on 31 May 2010
Coming into this game expecting traditional survival horror is likely to leave many disappointed. At first the dialogue seemed to balance between average and shoddy, occasionally cheesy and jarring to initial preconceptions. It's only after a while that it becomes apparent that the game shares more in common with a straight to TV Stephen King adaption than any truly spine chilling horror. Once this realisation occurs it makes the game much easier to absorb and enjoy as Remedy really play to the strengths of this sub-genre of horror.
The concept behind the plot of Alan Wake is quite unique and certainly one of its biggest appeals. A writer whose story comes to life around him gives Remedy many chances to play with plot concepts and the player's anticipation. Finding manuscript pages throughout the game often cues the player into what is up ahead and adds nicely to the tension when you realise that some pages are about to lead you towards a great evil. It ties into the episodic television series nature of the game providing a neat and hard fought trick of combining story telling narrative with the direction and presentation of the game.
Alan Wake himself is an interesting protagonist, one who is not always likeable but has enough weakness in him to still feel very human. He's certainly not an invincible superman, whilst understandable concessions have been made that allow you to take an axe swing or two without instant death. It's always encouraging to see developers explore characters that are not muscle bound heroes or top heavy, skimpily dressed heroines who walk the path between sympathetic and arrogant. Alan has a lot of problems in his life and is far removed from the perfect all action hero stereotype so often played upon in gaming.
The game crafts a fairly well tuned sense of horror, occasionally cheap flash bang shocks are used but for the most part a spooky atmosphere is created to provide uneasiness and tension in the player. Whilst it fails to reach the heights of horror genre highs such as Silent Hill 2, Resident Evil and Project Zero/Fatal Frame it certainly gives enough atmosphere to the player to make it rewarding.
There are references abound throughout the game that provide pleasure to those familiar with horror and thriller media and culture. There are some very obtuse references to Stephen King and his novels from the off, event some of the more subtle ones including some very clever nods in the direction to the likes of Hitchcock. However even the majority of these references actually get name checked by the characters. This would have added an extra degree of enjoyment to the game as Remedy pays homage to some of the genre masters if they hadn't beaten the player about the head with them. Some of the obligatory nods are unsurprising given the narrative direction of playing a horror writer but more subtlety like the Twilight Zone homage "Night Springs" would have been welcome.
Unfortunately the game makes occasional unnecessary concessions to gameplay mechanics that drag the player away from the narrative and atmosphere. Having 100 coffee flasks dotted around the game world is an unnecessary collecting trope that is guaranteed to unintentionally break the fourth wall and pull the achievement hungry out of this immersive world. Perhaps if this had come before Heavy Rain which proved that traditional gaming mechanics weren't required to create something compelling there would be less of a problem. Regardless, unnecessary steps like this take away from the player suspending their disbelief and entering Remedy's atmospheric world fully. A game shouldn't reward you when your goal within the story is to get from point A to point B to save someone as quickly as possible by putting some ammo, manuscript pages and a coffee flask at point C. It may add a sweeter smell to any repeated play-through but collection tasks, especially in this case, are an unnecessary and almost cynical ploy to increase longevity, even if the game is brief enough to warrant it.
Alan Wake is a fairly short adventure, booking in around 10-12 hours of gameplay with an extremely linear path. There are no real opportunities to explore the world of Bright Fall which is a shame, instead the player is mostly funnelled down narrow paths to the next checkpoint. This feels like a missed opportunity, especially in the daylight sections where the option to explore the area when in a vehicle almost seems so tangible it could be made available. The linearity does work for those moments where Remedy has created some well directed set pieces but these are not frequent enough and are smattered with a lot of wandering through forest, lighting up and shooting dark spawn.
To kill your adversaries requires shining your torch on an enemy to remove the "darkness" until they are weak enough to be shot. It's an entertaining mechanic that works well but does outstay its welcome towards the end. The use of light and dark on a visual level however is very impressive with shadows tricking players into seeing apparitions that are not there. In fact the game excels visually throughout and comes close to being a benchmark for the 360. Bright Falls is realised exceptionally well and the style is naturalistic and down-played yet still awe-inspiring.
The question of whether this game is worth the five year wait is virtually moot, most people would struggle to find a game that could live up to the level of anticipation created by such a long timeline. However Remedy have concocted a reasonable survival horror game that may not be an essential triple A but certainly stands out in a hardware generation starved of quality in this genre. Just expect that this is more House on the Haunted Hill than The Shining.
on 25 June 2010
For a few years, I had heard of this game that Sam Lake wanted to do, a story in which a writer becomes the hero of a story that he apparently wrote, but doesn't remember doing so. And unlike what I was expecting, which was a game a bit rushed out and unpolished for sometimes certain companies don't want to do great games, but instead rushed out products so that can get as much money as possible, to the detriment of the game and the designer's talent, this game is instead another proof that Sam Lake is a very talented writer and game designer.
Each level is designed as an episode of a tv series, called Alan Wake, where there is a summary starting from the second till the sixth episode, product placements with items like Energizer batteries and Verizon cell phones, and many references to horror classics such as the X-Files, The Birds, and Stephen King's works. Though I sometimes felt that it was a bit unnecessary to have Alan Wake say out loud certain references like when the Taken tries to get to Alan by axing down a door, or the Birds that attack Barry inside his chalet since those references are very popular. At least Sam Lake shows is this game that he respects and considers Stephen King as an important author and not a best-seller machine which is what certain intellectuals believe.
Apart from the story, I also loved the Night Springs mini-episodes that you can watch on certain televisions. The suspense is excellent and I still wished that Sam Lake had put them in the extras, among the soundtrack and the radios shows that you uncover during the game. Among my favorite songs, I loved the Poet and the muse by the old gods of Asgard, Up jumped the Devil by Nick Cage and the Bad Seeds, and Haunted by Poe.
Visually the game is excellent and the landscape is gorgeous. At night, the lighting department manages to create very scary environments, where one isn't too sure if there won't be a Taken around the corner to attack you, even when you're certain that there is no enemy around. The same can be said for the audio, which adds to the tension and encourages you to be careful to the sounds you hear as each one may be a Taken who is approaching.
There are however two things one must know about this game. First of all that it is not an open-world as in Red Dead redemption or Grand Theft Auto. However for each level, you get to be in a specific environment, very wide and impressive where you can find trivial informations about Bright Falls, manuscript pages, thermos bottles, tv and radio shows, all special tokens that can be difficult to find for they are well hidden. However you must know that there is no sub-quests as in Red Dead Redemption.
Finally, the ending will infuriate many gamers as it is open-ended and not all the questions are resolved. However this game is supposedly the first season of a series of games that are part of the Alan Wake universe. According to Remedy, there is supposed to be a sequel and the DLC content, such as the first one that will appear in July, will bridge up the ending and prepare us for the sequel. Which I hope they will get to make for they released the game at the wrong time, which was when Red Dead Redemption came out.
I hope Sam Lake won't have the same problems that Michel Ancel got with Beyond Good and Evil.
on 13 March 2015
Alan is a best-selling thriller author who suffers from writer's block. He decides to take a holiday in a bid to clear his head. And how does Alan choose to get away from it all, do you think? By spending a fortnight in Rio, drinking pina coladas by the pool? Or by visiting a tiny, rainy Pacific Northwest town inhabited by hilarious simpletons and frightening weirdoes, where the only available accommodation is an ancient log cabin in the middle of a haunted lake? Alan is accompanied on this holiday by his wife, Alice who is apparently afraid of the dark. Knowing this, Alan should probably have picked a nice hotel rather than a cabin powered by a generator in a shed at the end of the back garden. Needless to say, within about 12 minutes of arriving in the town of Bright Falls, Alice goes missing in mysterious circumstances and Alan embarks on a quest to find her.
Standing in his way is an army of zombie-like enemies known as the Taken. These are people who have been possessed by a dark force and turned into homicidal maniacs. Some have scythes, some throw axes, but all have a nasty habit of appearing out of nowhere and attempting to hack Alan to death. The good news is they're repelled by light. Our hero takes advantage of this, using one hand to point his torch and stop them in their tracks while shooting with the other. Although it would get a bit annoying if you run out of ammo and had to run away from a horde of enemies then realise that Alan has run out of stamina (he also runs out of breath if you run for too long). Streetlamps create safe havens for Alan, pools of light which protect him from the Taken and instantly fill up his health meter. He can also ward off enemies using flares, flare guns and flash grenades.
The combat system works well. It requires you to multi-task and think tactically, particularly when facing several enemies at once. What's also really interesting about this xbox 360 exclusive is that the game plays in episodic format which benefits the game well as the game sets up each segment like something you'd expect to see on a prime time television series. The announcer say previously on Alan Wake whenever you finish a level which I thought was a nice little touch. The stunning graphics were really stuning and really showcases the lighting and shadow effects, it was very well detailed.
The game also has a certain style and dark atmosphere, it's as if your in a Stephen King novel or movie, which I guess is a good thing especially if your a horror fan, although the game does get a bit too linear and follows a straight path. There's a melodramatic voiceover which begins, "Stephen King once wrote that nightmares exist outside of logic..." and ends, "My name is Alan Wake. I'm a writer." The influence of David Lynch is obvious too, in everything from the game's setting to the songs on the soundtrack to the point that it becomes a cliche, but still I thought that the storyline was really intriguing and kept the mystery going and really what kept me interested. While I didn't particularly find this game to be that hard it was still an enjoyable game.
on 22 March 2013
I always avoided this game after seeing quick gameplay footage on youtube as I assumed it was only about walking around shining torches at 'people', which in a way it was, but when I finally gave in and gave it a go, it was surprisingly immersive. The game is played out like a TV show with each chapter ending like a cliffhanger and beginning with the 'Previously on Alan Wake' followed by a cut scene showing you what happened so far to jog your memory, again, just like a TV show which was pretty cool to see.
As for the story itself, it was good overall, although slightly confusing towards the end. I won't spoil anything but I guess it's one of those 'interpret as you see fit' type stories. I liked the little details during the game when you aren't being chased down by shadows and demons such as turning on a radio to hear the local DJ talking about you being in town (you're a famous writer) and a local calling in to tell the radio station that they just met you moments earlier, which you do in the town diner who is a NPC (Non Playable Character for all of you non gamers out there). As this story is pretty much about 'what the hell is going on around here', any thing to help you get a better understanding is worth waiting around for i.e stopping to turn on a TV, listen to a radio on the table to hear what the fire is up ahead in the forest as part of a local broadcast, talking to a person sitting in the diner etc
The ONLY bad thing I had to say about this game is the fact that it's predictable at times and also can be repetitive, but what games aren't these days? If you like story driven games over Call of Duty style 'run and gun' games, this is a very good game. Overall it was a good experience and definitely worth the price.
on 6 September 2012
Alan Wake is a game that nearly didn't happen. Ambitious in its concept, it then entered the development netherworld with games like Duke Nukem Forever (look how that turned out). Would it ever be released? Would Microsoft pull the plug? For people like myself, it was a game we were looking forward to ever since a video released at E3 in the 360s first year showed a birds eye view sweeping through an atmospheric mid-west US mountain town with more than a little Stephen King about it.
All I can say is thank you to everyone involved with the game for persevering.
This game excels in no area except one, the finished product. It's a game that is made by the sum of its parts. The fantastic if mildy cliched story, the awesome original soundtrack, the atmospheric visuals complete with slightly clunky animation that somehow helps the atmosphere and the innovative take on light against dark that forms an integral part of the gameplay and story. You don't need to be a survival horror fan to appreciate the amount of sweat, blood and tears that went into making it.
As a part of Xbox 360 history everyone should play this game. For the £10 or so it can now be purchased whether you love it or hate it you are playing your part in supporting innovative and unique games which these days struggle to obtain studio support for being too "risky".
I paid £45 for the collector's edition and would happily have paid twice that for this game, I enjoyed it that much.
on 18 August 2011
To put it simply this game is very good. It's like a mixture between silent hill (As you're alone in a small rural town with strange happenings and the ability to examine some objects while explore on a versatile but set path)
And alone in the dark (shadows and darkness vs light) But of course without any of alone in the darks bad points like a ton of bugs and such.
This game has a very good storyline that will bend your mind once or twice as one revelation is revealed after another. It draws cameos from some real life books, movies or other factual things but the game is done in a realistic and credible way so things such as that don't fault the game in any way. They make it more enjoyable. The voice talent is pretty good and funny in some parts too, the music and sound effects are also up to the standard of an AAA title. The visuals are very nice and the lighting effects bring out the atmosphere in the game just right. Some of the setting can start to feel just the tiniest bit repetitive as it's all in a rural town (pine tree national park etc) but the storyline and constant yet uncertain action never allows it to become a bore.
As for gameplay, picture it, you're running through a dense forest with axe, chainsaw, and insane people known as "The Taken" chasing you. You find it hard to see through the mist of swirling shadows that engulf everything they touch. Between trees you see a figure darting around at impossible speeds as you fail to keep the torch in it (No it's not edward cullen thankfully). While the others close in on you, axe flying past your head you pull out a flare and with a crack light the place up a brilliant red. The bright light destroys the darkness protecting the taken and you unload your revolver into them before they drop the the ground; disintegrating to ashes.
You go to continue along the trail when suddenly inanimate things start trying to kill you, you fire at a barrel; it falls over as the one next to it hurtles towards you. It's then you notice you can't retreat because more taken are hunting you from behind..
And that's just the gameplay, unraveling the great storyline and finding out what is happening is where the fun really lies. To be brief you play as a famous writer called Alan Wake, he gets stumped for ideas after writing his latest best seller "A Sudden Stop" and with his wife Alice decides to leave New York and go to a lovely rural retreat Bright Falls for vacation.
But from there onwards things take nightmarish downward spiral. All the while Alan finds pages of a manuscript written by himself, only he doesn't remember writing it.
If you buy the game new you'll get a DLC code for the first add on "The Signal" free, which I recommend! because it offers more insight into the storyline after you complete it and is actually pretty decent for a add on. But of course play it after you've completed the game!
Sound effects: 9/10
on 28 April 2011
After being fed up with watching misguided new developers destroying my favourite horror series, Silent Hill, I welcomed picking up something new in Alan Wake, and I absolutely was not disappointed.
The game feels fresh and different right from the get-go with its episodic quirks that rapidly become familiar, the distinct narrative style of the protagonist, the kooky backwater twilight zone-esque feel of Bright Falls, the bold and daring use of light and dark to carve a path through the sprawling environments. Although not strictly a horror game, Alan Wake certainly had chills running up my spine with its clever use of the dark and creepy sound effects, and its shadowy villains frequently materialising out of nowhere to give you a good jump. Making a game pitch-black and letting the gamer fumble around in the dark is easy but stupid; I'm pleased to say that Alan Wake is much more intelligent, ramping up its perpetual threatening atmosphere.
The gameplay is, when you strip it down to its core, fairly simple, and despite the occasional branching path to go pick up a secret crate of supplies or something similar, your path through each episode is also linear. Where Alan Wake excels, however, is in not making it FEEL linear. The environments seem huge, and feel like living, breathing mountainside forestry. When you're running panicked from a mob of enemies through a thicket of trees, it's easy to feel like you're lost and disoriented. Linearity is not necessarily a problem in a game - most games are linear when it comes down to it - so long as the gamer never feels like they are on rails. Alan Wake's six episodes are meaty and feel full of exploration, poking through eerie abandoned buildings and dilapidated town houses in beautifully rendered environments. The combat rapidly becomes intuitive, although I was a little disappointed by the lack of challenge in it as the game is very generous with ammunition.
I'm knocking off a star for an anticlimactic, vague ending and run-up to the ending, and the overuse of 'I've lost all my weapons . . . again' scenarios. Which may seem harsh, but the story was great and original, and the lack of a satisfying ending was a big disappointment for me! Maybe the extra notes in Nightmare Mode and the DLC shed light on stuff, I don't know. Shouldn't NEED it to make sense of the complete game that I have bought though.
Either way, these niggles are minor, and Alan Wake is a fantastic game that demands your attention. And it's going so cheap now it can't be anything but a bargain!
on 4 September 2010
I'm a great lover of survival horror games and was slightly disappointed to find when playing that this game is pretty much just straight action- however it does this very well. The game's amazing graphics and lighting just oozes atmosphere in all of its environments. I didn't find this to be all that scary but it does have great tension to keep you on the edge of your seat. Two warnings though; the game is a little too short and there is little incentive to play it all again, and also the story makes little sense by the ending. The developer has said that all questions wont be answered by the end of the game but will be explained either in future DLC or the inevitable sequel.
In short, well worth a try.
on 11 September 2010
Ok so you've read a few varying reviews and you can't really make up your mind whether this is worth getting or not. Firstly if you strip the game down to it's bare bones then yes the game play is limited, there is no sandbox environment there is no endless customisable clothing, guns, etc, the 'enemy' variation and the gameplay is totally linear. Now this kind of thing would normally have me running screaming for the hills whether there was a shadowy axe wielding maniac behind me or not but it doesn't, and why? Well simple the brilliant story, the wonderful graphics and just the whole ambience of the game which makes it a very immersive expereince to the level that all the aforementioned problems are just not noticed.
A number of reviews also say this game is too short! Are you kidding me! This has to have some of the most longest linear levels you can play through. Short is the Call of Duty campaign that can be blasted through in a few hours this game has much more depth to it. Sure if you are a 'blitz gamer' you can probably run through the level quite quickly but if like me you take your time to look around and take it all in, search out all the manuscript pages and bizarrely enough coffeeflasks, as well as listening to the radio broadcasts and watching the TV's then you will get a fair few hours out of the game.
The aforementioned manuscript really helps build up the story of the game as you collect it piece by jigsaw piece it slowly outlines in greater detail not just what has occured but also what is about to. Infact the whole experience is like reading a good book where it just draws you on, you can't put it down. Just one more page then I'll stop and before you know it it's the early hours and the wife is wondering where the hell you are!!
This game is not really an out and out horror more of a suspensful thriller, there are one or two moments that may make you jump and you will really feel the tenseness of the situation Alan Wake finds himself in.
There is however no real replay value in the game other than to play it on harder setting, there is some DLC available although it is not really going to prolong the lifespan of the game.
All in all though the brilliantly crafted story and environment easily hide the games shortcomings and unless you are only into mindless shooting fests you will enjoy it.
on 20 July 2010
Alan Wake, from Remedy Software and after years in the making, finally makes it's way onto our xbox's, and boy was it worth the wait!
Alan Wake takea place in the fictional mountain town of Bright Falls, where Alan and his wife Alice come for a bit of a vacation and maybe to get Alan back into his writing, after over 2 years of writer's block. After looking around his rented Cabin, he soon finds Alice in trouble and before he knows it, he's in his crashed car, in a ditch, with no recolection of the past week's events. Alan then must find out what has happened and what haunts this town's forests and lakes at night.
The gameplay is split up into 6 episodes, with 2 or 3 levels in each, and is portrayed in the style of a television series. After each episode you'll get a "Previously on Alan Wake..." cutscene to remind you of events past in previous episodes, nicely setting you up with the story fresh in your mind.
The game revolves around banishing dark with light, with Alan's flashligh as his essential weapon. Enemies will be shrouded in the darkness as they advance on you, and before you can kill them with your trusty sidearm, you must boost your flashlight on enemies, getting rid of all the darkness before finishing it off with your weapon.
Enemies include a variety of darkness infected humans, ranging from small and quick Taken, to bigger ones wielding axes and chainsaws. Also featured are darkness infested surrounding ranging from bins and barrels to tractors and even huge steam trains, that will throw themselves at you until you banish the darkness with your torch.
Weapons in the game consist of various flashlights to banish the darkness, like normal handheld torches to heavy duty lanterns, and then you have you "finishing off" weapons to stop the enemies once and for all, such as a revolver and hunting rifle. Also included are inventory weapons that create light such as flashbangs and flares.
The game is fairly linear, with the player progressing through each episode to the end in one straight path, but the set pieces and the engaging gameplay more than make up for this, and with the reams of sandbox and freeform games that have come out recently its nice for a game to come out with just a set path to play through. Along the way you'll find missing pieces of his manuscript that he's been writing that will hint on events to come, which is a handy tool for letting the player in on the jist of what is happening, while never really telling them when it'll happen. Also as collectibles are coffee thermos's, radio shows, tv shows (the latter two giving more of an insight to the events around bright falls) can pyramids, secret chests and the said manuscripts,
All the sounds in this game all immerse you into the action, giving the game a very psycological thriller feel that never goes away and stays with you even after you turn the game off (you dont know how many times i've thought twice about walking into a dark room at night). The voice actiong is superb as it should be for such a story driven game, but it excelled my expectations. The game also has some a nice selection of songs in its soundtrack, some real and some made up by the in game rock band.
The visuals in this game are very nice indeed. The textures and surrounding are rendered nicely but where it truely shines (ahhh see what i did there huh?) is the games light mechanics. They're amazing, Alan's torch casts the most amazing shadows and is a contender for best light effects ever made in a game.
The achievement list for this game are a fairly easy list, having you playing the game through twice (once on an easier mode and then on Nightmare, the most difficult) and with lots of collectibles in the game for you to find. The rest should be unlocked just from story progression.
Alan Wake was definately worth the wait. With an engaging story, brilliant sound and graphics and original gameplay, it all sets up for a good night in on the xbox which you will no doubt play again and again in the future. Think of an interactive Stephen King novel and you have Alan Wake. Remember, buying the game new will net you a free DLC code for the games DLC out in late July, so think of that if buying used. Enjoy