Hey guys, Hex here…
Picking this up a week ago I was a little nervous. I had been excited about Alan Wake for a good time now, for a while not even being sure what exactly it was all about. Releasing on the same day with a few other powerhouse titles made me anxious, — you know, if I could give “Alan” my full attention or not.
Needless to say, that was not a problem. The game is dripping with ways to suck the player in. First the thing most worth mentioning about Alan Wake is that the game is entirely about atmosphere. The setting of the small north-eastern lake town is a creepy homage to Stephen King and shows like Twin Peaks, and the sound design and look of the “monster” is downright frightening as it howls and throws massive objects your way in the vein of the “LOST” smoke monster. This setting and omnipresent villain lay the ground work for a terrific tale that while, not entirely groundbreaking, gives a fresh an fun game play approach.
The story is pretty simple. Alan is a famous novelist, again think Stephen King, who has been hit with a bad case of writers block. Under his wife Alice’s advice the two escape to quiet “Bright Falls” a town situated on the beautiful Cauldron Lake, and surrounded my vast mountains and evergreen forests. Of course, this is a horror tale so things don’t stay quiet long as “Darkness” seems to move in on the wind and amid screams and howling wind Alice “falls” into the lake below. This sets the story in motion as Alan begins finding pages of a manuscript for his next novel, one he never wrote, that seem to point the way through a dark force that has Alice. So armed with a flashlight and pistol initially Alan sets off to figure it all out. And he will need that flashlight.
So the story and atmosphere are great, but that’d mean nothing if the game wasn’t any fun to play. Thankfully the game play uses a few tricks to create a experience that is simple and maybe repetitive in concept, a joy to play. Basically every enemy in the game is coated in this “shield” of darkness, and therefore Alan uses many forms of household light making in a frantic attempt to try and burn this away so a trusty side-arm can finish the possessed people off. While most are different villagers, wielding melee weapons ranging from hand axes up chainsaws and sledgehammers, Alan will often be hit with a more poltergeist like possessed object as well, though usually these are easier as light will destroy them all on its own. I was a little worried after about the first 2 hours that the game play just didn’t have enough going for it to really be a stellar game. But I was proven wrong as the set pieces and enemy tactics combined with the incredible level design and feel make it never really get old. Mere hours after my initial fears and here I was screaming at the television, narrowly avoiding an axe to the face as I sprinted desperately towards a circle of light that could protect that last shred of health.
So obviously I think the game is worth the purchase but that’s not to say its absolutely perfect. A few minor things annoyed me here and there. Most are easily overlooked but worth mentioning. Game play wise, as fun as it is to have this massive set pieces, there are a few times when running to the checkpoint was alittle to simple and the occasional object can block your view during a hectic fight. The really only negative I can think of comes with the games story and presentation. While I fell in love with the episodic storytelling, the game feels like an interactive mini series, this style naturally left the ending feeling a little weaker than normal, most likely because DLC will be added down the line to add more to the tales’ 6 chapters.
Overall Alan Wake is a wonderful, albeit somewhat short game. The atmosphere and presentation are nearly flawless and save for a few minor clichés the story and characters are some of the best Ive seen in recent years. And Ive played my share of titles. So if you enjoy King, LOST, Twin Peaks, The Mist, and any H.P. Lovecraft novels or are looking for a fresh third person shooter with a coating of spooky horror, Alan Wake will satisfy.