30 Reviews in 30 Days, Day 5 – Alan Wake (PC)

Anyone who has been paying attention knows I am a huge fan of Alan Wake. The only reason I did not give it my Game of the Year for 2010 is Mass Effect 2 came out the same year. My biggest complaint about the game was that it was only available on the 360, and I knew several people, including one Chris Maeurer, who needed to play this. That was why I was so excited to hear it was coming to PC this year, and the very day it was available on Steam, I snatched it up even though I already owned it on 360. The question is does the game translate well to PC?

Getting Reacquainted With an Old friend

Bright Falls. Not as welcoming as you might think.

The story behind Alan Wake is still as strong as ever. Alan is a renowned suspense novel writer who has not been able to write anything for two years. The strain this is putting on him is starting to affect his marriage, and so he and his wife Alice decide to take a vacation in Bright Falls, Washington to get away from it all. When Alan learns that his wife had actually hoped getting away from it all would get the creative juices flowing again, he storms out of the cabin they are renting, but he then he hears his wife scream. Alan rushes back to find something has dragged Alice into the lake. He dives in after her…

And wakes up a week later in his mangled vehicle with no recollection of how he got there or what happened during the gap in time.

From there, you are thrust into a world where darkness is a malevolent force and light is your primary weapon. As you progress, you come across manuscript pages written by Alan that he does not remember writing, and these pages give you either insight into what is happening around you or a brief glimpse of events about to come. The Darkness is taking control of many of the people of Bright Falls, and Alan must figure out how to defeat it to both survive and find his missing wife.

Some of the cut scenes are as wooden as ever.

Remedy does a fantastic job of telling the story in this game. One reason for this is the choice to make each chapter of Alan Wake play out like a mini-series, wrapping up the previous one with ending credits and starting the next one with the synopsis “previously on Alan Wake.” This cinematic approach to the story really helps draw the player in. What hinders this, however, is the animation on the cut scenes. This was a complaint on the 360 version, and it really sticks out on the PC. It’s even more noticeable as the in engine graphics have really been cleaned up in the PC version of the game. The cut scenes just stand out, and they can cause the player to lose some of the immersion. While I understand why the cut scenes were not cleaned up for the PC version, I wish they had been.

The More Things Change….

The gameplay of Alan Wake is still as solid as it was on the 360, but it also has the same limitations. Now I will admit I am playing on a controller and not mouse and keyboard, so I cannot make that comparison, but as the game was originally designed with a controller in mind, it works fine. You will find yourself running (though not very far as Alan is out of shape), dodging, shining your like to burn away the Darkness from the Taken and shooting your enemies after the “shields” have been depleted. This time around, I know the game does not let you carry ammo from chapter to chapter, so I have not been as worried about conserving what I have; if the game gives me weapons and ammo to use, I use them. I still find the flares, flare gun and flashbangs are some of the most useful equipment in the game, and I save them for when I really need them.

The lighting effects looked great on 360. They look even better on PC.

Stepping back into Alan Wake is a bit disconcerting as far as gameplay goes, but that is through no fault of the game itself. The problem is Remedy really tightened the controls for Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, the stand alone XBLA title which later did come out on PC. In that game, Alan moves much more fluidly, can run more than a few feet at a time and just controls much better from a gameplay standpoint. It’s a little like going back to play the original Mass Effect after playing its sequels. It’s not that the controls for the original are bad; they are just more refined in the sequels. The same applies here, though the drop off from American Nightmare to the original is not quite as drastic as it is in the Mass Effects.

One thing that really shines through (pardon the pun) on the PC port is the lighting effects. The effects were already impressive on the 360, but with the PCs added draw distance and increased resolution, they look even better. Remedy has built an engine that really shows the transitions between light and darkness, and considering that is an integral part of the game, getting that correct was paramount. While many games are using lens flare and other artificial means to make the lighting effect more “realistic,” Remedy has found a way to make light and darkness feel almost alive. I have not seen another game where the lighting looks this good.

Still a Great Game

While some of the experience of Alan Wake may have diminished a bit over time, the overall game is still phenomenal. The story is unlike any I have ever played, with only Spec Ops: The Line coming close to dethroning it for the best game narative in my opinion. While an improvement in a few areas would have been nice, it is still something PC players should really experience for themselves. Alan Wake on PC gets a 9 out of 10.

Eric Bouchard

I am the Senior Editor and current Admin for Everyday Gamers as well as the primary editor of the podcast. While I tend to gravitate towards shooters or RPGs, I will play any genre of game which catches my eye.

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