Review by Goldom

Reviewed: 06/09/10

It's a fun game, but don't expect anything exceptional

After five years in development, Remedy Entertainment’s self-described “psychological action thriller” was finally released for Xbox 360. With such a long time delay since its initial creation, hype for the game had reached a frenzy before it finally came out – which is never a good thing for initial reactions.

If Alan Wake has one flaw, it is that it does nothing new. Perhaps, several years back, it could have been a groundbreaking game, but in today’s market, it doesn’t stand out from every other horror-styled shooter out there. The game’s primary gimmick is requiring the player to shine light on enemies in order to make them vulnerable. But whatever interesting ways this could have been incorporated weren’t.

The player is given a flashlight at every time they are expected to need it, rather than using any sort of interesting light-based puzzles that would seem to be called for. There are lampposts, but they merely act as checkpoints, with enemies not venturing near them. The result is that the game plays just like any other shooter, only with a slight delay before the shooting can begin. With enemies being nothing more than carbon copies one after another, there is hardly any variety the entire course of the game.

The other feature widely advertised about the game is its story, which promises to be mind-bending and horrific, yet it too is nothing new. How many times have we seen horror movies whose entire premise can be boiled down to not knowing if things are real or a dream? And this is basically the entirety of Alan Wake’s story, right down to its ending which provides nothing more than either a hole for a sequel, or just an inconclusive twist that so many horror directors seem to think is “shocking,” but is just annoying in fact.

There is also the fact that at no point is Alan Wake actually scary. It fails to utilize even the simplest of horror techniques, like striking during times of apparent safety. The game alternates between day and night periods. During the day, Alan is completely safe, without exception. Then night falls, Alan ends up in a deserted forest (over and over again), and, no surprise, out come the monsters. This pattern is repeated in every section of the game, with no surprises.

All of these problems keep Alan Wake from being the gem it promised it would be, but they do not keep it from being a fun, if average game. When played on the hardest difficulty (which unfortunately can only be done after one complete playthrough), the game changes from a simple plow through everything into a situation where the player is forced to frequently run from large groups from enemies, turning around to flash light on their pursuers to slow them down. It still is far too easy though – this should have been the default, rather than the hardest level. Nonetheless, despite all its flaws, Alan Wake is fun, which is the primary point of a game, after all. Just don’t look to it for the literary masterpiece it pretends to be.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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

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