by, 08-05-2010 at 06:08 PM (1167 Views)
A few months back I wrote about my experience with Heavy Rain demo. As it turns out the retail version wasn’t much better than the demo. I spent around 4 hours playing Heavy Rain and lost interest. I was a little apprehensive about dumping any “real” money into Alan Wake, since it seemed similar to Heavy Rain: Heavy on the story and light on the gaming. So I waited until there was a price drop and got my hands on Remedy’s Alan Wake for just over $35.
Alan Wake is a bestselling author who’s suffering a 3 year old case of writer’s block. The game begins with Alan and his wife Alice heading out to the rural lake town of Bright Falls for a vacation. Bright Falls is your stereotypical creepy small town where everyone knows everyone and everyone’s business. It doesn’t take long for Alan to figure out just how creepy Bright Falls really is. There is a dark presence that has invaded Bright Falls and it has targeted Alan and those around him for some unknown reason. I won’t go any further into plot details, since the story is such an important element to this game.
Alan Wake is a 3rd person action shooter first and foremost, but Remedy hit the ball out of the park in the way it tells its story. The cut scenes are somewhat frequent but short. Most of the story is told as a spoken narrative from Alan himself while you play the game and through the pages of a manuscript that you find along the way that Alan wrote himself, but does not remember writing. Although shooting is a prominent game play mechanic in this game, it’s the use of lighting and light itself as a weapon that makes this game stand out.
Besides the flashlight that Wake carries throughout the game, you fight off hordes of the forsaken with a revolver, shotgun or hunting rifle. You can use flares to slow down enemies or a flare gun or flash bangs to take out groups of them. Ammunition and supplies aren’t as plentiful as you’d hope, so there are times where you simply use your flash light to slow enemy assaults or use spotlights or brightly lit areas for cover. One of the few downsides to Alan Wake, is the limited amount of enemies, there’s 5 or 6 different enemy types besides possessed objects that will attack you from time to time.
It’s difficult trying to compare Alan Wake to games that are like it. It’s a Survival/Horror game but there is very little gore. Most of the “scares” are achieved through ambiance and foreshadowing. The developers go to great lengths to create ambiance. From the dark fog that rolls in just before hordes of the forsaken attack to the sound of a light bulb smashing just as you reach a well lit safe haven, the game does a great job at scaring the crap out of you. The soundtrack is as good if not better than Dead Space, which I consider the ultimate in gaming surround sound. Alan Wake is sort of like Left 4 Dead, but with an incredible story. Uncharted without the platforming or puzzle solving or Dead Space minus the Aliens, add possessed lumber jacks.
The game’s levels are laid out into 6 TV like episodes, complete with your typical “Last time on Alan Wake” trailer at the beginning of each episode and a cliffhanger and/or revelation at the end of every level. One of the more interesting Easter eggs in this game are the TVs. The TVs play Twilight Zone like mini shows that are pretty creepy, but extremely awesome. You’ll also find radios that help you figure out what’s going on around town as you play the game. The game itself is very linear for the most part. For me that’s perfect, since I felt the game progressed naturally and never felt that odd “What should I do next?” feeling. I was impressed as well with the music between episodes. The songs were written for the game and sort of narrate what is happening but they also sound great. I wonder if the soundtrack is available for purchase?
One of the bigger oddities was the insane amount of product placement ads going on in this game. Alan’s cell phone carrier is Verizon, the batteries you find to power your flashlight are Energizer, towards the beginning of the game, Microsoft chimes in by displaying a car radio with “Sync by Microsoft” on it, and Ford cars are prominently displayed throughout Bright Falls and you even find a TV or two that play commercials for Ford and Verizon.
Overall, Alan Wake is a must play for any 360 owner. The games presentation, story graphics and gameplay are all outstanding in my opinion. With that said, I’m glad I didn’t pay $60 for it. The game took me just under 12 hours to complete on Normal difficulty. I’d say the game is a buy at $39 and not a rental since a new copy gets you a code for an additional DLC episode that awaits you after you’ve finished the game at no additional cost. There’s supposed to be another DLC episode on the way, but I’m not sure if they’ll charge for that or not.
Simply put. I love this game. Best game this year for me. I enjoyed every second of it and basically played an episode per night over the last 6 nights to complete the game in under a week. Go get it!