music hits all the quos, helping the tension rise and fall with every moment.
'Remedy' did a phenomenal job constructing the audio as defining feature that changes how you play the game. When 'the taken' start to creep around you will hear an eerie buzz, you will ready your weapon, using your ears as your eyes. Every sound will feel amplified as your senses heighten to adjust to the spooky disposition of the game world, half the battle for a developer when creating a suspenseful horror-influenced game. This level of quality is captured by a superb balance among ambiance noise, creature sounds (the darkness), character banter, and the soundtrack. It also doesn't hurt that the quality of the sound production is high, with a strong showing from the cast and 'Alan' who narrates your adventure.
Lastly, it should be noted that 'Alan Wake' has put some rationality into its musical selections (the actual songs.) Songs are shyly used, but come in at the perfect time acting as an extra limb to the story. It's been a long time since I've purchased a gaming soundtrack, but 'Alan Wake' gives me the urge to seek this one out. It is that good.
'Alan Wake' is a stellar experience that will live on in your mind days after the final credits role. The pacing, storytelling, and light based gameplay is astounding, making 'Alan Wake' one game that fans of narrative driven games shouldn't miss. While 'Alan Wake' suffers from a minor case of repetitiveness, it never becomes dull with the looming atmosphere 'Remedy' has constructed within 'Bright Falls.' More than a chess match with shadow puppets, 'Alan Wake' is one of the most alluring titles of the year that surpasses its lit up gimmick. 'Remedy' has done it again, standing up with another innovative offering to the action genre. ‘Alan Wake’ is a certified success, and worth the lengthy wait. Now, let’s roll out that episodic content!
Gameplay:8.9, Graphics:9.2, Sound:9.8, Innovation:8.8, Mojo:9.4 Final: 9.2 / 10
Reviewed by DowntownJimmy | 05.29.10
- Interesting storyline that keeps you guessing
- Innovative use of light
- Tense atmosphere that keeps building
- Strong voice-acting and a solid soundtrack
- Solid graphics with excellent attention to detail
- Lots of collectibles to find
- Gameplay could have used more diversity
- No melee attacks?!
- Player animations are a little weak
- Didn't I already kill you, little variation in enemies
Similar Games: Cold Fear (7.0) | Obscure (7.5) | Heavy Rain (9.4) | Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (9.8)
Alan Wake DLC: The Writer (9.3)