Is it dream, a nightmare, or reality? Alan Wake is a bestselling author suffering a bit of writers block, one which leads him to Bright Falls, WA with his wife, to get away and try to rediscover his missing key stroke. No sooner has Alan left the ferry then odd things begin to happen. Very rapidly the gamer is pulled, along with Alan, into a psychological experience that crosses the boundary of reality and dream. With comparisons to Twin Peaks and X-Files as well as Stephen King how does Alan Wake stack up on the scare and gameplay front, let’s take a look.
Gameplay – Gamers assume the role of Alan Wake, a bestselling author looking to get away with his wife. What seems to be an escape from writers block and haunting dreams soon deteriorates into a life changing mystery. Alan must find out where his wife is while taking on characters from his books and ones he’s never seen. Set from a third person perspective the most useful weapon Alan has is his flashlight which, when utilized with the revolver, can weaken foes for the kill. There is a mystery to be solved but no real frustrating puzzles and the pacing is linear and well delivered. There is even a throw-back thermos collecting exercise. The controls are smooth and seamless and will not detract from the gameplay experience one bit.
Graphics – Settings are photo realistic with great looking characters, both playable and non. The level of detail is fantastic down to the keys on the typewriter. The use of the flashlight to illuminate settings shows off some impressive graphical lighting. The world of Alan Wake feels alive, a real destination, not a game, it’s just fantastic to play through and adds to the psychological horror aspect.
Sound – Haunting or no background music sets the mood while well delivered voice acting steps up the chill factor. Alan Wake takes the genre to it’s roots with a perfect mixture of appropriate sounds (engine starts, you’ll see) and creepy voices to keep the gamer on edge, well done indeed. The licensed soundtrack is setup and used as needed, for example on the episodic ending/beginning sequences.
Design – Moving in and out of dreamscapes, reality and fantasy and the mixture of both, it is a horror novel come to life. Alan Wake was designed to be thrilling and exciting while maintaining it’s secluded realistic setting and everything from the story pacing to the look and feel nails what Alan Wake set out to do. While very linear it is a very well designed game.
Miscellaneous – The story, feeling like one is playing a horror story crafted by a master of suspense. The secluded setting, use of flashlight as weapon, nightmares come to life … it all works well and delivers a chilling gaming experience, but not in the super zombie with rocket launcher kind of way.
Overall, the story is superb and haunting, well delivered in an episodic manner that will leave gamers feeling as if they are playing a mini-series on SyFy. Fans of Silent Hill will enjoy the thrills and for those looking for an excellent thrill fest with no umbrellas to be seen, then Alan Wake is an excellent pick-up and one that truly no of age Xbox 360 owner should miss.