Alan WakeMikey 7 comments
After recently being disillusioned with the current quality of video games, my faith in gaming has now been restored, and it comes in the name of an XBox 360 title called Alan Wake.
I first became aware of Alan Wake not long after the game was announced in 2005 (seriously) when developer Remedy Entertainment released a couple of attention grabbing trailers, and at that time the game was primarily being pimped exclusively for Windows Vista and XBox 360. Something happened along the way and the PC version (which was the version they demoed everywhere) was dumped to allow the small development team to focus all their attention on a single platform. The result is one of the most polished games you're likely to ever experience.
The trailers were (and still are) a breath of fresh air showing a game concept and story outside of the usual FPS and RPG fodder that seems to be constantly served up. I'm looking at you EA.
Set in the fictional backwoods town of Bright Falls, Alan Wake is a survival/rescue horror game which unfolds like a 'edge of your seat' television series, complete with the "Previously on Alan Wake" cut scenes that update you on the chapter you've just completed.
Alan Wake is a best selling author suffering from writers block and marital problems originating from his drinking, who is dragged along by his suffering wife to Bright Falls in an attempt to cleanse him.
Warning: Possible Spoiler in the next paragraph!
When Alice is kidnapped Alan begins a slow descent into madness during his rescue attempts, not really sure which parts of the experience are reality and which are just a dream. But as it turns out everything is happening exactly as he had written in one of his novels, except he doesn't remember ever writing it. Along the way you discover pieces of your manuscript which give clues to where you're going and what's happening. I won't say any more at risk of revealing too much, eccept to say the plot thickens and goes directions you don't expect.
Nearly all of the game takes place during the night, which is the only time the enemies (The 'Taken') can make an appearance as they feed off the darkness and are sensitive to light. This makes the humble torch Alan's best weapon, and focusing it onto one of the Taken will render them momentarily unable to advance towards you. While they are in this state you can destroy them with one of the many weapons you've scavenged along the way, such a pistol, hunting rifle, shotgun, flare gun or flash bang.
Because light is the enemy of darkness, Alan can take safe haven in one of the few street lights he encounters. Though sometimes you need to get power to them by starting a generator, which makes for some scary encounters. I can tell you first hand that hearing the sound of approaching footsteps from behind while you frantically try to get a generator to start is easily one of the most frantic and hair raising gaming experiences I've ever had. The games pacing is perfect in that sense, and you nearly always feel like you're under threat.
The combination of light and traditional weapons gives Alan Wake a unique combat mechanic that suits the game perfectly. My only reservation is the lack of variation in the enemy and some overly repetitious combat, and I think if this game had a few hours shaved off, or if some of the travel time between checkpoints was shorter it might have been better. That said, Alan Wakes bad points are better than some other games good points.
You encounter many people during the game, all of which are very believable and something I didn't expect: care for their welfare. I guess this is what happens when you've got believable characters, stunning graphics and talented voice acting to sell the whole thing.
I have to take a paragraph here to mention the music. This game easily has the best music score ever conceived, perfectly suiting the game at the relevant moments. Just to name a few contributors; Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, David Bowie, Violet Indiana, and Poets of the Fall who contributed one track under their own name and two particularly stunning tunes under the moniker 'Old Gods of Asgard' (which will make sense if you play the game) with lyrics that tie in with the plot.
But don't take my word on any of this. The critical response has been exemplary, with most reviews giving Alan Wake perfect or near perfect scores.
I however give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.