Review: Alan Wake

Remedy has been pretty quiet on the story of Alan Wake, and with good reason.  They have spent the past six years in development, and the game has finally made its debut, but was it worth the wait?

You play as Alan Wake, a pompous famous horror novelist, who has had writer’s block for the past three years.  In an attempt to curb this problem, he and his wife, Alice, take a vacation to Bright Falls, a small logging town in the pacific northwest.

Shortly after Alan’s arrival, Alice goes missing, and Alan wakes up from a car crash.  Without a single memory of the events of the past week, Alan begins his search for Alice.  Along the way he finds pieces of a manuscript he has written, but doesn’t remember writing.  The twist:  everything he wrote is coming true.  What’s worse is that he is the protagonist.  To spend more time on the premise of the story would only be a disservice to you as a player and to Remedy as story tellers, but the way it is delivered helped keep me interested to the very end.

The story plays out in six episodes, complete with “Previously on Alan Wake” bits and an episode ending song like that of a television show.  Though they vary in length, Remedy’s control of the story is impeccable.  The set-up allows for control of cliffhangers, reveals, and fore-shadowing similar to that of a novel.  This where the game truly shines.

There is a realism
to the lighting and
tree-lines that is both
sublime and terrifying.

It is not only written in the style of a horror novel you would expect from this fictitious writer, but also paces itself as if each episode were a chapter in one of his books.

In addition to the usual cut-scenes and manuscripts scattered around the world, the story is also told out through bits of radio shows and episodes of Night Springs, a Twighlight Zone-esque television show unique to the world of Alan Wake.  It all fits together incredibly well, and gives even more personality to this already well thought-out universe.

The presentation of the universe is also spectacular.  Though the character models and their lip-syncing are muddied, the environments are gorgeous.  There is a realism to the lighting and tree-lines that is both sublime and terrifying.  Straying off the path has its benefits –the beauty of the world being one; coffee, radio shows, and Night Springs episodes being the others.  But I was hesitant to leave the comfort of the patch because of the perils hiding in the dark. Things became obscure, and the Taken, being both brisk and silent, quickly closed in on me as I was dazzled by the haunting forest.

Thankfully, I was given a powerful array of weapons to battle the overwhelming storm of enemies that were thrown my way.  Flashbangs became devastating grenades, flare guns became RPGs, and flares helped push back the darkness when I was smothered by Taken.

To miss [Alan Wake]
would be to miss
this year’s Bioshock.

The combat isn’t like most survival horror games.  It is frenetic and quick.  Enemies ambush from all sides, and their speed is frightening.  To dispatch an enemy, I first had to burn the shroud of darkness surrounding them before shooting them with weapons.    There is a strategy to killing the enemies that allows for a lot of play in the use of light.  I found myself funneling enemies with a flare so that they would walk into a static light source.  At that point, they became easy picking for my revolver or shotgun.  The guns are incredibly satisfying, and I left with quite a few memorable battles and narrow escapes.

The combat never became wearisome for me.  Each battle seemed perfectly placed in the midst of the already well-paced narrative, and I think that’s exactly what Remedy intended.  Though the game stumbled with its character models and lip-syncing, the six years Remedy spend in development on this game haven’t gone unnoticed.   The attention to detail, pacing, tight controls, and use of synergy to tell a story are what made Alan Wake a stand-out title for this summer, and to miss it would be to miss this year’s Bioshock.

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3 Responses to “Review: Alan Wake”


  1. 1 JTC May 23, 2010 at 2:43 am

    The site looks great and you did a great job describing the game.


  1. 1 Journal: Alan Wake and AC2 « Crossen the Lines Trackback on May 24, 2010 at 1:08 am
  2. 2 Journal: Thoughts on E3 Pt. 1 « Crossen the Lines Trackback on June 17, 2010 at 4:22 am

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