Can the combined video game reviewers shed light on the quality of Xbox 360 exclusive survival game Alan Wake? Find out in the first (and only) episode of the Alan Wake Frankenreview.
Just because Alan Wake spends the majority of his relaxing Northwestern mountain vacation in the dark doesn't mean you have to. Will it light up your life, or is it merely a shot in the dark? Check out what the game reviewers of the internet think of Remedy Entertainment's latest below!
Alan is a best-selling thriller author who suffers from writer's block. He decides to take a holiday in a bid to clear his head. And how does Alan choose to get away from it all, do you think? By spending a fortnight in Rio, drinking pina coladas by the pool? Or by visiting a tiny, rainy Pacific Northwest town inhabited by hilarious simpletons and frightening weirdoes, where the only available accommodation is an ancient log cabin in the middle of a haunted lake? Alan is accompanied on this jolly holiday by his wife, Alice. She sets the cause of female videogame characters back 10 years by being afraid of the dark and mewling like a kitten with a broken leg whenever the lights are off. Knowing this, Alan should probably have picked a nice hotel rather than a cabin powered by a generator in a shed at the end of the back garden. Needless to say, within about 12 minutes of arriving in the town of Bright Falls, Alice goes missing in mysterious circumstances and Alan embarks on a quest to find her.
What we can say is that this game will make you think. Yes, about the mysteries of Bright Falls and Alice Wake's disappearance, but also – as the line between Alan's reality and Alan's fiction grows increasingly blurry – about much bigger ideas, like the power of creation, the nature of free will, the meaning of sacrifice and even (seriously) the existence of a God or the Devil. The game also takes a cue from BioShock and Batman: Arkham Asylum, manipulating the player through scattered pages from a manuscript Alan doesn't remember writing. These collectibles don't break the fourth wall, but they do play with your perception of time, describing scenes that are minutes away from happening and thus setting you up for a creepy sense of déjà vu.
Alan Wake offers up powerful combat sequences and remarkably solid controls – not to mention a cleverly designed targeting reticle that piggybacks off of your flashlight's beam. The battles against crazed villagers are fun, but most of the conflicts are telegraphed clearly through the environment design, removing some of the intended fear. Oddly, Alan Wake is almost too much of a game in the traditional sense. Farm equipment boss fights are neatly divided throughout the quest, and I can't seem to wrap my brain around the reasoning behind this, but one of Alan's side goals is to collect 100 coffee thermoses. These classic gaming staples were jarring enough to pull me out of the fiction in which I was deeply immersed. Thankfully, the game is weighted heavily in the direction of the fiction.
The survival horror genre has changed somewhat in recent years, with Resident Evil becoming more of a third-person shooter and Dead Space relying more on shocks than real scares. Alan Wake is a return to the terrifying ways of the genre's past, with the setting, enemies and storyline working in tandem to create a truly unnerving experience. The world is linear, with the path to your objective usually quite obvious, but there are just enough 'off the beaten path' locations to make you believe Bright Falls is a real place. Enemy encounters aren't overused and the stock of bullets and batteries (for your torch) is just enough to make you hesitant to keep your light on full beam, while also not too fearful to use it.
For the collectors amongst us, there are 100 Coffee Thermoses to find, 13 TV Shows to watch, 12 Radio Shows to listen to, and a smattering of hidden caches and signs to find. There are over 100 manuscript pages to find, some of which only discoverable on the highest difficulty levels, which provide a great deal of the compelling storyline. Not since Batman Arkham Asylum have I felt this compelled to find every single thing in the game. All told, you can complete all 6 of the Episodes of Alan Wake in roughly 10 to 12 hours, but it'll take you far longer to discover everything in the game. Every copy of the game will ship with a token for the first DLC Episode, so expect more Alan Wake after you complete the content on the disc.
I had perhaps the biggest scare of my adult life while playing this game. And it wasn't something that was designed into Alan Wake. There were no triggers. Instead it was something completely organic, the result of my late night play session, the darkened underground room where my console is, the constant little scares that kept picking away at my sense of calm and then one single moment that literally made me drop my controller. That's what we should expect from all games of this nature. It doesn't surprise me that Remedy Entertainment was the studio to nail it. I am open to the potential of the year's games, but I still can't imagine that Alan Wake will be topped in 2010. It tells a story that is engaging, and yes, emotional. It makes you care, it delivers scares. But most importantly it redefines interactive storytelling. More aptly put, Alan Wake finally delivers on a phrase so overused that it has become a joke.