Alan Wake Review (360)

May 8, 2011

Reviews, Xbox 360

Alan Wake is a third person action adventure developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Microsoft Game Studios.  This game is an exclusive to the Xbox 360 system and is a creative new IP.

Story: 4/5

The story begins with you going into the mind of Alan Wake, a famous science fiction/suspense writer. After completing a 6-book series that took him seven years, Alan is now tired and at a loss for ideas.  Writer’s block strikes the main character severely due to the fact that he killed off his main protagonist from his 6-book series.  However, the more chilling fact is that Alan has not been able to write a single word in three years.  The Wake family decides that a vacation is just the solution for Alan’s writers block. Bright Falls, a tiny rural community secluded in the pacific northwest of America’s forest and mountainous terrain.  Just within a few hours of getting to their isolated cabin located on an island in the middle of Cauldron Lake, Alice (Alan’s wife) is attacked and taken by a shadowy dark power into the lake with Alan rushing towards her. One week later, Alan wakes up in a wrecked car with no recollection of what ensued since his wife’s disappearance.  Determined to find his wife and get out of this strange town alive, Alan must fight for his life and for the sake of Alice’s as well.

 

Gameplay: 5/5

Combine Stephen King novels with elements of the original Resident Evil’s and Silent Hill’s and you get the creation of Alan Wake.  Perhaps the most fascinating piece of Alan Wake is the way the story is told and how it unfolds, breaking it up into “Episodes” and using CG cut scenes to explain what happens in-between every episode.  Also, another cool aspect is that each episode ends with a unique song (most are licensed) and fit the mood perfectly while the next one begins with a “previously on” piece that recaps what has happened throughout the story up to that point.  Elements like this make Alan Wake a very original and cool game to play.  The story is excellently crafted and the atmosphere will absolutely lure you in, especially survival horror buffs. You’ll be struggling to even notice the short comings of the game when you’re frequently looking over your shoulder because you heard a noise behind you.  Remedy created a perfect pacing for the story. All the plots and actions in the story develop in a deliberate, yet systematic way that always gives you enough to be engaged without ever losing your interest. The cast of characters are unique to say the least and very imaginative and colorful.  Barry (Alan’s agent) is by far one of the funniest sidekicks in a game in recent history.  Thankfully, his character plays a large role throughout most of the game, creating a humor not found in most survival horror games today.  The development team at Remedy created just the right intervals that will both fascinate and scare you at the same time. Combat is crucial to Alan Wake and is rather intense especially in Nightmare Mode (the hardest difficulty), as you advance the enemies grow and become more powerful. Alan Wake’s driving force in terms of gameplay is light and darkness. When things go dark, you instantly know that he will eventually come into danger from the “Taken,” shadowy ghost figures that can creep out at any moment.  The beginning of the game teaches you how to use your flashlight on your enemies, which essentially slows them down and blinds them.  Once in this state the enemies now can be destroyed using a variety of different weapons at your disposal.   Another great aspect of the game is that most of these enemies were town’s people that were turned by the darkness sadly.  For most, this will set up a nice psychological aspect to the gameplay. There are a lot of times however when you will become surrounded by a horde of enemies and there just isn’t enough light to shine on all of them which becomes extremely frustrating.  This was a part of the gameplay I did not particularly enjoy, but nonetheless, it is a true survival horror game. Being spoiled with the overabundance of weapons in new Silent Hill and Resident Evil games of today makes me rethink whether the new or old SH and RE games are better.  Quick-time button events allow you to narrowly escape near instant death scenes or just general strikes from the enemy, all in all creating an intense gameplay.

Graphics: 4/5

Visually, the game looks great and very unique by creating its own art style with a color palate and environment not seen in a lot of games.  However, for a game that was in development for over 4 years, I did expect better graphics and detail.   Level design is cool and fairly detailed but again, some aspects do look a tad under polished but at other times, it looks amazing. Their use of lighting and special effects is dynamic to say the least.

Sound: 5/5

The engaging soundtrack and sound effects further enrich this game. However, the voice acting for most of the characters are not amazing, but still good. Of course, Alan and Barry’s dialogue scenes combined are really great.  The ambience effects of trees rustling and creaks and cracks, not knowing if around each corner is a dark “Taken,” really does set the mood perfectly.

 

Overall: 18/20 = 9.0/10

I honestly haven’t played a game this original and creepy in a long while. I was fully immersed in Alan Wake’s tale from the beginning, which is a credit to the writers. Remedy has taken the time to create a game that scares and also makes the gamer think maybe too deeply sometimes. As you play, the feeling of loss and fear come to you often and it can be frustrating in a good way.  The developers were looking for the audience to get a reaction or emotion with some of the plot twists, and in this, I can safely say they succeeded.

PROS:

+Outstanding soundtrack

+Level and environment designs are beautiful

+Fun combat

CONS:

– Story might be too complicated for some gamers comprehend

– Gameplay could use some more polish

-Character facial animations need some work

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