Review by VesicalThanatos

"Twin Peaks Meets Lost... In a Spectacular Video Game"

Perhaps one of my personal favorite games of all time, Alan Wake delivers on so many levels its daunting. Whilst not perfect, I am a video game plot junky, and the tale of Alan Wake is one that would fuel a hit TV show for several seasons. The plot runs with all the suspense and characterization of Lost, mixed with the quirky and chaotic atmosphere of Twin Peaks.

Story- This is where Alan Wake shines, if you'll excuse the pun. Alan Wake is a world-famous writer who, after killing off the protagonist of his hit thriller series, just can't seem to get a break. Stuck with an unfortunate case of writer's block, Wake and his wife Alice decide to take a vacation to the cozy, hilly town of Bright Falls, looking for inspiration on the serene surface of Cauldron Lake. Little does the quaint couple know that a malevolent force lurks beneath the lake, waiting for a chance to escape into our world. Wake is that chance. The Dark Presence abducts Wake's wife and forces him to battle through the night to rescue Alice. Armed with only a flashlight, a pistol, and an ever-depleting pocket of ammo, Wake must battle through the hoardes of darkness to rescue the one thing important to him in his life.

Gameplay- Alan Wake is a very original third person thriller where you control the frightened writer as he attempts to escape the dark, atmospheric forests of Bright Falls and rescue his wife from a god-like evil. On his journey, Wake battles the forces of darkness, the very people and objects of Bright Falls turned against him, Taken by the shadows around them. Fortunately, Wake has weapons to protect him from the Taken. Armed with a flashlight or lamp, Wake can wear away at the light-sensitive shadows that surround the Taken, destroying their defenses so he can finish them off with a well-placed bullet to the head. This dark vs. light gameplay dynamic is like none I've ever seen before, and is implemented ingeniously. Wake can use emergency flares to hold back the ever encroaching hoardes of Taken, or anihilate them with a flash-bang grenade. Of course, such things are not always handy, and on occasion Wake will have to run for his life to survive. Then again, Wake is only human, and will tire if he runs for too long. Luckily, Wake can find solace under the cones of overhanging streetlights, catching his breath and repleneshing his health. This very tense, very human atmosphere is what makes the gameplay of Alan Wake so visceral, for Wake knows that he can only wait so long under the comforting spheres of light before he must venture once more into the shadows. Along the way, there are a few extras to keep an eye out for. Wake can find pages of a mysterious manuscript scattered throughout Bright Falls, supposedly written by him, though he has no recollection of it. The pages predict future events that have yet to come-to-pass, and provide peeks into the future or shed light on the plights of other characters. Of course, other, less meaningful collectables, such as radios and coffee thermoses, are scattered about as well.

Graphics- Alan Wake's graphics are good, if not spectacular. Naturally the lighting is very clever and well implemented, and the environments are very dark and atmospheric. The character models are smooth enough, and it is always satisfying to see a Taken enemy die in a shower of sparks. However, Alan Wake has a few minor graphical problems. Human faces are a tad plain and... expressionless. Wake can tend to look slightly awkward when running or balancing, and the frequent bullet-time sequences, while initially quite cool, can begin to feel rather annoying, especially as they have no effect on gameplay.

Sound- The voices in Alan Wake range from the spectacular to the painful. Wake's voice-actor is very talented, and adds a refreshing layer of humanity to the character. Much of the supporting cast, such as Wake's mouthy agent Barry, the benevolent Light Presence, the omnipresent Dark Presence, and the babbling Lady of the Light are spectacular as well. Other cast members, such as the dull psychiatrist Dr. Hartman and the oft-cheesy Sheriff Breaker provide lackluster performances. The music, much of which is provided by the very talented rock band Poets of the Fall, is always spectacular and ironically relevant.

Re-playability- As the game has many collectables (many of which can only be found on harder difficulties) and a twisty, mind-bending plot, multiple playthroughs of the game are almost a requirement.

Pros- The most spectacular video game story I've ever experianced
Fun and visceral combat
An atmospheric environment
A very intense and personal atmosphere
Spectacular music

Cons- Not many... perhaps the overabundance of pointless collectables can mar immersion, along with the sometimes-bland character faces, but these are really minor issues.

Verdict- Being perhaps the best plot-driven game I've ever played, and easily being in my top ten games of all time, I give this dark and twisty thriller a 9 out of 10.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/13/11

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

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