Alan Wake captured the eyes of gamers back at E3 2005, with its impressive visuals and a promise on great storytelling. But what was impressive five years ago might not be so impressive now. Developer Remedy have been going through their own psychological thriller just trying to get this game out and now, the wait is over. Alan Wake will take you on that psychological thrill ride that only movies and TV shows have been able to captured.
Alan Wake is a best-selling writer, who comes to a small town in the mountains called, Bright Falls. Alan Wake believes he’s just there on vacation but his wife, Alice, has brought him here for inspiration. Alan Wake has been suffering from a writer’s block, and hasn’t been able to write anything in the past two years. During their first night in Bright Falls, Alice goes missing. Believed to be kidnapped, Alan Wake embarks on a horror story that seems all too familiar, due to the fact that he wrote it. Alan Wake’s latest story has come true and he can’t seem to remember even writing it. Though it may be difficult to understand how a writer forgets writing something, the story and explanation for everything going on in this town is great and makes perfect sense when it concludes. The story is well paced and unravels itself much like a TV show, in episodic form. This makes the story easily memorable and keeps you on the edge of your seat for the next episode. My first playthrough took me about 14 hours to complete, making this psychological ride a lengthy one.
The narrative brings not only Alan Wake’s story to life, but also the town, and the atmosphere of a horror tale. Bright Falls is filled with townsfolk that will add some enjoyment during this dark road and some that are key players in the story. Interactions with other characters are limited to just standing in front of them and hoping they talk back. One silent character will be the dark woods you travel through at night. Remedy did a great job capturing the setting and the mood of a remote area that has some dark hidden secrets. Alan Wake doesn’t need to use cheap thrills to frighten you, it does it with its excellent writing and mood.
The gameplay revolves solely around light. In Alan Wake, light will give and take life away. Well lit street lamps serve as you safe haven of light, which will regenerate your health and keep enemies at bay. With your trusted flashlight at hand, you will serve damage to the darkness possessed enemies knows as, the Taken. With the push of the left trigger you can shine the light directly at the enemy, removing the dark presence, and making them vulnerable to your gunfire. The Taken aren’t the only ones that fall victim to your flashlight, darkness possessed objects, and bulldozers will also fall to your bright light. The gameplay also introduces some of that horror story cliche like the quick urgency to replace the batteries on a flashlight, though you might always have more batteries than you need. The flashlight is the core part of the gameplay, but there are also flashbangs and flares around, giving the flashlight some much needed rest and making the gameplay not so repetitive. The flashlight works together with the gun you wield. The revolver will be the more common used weapon, but a shotgun, hunting rifle, and flare gun, can also be found hidden in various locations.
The sound design compliments the game so well. The mysterious noises you hear in the woods make it that much frightening. The voice acting is pretty good, minus the tone Alan Wake uses while reading collectible manuscripts and during some of the narrations. You don’t need to use the whisper tone to increase the tension, not when the atmosphere does it for you. A touchy subject for some will be Alan Wake’s graphics and the issue regarding the game running at 540p and the resolution. Having played the game, I found no major issues except minor tearing. But outshining that problem, no pun intended, is the amazing lighting. Setting off a flare really shows off some of the impressive lighting effects that Remedy was able to bring to this game.
For those who waited for the psychological thrill ride that Alan Wake has to offer, you will not be disappointed. The story here unfolds and is just as good as your favorite season of Lost or Supernatural. Gamers proved they still care for a deep engaging story with Heavy Rain, even when the gameplay consist of only quick time events. Alan Wake tells a great story, something that video games haven’t been too devoted to doing in quite awhile. Alan Wake is an event, not because of hype, not because of marketing, but because it’s a really great game.