We’ve been waiting a very long time for Alan Wake. Heralded as a corner stone of Microsoft’s original IP, Alan Wake has appeared and reappeared on the radar of gamers so many times that most didn’t believe when a firm release date was set. Well rest your weary heads because Alan Wake has been released to the public and we can all finally experience was Remedy studios have been crafting all these years. It’s not hard to understand that the makers of Max Payne had a lot of freedom and time to create this game, but did they deliver? Is Alan Wake’s glory written in the stars, or is it scribbled among the failures of history?
Taking a break from the regular routine is a method Alan and his Wife plan to use in an attempt to break Alan’s mental writers block. They arrive at Bright Falls via boat and before they even land, things begin to get a little odd. Bright Falls is a mysterious place to say the least. It’s a small place country town, but even small country towns have heard of a famous writer the likes of Wake. Even here he can’t escape admiration and questions from the prying public. Things go from bad to worse as Alan’s life is turned upside down by dark forces he can’t escape or understand. The darkness consumes him and forces him down a path of destruction as Wake tries to free himself and his wife from it’s grip. I won’t go into much detail, because this is a story you really have to experience for yourself.
Technically the game is a third person shooter with some problem solving sequences. Once you dig a little deeper you can find much more just under the surface. It’s about resource management and knowing when to fight…and when to turn and run. It’s about character development and trying to dig deep into the motivations behind peoples actions and feelings. Through understanding it soon becomes clear that combining light and fire power is the only way to defeat these enemies. Flashlights and shotguns make an excellent combination when fighting “the darkness”. However; carelessly wasting your supplies can put you in hot water in a bad way. Shine your light upon your enemies to destroy their “shields of darkness” before shooting at the fragile flesh below. Flares and flash bangs are great for taking out enemies, but only use them when you absolutely have no choice. Tactics like this help give the game some depth and keep you constantly in a state of uncertainty at what is next.
Unfortunately the visuals don’t always impress. The lighting borders on photo realism sometimes, but the textures and models leave something to be desired. Occasionally the camera will zoom in on an object in a room and the results may cause slight cringing. The facial animation is also extremely weak at times. Up and down are not the only ways the human mouth moves, no matter what you see in this game.
A rose by any other name
Mood and Narrative, the two best parts of Alan Wake. Each are individually and masterfully crafted. The game balances dark and light to constantly surprise the player and keep him on the edge. Something about wandering through a dark forrest carrying only a flashlight and magnum really can have an unpleasant effect on your nerves. Luckily the game has brilliantly paced intervals splitting the game into episodes, each ending with a brilliant fade to the title screen and amazing music. It seems like a small thing, but it’s a brilliant touch.
The games narration is also top notch and is explored through narrated manuscript pages littered throughout the game levels. The game also includes some hilarious in-game tv shows and radio programs that are sure to make you laugh. Each episode rises and falls, culminating in an awesome ending. Memorable characters (Your assistant Barry is great) help round Alan Wake out as an experiment in character design as well as in game design. The game doesn’t pull any punches is acknowledging that Alan Wake is a poor mans Stephen King, which is a good thing . Better to come right out and say what we’re all thinking then pretending you came up with it.
Simply stated, this isn’t one you should miss.
[starreview tpl=46 size=’30’]