(www.xbox.com/alanwake)  Rated Teen by ESRB.  Good things come to those who wait.  This is precisely the case for the upcoming 360 title Alan Wake.  After almost five years of waiting since the title’s announcement, 360 owners have been living off morsels of information describing the dark world of Bright Falls by developer Remedy Entertainment.  The creators of the popular Max Payne series have developed a new franchise that is sure to raise eyebrows among casual and core gamers alike.

(www.xbox.com/alanwake)  Rated Teen by ESRB.  Good things come to those who wait.  This is precisely the case for the upcoming 360 title Alan Wake.  After almost five years of waiting since the title’s announcement, 360 owners have been living off morsels of information describing the dark world of Bright Falls by developer Remedy Entertainment.  The creators of the popular Max Payne series have developed a new franchise that is sure to raise eyebrows among casual and core gamers alike.

 

Presentation:

The opening episode of Alan Wake lets you dive headfirst into a story of intrigue and suspense straight out of a classic Twilight Zone episode or a Stephen King novel.  Alan and his wife are vacationing in a sleepy town of Bright Falls, WA (which us Seattleites will just make believe is on the Kitsap or Olympic peninsula) when things take a turn for the worst – Alan’s wife has gone missing and he has no idea where she has gone.  Alan must battle the citizens of Bright Falls overtaken by darkness called the ‘Taken’ and the attitudes of crazy local town folk in order to uncover not only the mystery of his wife’s disappearance but also the truth and strange history of this not-so-quaint town.

 

 A unique feature of Alan Wake is how they present each episode.  Alan Wake is essentially an interactive television show with this game disc containing 6 episodes of the first season.  Fans of shows like Lost will appreciate the format as each episode gives answers to immediate questions while slowly revealing clues that relate to the overall story arc.

         

Graphics:

Easily comparable to heavy graphical hitters such as Heavy Rain and Uncharted 2, Alan Wake perfectly executes on delivering graphics that match the complexity of the story.  From the opening ferry ride to the end credits, you’ll be overjoyed with beautiful shading and lighting effects that bring the town and its characters to life.  Even though most of the game takes place in the dark, you’ll still see the polish worthy of a 5-year development cycle. 

 

Sound:

Sound is an important element to Alan Wake as the game relies tremendously on voice-over, dialogue, and the soundscape of being alone in the dark with the ‘Taken.’  It succeeds on all fronts. The voice talent perfectly captures the feelings of each character to the point that some cut-scenes almost feel like you are watching a quality television show.  The soundtrack itself is excellent with the developers choosing moody tracks from artists like Nick Cave and Roy Orbison to imbue Alan’s feelings after each episode.

          

Gameplay:

At its core, Alan Wake is a Survival Horror/Action game.  Each episode is fairly linear in the sense that you move from point A to point B to progress the story. However, each level is expansive and offers bonuses of better weapons to those who venture off the beaten path.

 

Alan Wake introduces light as a core component of the game.  Not only do working streetlights act as checkpoints to your game progress but the flashlight you carry acts as a pseudo-weapon to defeat the ‘Taken.’ Armed with a flashlight and gun, Alan hunts the ‘Taken’ in hopes of finding his lost wife.  The convention is rather simple in that you first use the flashlight to weaken the shield of the enemy and then use your weapon to finish them off.  However, this means that you are not only hunting for ammunition, but batteries to keep that flashlight operational. 

 

Innovation:

As mentioned earlier, Alan Wake is presented as a television series with the retail game disc containing the first season of this show.  This convention is entirely unique and offers players to catch their breath between tense scenes and catch up with the story during each recap.  Many developers have tried their hands at creating a truly ‘interactive narrative’ and many have failed. Alan Wake just may be the first title to succeed the bridging of the gap between traditional entertainment sources such as television/film and video games.

         

Longevity:

The achievement hunters among us will need to play through the game twice to get all of the manuscripts hidden throughout as some can only be found in the Nightmare difficulty setting that unlocks only after finishing the game.  For the average gamers out there, you’ll be satisfied with one go-around which should take you anywhere between 7-10 hours.

 

Conclusion:

Don’t be fooled by this review. This game is scary.  Like really scary.  It begs to be played in the dark. However, you’ll soon be reaching for the table lamp because you yourself will be scared that you don’t have a flashlight handy. Don’t let that deter you. Alan Wake is a rare combination of an exceedingly clever plot, cool innovation in the interactive narrative space and excellent game play – a rare combination for other blockbuster titles that you’ll find on store shelves.  Alan Wake is a magnificent psychological thriller that arguably will change the way you feel about the survival horror genre and maybe even the way you think about video games as entertainment.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here