Review by HiddenxHydra

"A Journey through the Night"

Alan Wake is one of those games that has been in development for quite some time. I remember anxiously awaiting this game for the past three years and hoping that they would release it soon. And, as the game was developed, a few changes took place. The first was the decision to make the game more story-oriented, which eliminated any earlier plans for a sandbox experience. Second, earlier trailers of the game were vague as to just what Alan Wake was fighting...in any case, one could assume that it was the "darkness" itself. As the release date neared, anyone watching the new footage saw that Alan Wake was, in fact, fighting all sorts of things that were controlled by the darkness. Now, the release of Alan Wake promised a lot, so I'd like to review this game and present my opinion on what it actually delivered.

STORY - 8/10

Alan Wake is a bestselling author who has written several popular detective novels. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to write anything for the past two years. Alice, his wife, suggests that they take a vacation to the idyllic town of Bright Falls. The town of Bright Falls is small, out of the way, and seems to be the perfect place for Alan to get away for a recuperative vacation. Alan and Alice plan to rent a cabin on the lake and spend their trip there. However, things start to go wrong when Alan finds his wife missing and a strange manuscript that he can't remember writing. It is then up to Alan Wake to illuminate the hidden truths of Bright Falls and his own writings.

One thing that makes Alan Wake especially interesting is that part of the story is told through the collected pages of Alan Wake's manuscript. These often reveal more about the events and emotions of the less developed characters in the story. However, these pages are not simply handed over to the player in their complete form. Some pages are given, while the majority of them must be found. In the end however, the game can be completed regardless of how many pages the player collects.

Alan Wake will have players traversing all around the town of Bright Falls and the mountains and forests surrounding it. One could say that the story is a journey from one plot-related place to another that, by the end of the game, makes the player feel as though they are very well acquainted with the vast landscapes shown in the opening cutscenes. Fortunately, the game does provide the player with a sense of urgency and purpose that will keep them playing till the conclusion. Most of the time the game does provide sufficient motivation for the player to continue, although some of parts of the story can sometimes tend to drag at parts. This can be construed as either a negative feature or as an attempt to fully immerse the player in the world of Alan Wake.

GAMEPLAY - 9/10

Controlling Alan Wake is quite easy in the game. The game allows you to control Wake in a third-person view that will feel familiar to anyone who has played Max Payne or another game that works in third-person. Besides basic movements, Alan Wake is able perform small jumps as well as sprint, both of which are limited owing to the fact that Alan Wake is a writer and not a typical action hero. Another feature is a great camera that doesn't detract from the game experience. Like most good titles, the camera is flexible and simple to adjust using the right thumbstick. With all this in place, Alan Wake controls just like you would expect him to. The only oddity to be found here is a "dodge" move that can be executed when an enemy takes a swing at you. By holding the sprint button and jerking the left control stick in any of the four cardinal directions, Alan will attempt to either duck or sidestep an incoming blow. When it works, it gets the job done, but if poorly performed you still incur a brutal hit. It's not perfect by any means, but it occasionally comes in handy if any enemy ever gets too close to Alan.

As Alan Wake the player will use light to dispel the darkness surrounding the shadowy events occurring in Bright Falls. Alan has several weapons that he will acquire during his journey. The first is his trusty flashlight that serves a dual purpose as his primary light source and weapon. As a light source, Alan has to have it to see in all the dark locales he visits. But as a weapon, Alan can focus the light to keep the creatures of darkness at bay. Batteries serve as the "ammo" of Wake's flashlight since every enemy must first have their shield of darkness broken by shining the light on them for a few seconds. Luckily, batteries are plentiful in the game, and there are very few times that a player will completely run out of them.

The light from Alan's flashlight is the only the first step in dealing with the shadow laced enemies, though. The standard way to kill enemies centers around light to make them vulnerable and then a few shots with the one of the three firearms Alan can carry. In this respect, the game employs a few recognizable firearms such as the standard revolver and shotgun. In addition to these, the player also has access to flashbangs and a flare gun which can easily obliterate large groups of enemies instantly. Overall, the formula works well with the game, and players should enjoy the mix of combat strategies that are possible using the available equipment.

Lit locations, the dark, and exploration are the three main dynamics outside of combat. As Alan treks across the landscape, mostly at night, it is important that he seek out light sources along the way. Light is imperative mainly because it protects Alan from the dark and any enemies out to get him. It also heals his health which regenerates quickly in the light, much like darkness did for Jackie in The Darkness video game. Light in Alan Wake is also a waypoint when traveling through dimly lit paths with a flashlight. This is an interesting feature because, although the game does provide players with an objective based compass on their HUD display, there will often be times when it is too dark to tell where to go next. Players soon find themselves seeing light as a point of safety and direction in the increasingly varied levels.

The dark in Alan Wake quickly becomes a dangerous place to be. Darkness is the primary point of attack for the darkness-controlled enemies of the game that can repeatedly spawn so long as Alan remains in dark areas. Enemies often come from out of nowhere, effectively surrounding Alan and forcing him to use his supplies against them. And unlike many games, killing darkness-filled enemies gives Alan nothing for his trouble, so avoiding or limiting enemy engagements becomes a necessity. The darkness may also dissuade players from exploring off the main path for fear of an ambush or being outnumbered. All in all, the concept of darkness works well for the game as players will genuinely fear being trapped in the dark with limited supplies and ammo against hordes of enemies.

Exploration in the game is quite enjoyable for players seeking to find hidden extras. It's also essential if players want to find all the scattered pages of Alan Wake's manuscript. These pages appear along the main path but are more frequently hidden on alternate paths or locations that are well off the visible trail. So, if anyone wants to find all the extras they will need to explore, search, and investigate every door and deceptively barren in the game! Hardcore achievement seekers will not be disappointed

GRAPHICS - 10/10

See for yourself, the graphics are spectacular. The light, shadows, and darkness of the game all look as they should. Models, textures, and surfaces are all very presentable and sharp looking. The best aspect of the game are the in-game graphics where you can see the valleys, mountains, and forests through the fog. It all looks fantastic.

REPLAYABILITY 6/10

I rented this game and completed it in three days. That's about 10 hours or so. The game's story is told in six "episodes" which can be 1-2 hours each. There are, as I mentioned, several achievements to get and lots of area to explore if you want. Overall though, I can't see myself buying this game for $60. Personally, I plan to pick it up at a later date for $30. It's a good story, but I wasn't entirely satisfied by the conclusion. You may think differently. However, since most of the game is story-driven the levels don't offer much to do outside of finding hidden items. The game is a journey that can be undertaken enjoyably once before moving onto something else.

One final thought: Alan Wake has some confirmed DLC coming out at a later date. At $10 each, they may lend some more to the story/experience. Till then though, the game contains one good play through for most gamers.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION

Alan Wake is not something to be missed if you're into looking for a new gaming experience. But for now, I'd say Alan Wake is great renting material and an intriguing journey towards a conclusion that hints at more to come.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/24/10

Game Release: Alan Wake (US, 05/18/10)


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