I actually played American Nightmare this Spring before I ever purchased Alan Wake – simply because the game was hard to find at an agreeable price for something I thought was a 360 launch title. I was not aware the game was actually kind of new, only 2 years old. So I was more prepared, somewhat, than I expected to be.
This game was shown to us for years, which is why I thought it was out earlier, and so my interest had been thoroughly piqued. Needless to say I am not disappointed.
First of all, I’m a writer. I don’t claim to be a great writer and in all honesty, I haven’t written a full page in my novel in at least 4 months. I won’t claim to be a good writer and I often ignore grammatical issues or stupid spelling errors, such as improper usage of apostrophes when it comes to posession. You judge, I don’t care. . I’ve been writing for nearly two decades, some amateur work, some freelance work, some for actual publications. It’s what I like doing, I’m narcissistic that way.
Naturally, a story about a writer appeals to me – especially when it’s in the form of a horror video game on the console I cherish above others. Having said that, I admit to not having collected or read the full manuscripts in either Alan Wake title. I’ll do it eventually, but the manuscripts are kind of ancillary to the narration of the story in the game.
Many people argue that the writing is horrible, so I once again direct you to the fact that gamers and all people who express their opinions are conceited, blind assholes. You try and write a better story. I’ll wait. I’ll proof-read your dreck and in all likelihood, immediately throw it back at you because I couldn’t overcome your first grade English in order to even try to get to the point. The writing is not horrible, at all. The narration is not horrible, at all.
There is one qualm I have with the game insofar as the actor for Alan Wake and the narrator are concerned though. I believe Noah Wyle would be a perfect match for the character of Alan Wake. Yes, Noah Wyle. What’s he going to do, turn it down? He’s not exactly an A list actor (though I like all of his movies and Falling Skies.) I think he portrays a history professor quite well, and so I could see him as a writer.
The story essentially revolves around a very successful thriller/horror author who goes, with his wife, on a “vacation” to upstate New York in order to take a break after his most recent book tour. Obviously they need to spend some time together, alone, somewhere quaint. He is plagued by nightmares and the story pretty much collapses into psychological horror as he loses his grip on reality and his wife.
Alan Wake plays like Resident Evil 5, more or less. It’s a third person survival horror game, with equal parts action and equal parts jolt scares or creepiness like poltergeists and taken, in addition to a lot of townies who are plain creepy. The game dotes on a very tired subject, the light and the dark, where the light keeps the dark at bay and the darkness is malevolent, if not downright evil. People often cite this as a thin excuse for not liking the game or not respecting the story, which is simply a sign of ignorance – you can’t expect everything to be original. Any thought you could possibly have, at least 17 people have already had that idea or something very similar.
In order to combat the darkness, you have a flashlight, and a gun. You also have checkpoints in the form of streetlamps, though sometimes they are irrelevant because you can run from a pack of taken – right into a checkpoint – and they’ll follow your ass and murder you. You get increasingly powerful lights throughout the game, and of course, lose every single one of them, every time you get a flashlight; You cannot kill an enemy without weakening them via flashlight. Some enemies like poltergeisted bulldozers can only be killed by a flashlight, flashbang, or flare gun. As you would expect, you need batteries to power these flashlights, and your batteries will run low if you charge the light beam too long. Overall, the flashlight adds another layer to what might otherwise be copy pasta third person shooter combat.
In the arms department, the arsenal is far more sparse than American Nightmare or Resident Evil. You get a revolver, a double-barrel break action or a pump shotgun, and a hunting rifle. For your grenade launcher you get a flare gun, and you get road flares. You also get flash-bangs which are lovely. In comparison the choices are much more limited, but the revolver will almost always do the trick. When it doesn’t, you have a hunting rifle or shotgun – when you need to disperse a major crowd, there are the flash-bangs and flare gun.
Alan Wake shares many similarities or familiar situations with survival horror games, such as the fact that you need finite supplies in order to survive, or the fact that Alan Wake is a writer, not a Navy SEAL. Often times you will have more supplies than you can possibly carry, but many times you will find yourself low or empty on them and cursing your carrying capacity. When this happens, the game becomes survival horror – and unfortunately, Alan Wake isn’t an Olympic athlete so he sucks at running. A lot of the time you will run for your life if you don’t have the ammo or batteries, or flares, and sometimes a flare will only slightly increase your chance of survival.
As far as bosses go, there aren’t really any. Every now and then you’ll have to fight an extremely annoying enemy who moves at what is apparently the speed of shadow, which is faster than the speed of light it seems. It’s so fast you can see it moving. More often, you’ll have to blind a possessed piece of construction equipment to death, like a combine, a bulldozer, or what have you. You may have to fight a tornado or two.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and I believe it’s a must for horror fans. The combat does get redundant in the latter stages of the game, as you will fall into a cycle of “Do Event A. Fight a ton of dudes. It’s safe, run to Event B and do that all again.” but I would hardly say it detracts from the point, which is the story. Pretty much every third person shooter or action game these days has de-evolved into the Uncharted “Safe Room, Rape Room” game-play that I just described, so there isn’t much you can do to change it.
If you don’t own it and do like this type of game, it should be $9 at a GameStop somewhere (Yes we all hate GameStop, just be economic and do it anyway.)
I’ll just round my score up to a 10 out of 10.