„In a horror story the victim keeps asking why, but there can be no explanation and there shouldn’t be one. The unanswered mystery is what stays with us the longest and is what we’ll remember in the end. My name is Alan Wake, I’m a writer.” This is Remedy’s Alan Wake in a nutshell. It’s a third person shooter, action/adventure thriller game, with one of the best atmosphere I’ve experienced yet.
The game centers around the titular character named Alan Wake, a successful writer who suffers from the typical writer’s block. As a result, he goes on a trip with his wife to forget all their problems in a cabin, up in the mountains, near a town called Bright Falls. As soon as they arrive, things start to get weirder and weirder, up to a point where Alan’s wife gets kidnapped by mysterious entity called The Darkness. From that point on, Wake goes on a rescue mission and also to figure out what this entity really is. I won’t say more, because the story is a MAJOR part of the game.
The story is great! I would even go as far as to say it’s fantastic! There are a few, but memorable characters like Alan’s publisher and friend or the town’s old rock band guys. All the characters play a big part in the game, even though at first they may seem useless. They will surprise you how important they get! The set pieces are also great; one of my favorites, is the one that involves a certain concert stage and lots of lights. You will love that one, I promise you. What I like most about Alan’s character is that we can actually hear his thoughts, which, in my opinion, is a very important aspect to better understand him, to know his feelings, to understand his frustration about his missing wife or the fact that he doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on in that strange town. Besides that, you will interact with a few other citizens which haven’t been corrupted by „The Darkness”, like the town’s sheriff or the local radio host. I also like the fact that the game isn’t devised into levels, but into episodes, with each episode doing a recap of the last one at the beginning.
It’s structured like a TV series which sets it apart with its general vibe of mystery and unknown. You can also listen to the radio host to get a better sense of the town and there are also strange TV series-like shows on the TVs you find. The dialogs are well written and I also like the soundtrack, especially the songs that are played at the ending of every episode. All of these features give the game a distinctive look and feel, one you rarely see in a video game. By the end of the game, you won’t want to put it down, because it only gets better and better up to an ending which clearly says to us: „This is only the beginning”. And that’s a good thing, believe me.
The gameplay is also pretty solid with only a few minor setbacks. For once, your flashlight is the most important thing in the arsenal. Since you’re fighting The Darkness, which has corrupted the inhabitants of the town and its surroundings, you will need to peel away the dark fog which surrounds them before gunning them down with your guns. Speaking of guns, you will get plenty of them, from your usual revolver, to shotguns, rifles and even some clever ones like a flare gun. Instead of the usual grenades you will get flares and flashbang grenades. Pretty much anything that lights up and gets The Darkness away is used as a weapon.
You can’t manually save but where there is light, there is a checkpoint . The usual lantern is generally your save heaven. Once you’re there, anything dangerous in the dark, goes away. Your enemies consist, as I’ve said before, of the town’s people and its surroundings. They won’t fire any gun at you, but they will come to end your life with axes and later, the more dangerous ones, with chainsaws. The power is in their numbers, so you have to be very careful of which you choose to peel away the dark first before gunning them down. Moving, is generally a good idea. You won’t survive by standing in one place and firing at the enemy, that’s for sure. There are also different objects that get reanimated by this strange entity from a simple desk to cars to even huge tornadoes. These ones only need the dark fog removed in order to be put down. Crows are also part of the game. They attack in big numbers and are generally harder to defeat than the usual “bodies”. Your flashlight also needs batteries. If you’re out of them, you need to wait for it to charge automatically, but that is a very slow process, so going away from the main path and exploring a bit for ammunition and batteries is recommended (especially on the nightmare difficulty, trust me).
The driving sections are the ones, that I feel are undercooked. The controls are clunky at best, but this is only a minor setback. These sections only serve to guide us from a general area to the next one, like from a forest to a town. There are also sections that serve as a break from the general action and these are during the day, in which The Darkness can’t attack you since… well, it’s sunny outside. There are a few scary moments where something suddenly appears in front of you but besides that, it’s not really the enemies that will give you chills but the general vibe of the game. The thrills are there and you will enjoy them. I wouldn’t call this one a horror game, but the atmosphere sure is one of the more creepy ones I’ve experienced.
The graphics are also great. I’ve been playing it on a PC, at max settings, in full HD and it shows. I haven’t encountered any slowdowns and the loading times are decent enough to not give you a headache.
Now as far as the replay value goes… well, you will definitely want to play the game at least twice, so you can fully understand the story and what the characters mean with their strange talks at the beginning of the game, but besides that there aren’t many incentives to replay it. There are a lot of collectibles, but besides Alan’s pages which give you a better insight at what’s happening, the others are pretty much useless.
SO! As a whole, I LOVED Alan Wake. The story is great, the gameplay is solid and the atmosphere is creepy in a totally awesome way. I can’t wait to see its true sequel (I say this because American Nightmare isn’t its sequel; it’s more of a spin off). I would recommend this one to anyone who enjoys a good mystery story with a side of awesome shooting action!
So what are your thoughts on this one guys? Did you enjoy Alan Wake? Are you looking forward to a sequel? Sound off in the comment section below.