Review by DandyQuackShot
"The Unanswered Mystery is What Stays With Us the Longest"
If you are reading this then it is possible that just like me, you forgot to pre-order your copy of Red Dead Redemption. If you are currently looking to play Alan Wake, you won't be disappointed by the work put into Remedy's newest psychological thriller. Alan Wake is a suspenseful game dressed up as a first person narrative and broken up into episodes as if you are watching a condensed version of a complete television show season. I had mixed feelings from the early comments about Alan Wake but in the end, this game is a thoroughly engrossing single player game that was not as open ended as I thought it might be.
Alan Wake is a beautiful game in the sense that I would rather wish this game was a hunting or fishing game rather than a horror game because the scenery and realism in this game is amazing from the start. But being a horror game I think it is very difficult for developers to make a game that can be so original because almost everything has been done before and Alan Wake seems to take a little bit from everybody while drawing concepts from the influences of Alfred Hitchcock's Twilight Zone and novelists such as psychological horror master Stephen King (who gets quoted in this game!).
Set in the remote Pacific Northwest town of Bright Falls the game begins with a famed writer Alan Wake getting away with his life to deal in some serious R n' R after a troubling bout with writer's block and a busy life in New York City. With him is his wife Alice who is trying to do everything she can to get him to get over his writing dilemma and together they make their way to a nice secluded cabin on what turns out to be a not so nice but very secluded nightmare. The game is broken up into episodes that are fast paced and each have their own little rise and fall action to the end. The whole time I find myself asking is this just a dream, a bad nightmare this guy is having, or will this game end up having some kind of conclusion that will cue in the Twilight Zone theme at the end?
The story definitely has a lot of influence poured into it by fictional writers and since this game's main character is a writer, it rightfully should be. There are a lot of references to classic horror titles and masterminds throughout the game so you get a little bit of everything thrown in if only for the kicks and giggles. Alan Wake is most definitely a more serious suspense and horror game. Those who played Deadly Premonition, which is also a horror/suspense game set in small town Northwest, were likely disappointed by how outrageous it got towards the end. With Alan Wake you get a much more serious game that puts a whole lot more emphasis on the horror aspect as much as it does the suspense.
Here is where it gets tricky for a new horror game to be original. Alan Wake's game play probably will not feel original for those of us who have played all the horror games and will do like me and name the game while playing through that reminds them most of the particular thing that is attacking Alan during the game. Still, the suspense of the story will raise plenty of questions on whether or not you are using a gun to kill shadows or if those shadows are actually real beings, or if the shadows are simply the vile manifestations of a sleep deprived and delusional writer.
Keeping in the light is the key to survival as you are taken back to the very basic thing that started your earliest childhood fascination with the scary and unknown-being in the dark. Alan has to pack a flashlight to sheer off and stun the guard of the shadow people that are out to axe him to death but there are always other traps and obstacles to watch out for as well. As this game is in the third person, you have to keep a steady check on your six o'clock or the shadowy bad guys will catch up to rather quickly.
The little things in this game are what carry Alan Wake through and make it a great game to enjoy. For me it was the thrill of being some place different in each episode and having to meet with some very interesting characters in the game. Not having to press a button to open doors was a very small thing but surprisingly convenient technical oversight that a lot of other games waste long loading times on. Interactions are really fun as well whether it is the shadowy stalkers in the woods catching you off guard by walking past a window of a cabin and jumping out at you or playing an annoying tune on the jukebox for an old coot in the town diner. Picking up manuscripts lying around will give you a little foreshadowing for what is in store later on down a path. These are what make this game very engrossing.
Once again, this is the best part of this game. Not only is the realism very close on but also the scenery is astoundingly beautiful. I would totally love to go vacation Bright Falls if not for the crazy stuff that goes on there and the fact that it is not a real place, but if it were it would have me sold by seeing how it is in this game. I also noticed a lot of product placement in this game that is an added surprise. Cars are branded by Ford and Lincoln, Alan seems to have unusually high reception with his Verizon cell phone and smaller items like bulletins, TV's, and books look very real and easily viewable. Mouth moving seems to still be an age-old problem but I've learned to forgive that a long time ago. Only once did I encounter a frame rate issue during a fight with some shadowy bad guys but this did not take away from anything.
The cinematics are amazing and the lack of loading screens is always a plus from me. Alan Wake totally prevails on the graphics and sound as well. The game is broken up to keep interest in the story flowing rapidly and so a lot of cinematics are thrown in with some great music to go along. Voiceovers are great and there is a whole lot of dialogue in this game especially from the main man himself.
If Alan Wake suffers a hit then this is where it will be. I was a little disappointed that Alan Wake was not as open-ended as I had imagined it would be. It is a linear experience offset only by those of us who dare venture into the nooks and crannies to find all missing manuscript pages and collect all of the thermos bottles. The achievements are mostly easy to pick up in one play-through. As soon as I opened this game up the first thing I noticed was the card for the downloadable content for this game. There is no current downloadable content but I will be the first to say I would not be paying out to download anything else for the game. New episodes to the game may come out later on but I don't feel like that adds to the replay value of a game if you have to purchase add-ons and additional content later on down the road. For now at least there is nothing to download for the game, so you have to stick with collecting all the items to find in the game.
Most of the time I tend to play through a game to its end to get the full feel of how long a game is, but as fast paced and engrossing as Alan Wake is, it probably is not a 20-hour game. The episodes go by fast but it is due mostly in part to how engrossing this game gets. You want to get to the end of an episode as quickly as possible. Peoples' live depend on it!
Final Recommendation 9/10
If you are a Max Payne fan, Stephen King fan, Alfred Hitchcock, Dean Koontz, Deadly Premonition, Silent Hill fan, or are a fan of these types of fans, then you will definitely enjoy Alan Wake. It is a solid game for the horror and suspense genre and is definitely worth missing a pre-order on Red Dead for. Skeptics or those with mixed feelings would definitely not be disappointed by picking this up as a rental but for somebody who loves a good story in a game and will probably be suckered into getting the add-on episodes anyway it is definitely one for my video game library. The story is engrossing and pays tribute to where it draws its influences from and the graphics are outstanding and beautiful which adds up to a game that will definitely take you for a thrilling ride into the world of psychological suspense.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/19/10
Game Release: Alan Wake (US, 05/18/10)
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