Alan Wake Xbox 360
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: Remedy Entertainment
I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to third person shooters, Max Payne, developed by Remedy, was one of the more memorable games from the last decade or so. The game had solid action sequences and a storyline that just made you want to keep coming back for more. Thankfully these are qualities that Alan Wake shares and thus it’s a game that most gamers will really enjoy playing. The only negatives that could be levelled at Max Payne were that the length of the game was rather short and it wasn’t subtitled. Whilst the first complaint could certainly be said for Alan Wake, it’s rather pleasing that this time around subtitles have been included.
Alan Wake is a writer of best-selling thrillers who has been suffering from writer’s block and hasn’t written a thing for three years. To get away from it all Alan and his wife, Alice head for the scenic town of Bright Falls. What should have been a welcome break for the couple soon goes horribly pear-shaped with Alice going missing and Wake suddenly finds himself behind the wheel of a car that’s just crashed. To make things even more confusing, the local residents claim that the cabin, which the Wakes have been staying in and has now disappeared, hasn’t been there for decades. Thinks take an even larger turn for the worse however when Wake figures out that a week has passed since he arrived in Bright Falls and in the search for his wife, he finds pages from a manuscript he has apparently written, but has no knowledge of writing, and the events detailed in the manuscript pages foreshadow events that are going to happen to him or those around him.
In addition to searching for Alice and collecting sheets from the aforementioned manuscript, Wake will have to deal with several types of enemies who are determined to make sure he never leaves Bright Falls. There are three types of enemies that you’ll face in Alan Wake. There are several varieties of Taken, humans who have been possessed by a dark presence, to contend with ranging from those who like to get up close and bludgeon you to death to those who like to throw weapons at you from a distance. They come in large and small sizes and carry such weapons as pickaxes, mallets, scythes and chainsaws. In addition to the Taken, there are ravens which attack you in flocks and can be a real pain when you’re trying to cross a bridge on are travelling on a cable car. Finally there are the poltergeist objects. Wheels, cars, train coaches and many other objects will simply fly at you and it’s up to you to get Wake out of the way. Thankfully all of these enemies are susceptible to a light source and you’ll want to make the best use of any available light source you can get your hands on.
Wake will have access to an assortment of weapons such as a revolver, shotgun, pump-action shotgun, hunting rifle and a flare gun which is very powerful against the Taken but can only fire one shot at a time with ammo for this gun being in short supply. All of the weapons, with the exception of the flare gun, are not enough to defeat the Taken however. To break through the Taken’s shield of darkness you’ll going to need to hit them with some kind of light. You’ll acquire flares and flashbang grenades during the course of the game and you can make use of floodlights, searchlights and other light sources that you’ll encounter in order to assist you against the Taken. Your primary source of light will come from any flashlights or lanterns you can get your hands on. By default these are used to simply illuminate your way through the dark environments but in order to weaken the Taken, you’ll have to boost the flashlight’s light beam by holding down the left trigger. Boosting will drain the flashlight/lantern’s batteries however. The battery power will replenish but it takes time and when you fighting several Taken you don’t have time to spare. Fortunately, you can speed up the process by replacing the batteries. There’s always a decent supply of both ammo and batteries but there are times when you’ll have to veer off the beaten track in order to get your hands on both.
I finished Alan Wake in around fifteen hours which is actually quite a decent length for a third person shooter. In all honesty however, the final episode probably should have been much shorter. Toward the end of the game you begin to get the feeling that the developers threw in some particularly irritating combat sequences simply to pad out the experience. In terms of actual storyline, the final episode doesn’t feel as engaging as the previous five episodes. Obviously I can’t go into any details here, but I did feel that the game’s climax wasn’t that satisfying which, given the quality of the game’s storyline in general, was disappointing.
It’s all too common these days for films to be based on video games but Alan Wake is a game that presents itself in the style of a television series. The game’s storyline plays out over six episodes with each of the episodes coming to a dramatic conclusion. Episodes two to six even begin with a dramatic recap of the events of the previous episode. This style of presentation is very refreshing and useful as it helps to keep the story’s events fresh in the mind and it also encourages you to keep on playing to see what happens to Wake in the next episode.
Graphically speaking, Alan Wake is a fine looking game but it has to be said that some aspects could have looked better. I was personally a little disappointed with the character models. Some of the faces, particularly that of Wake’s friend and agent, Barry, look a little peculiar. What the developers deserve high praise for however, is the atmosphere they have created with the forest environments that are shrouded in thick mist. Alan Wake is probably the most impressive game I’ve seen for its lighting effects and how they are used to create an intimidating atmosphere. Remedy has managed to strike a balance between making the game eerily dark and yet it’s not so dark that you can’t see where you’re going. The quality of the action in the game is certainly not anything you haven’t seen before but the quality of the atmosphere really helps to make you long desperately for the next checkpoint.
Alan Wake does offer subtitles although they are disabled by default. You’ll be able to follow the game’s storyline as all of the dialogue is subtitled. There are no character names or portraits to accompany the dialogue but it’s usually obvious who is saying what. There are times however when you might encounter two different dialogues at the same time. For instance, Alan might be narrating, or is being spoken to be someone else, whilst he’s watching a TV program or listening to a radio broadcast. In such instances, you’ll have two lots of subtitles with one appearing on top of the other. This can be confusing and it’s quite possible to not have the time to read the two lots of subtitles. Thankfully this doesn’t happen that often during the course of the game. You’ll always be aware of what needs to be done in the game, thanks to text objectives, and where you need to be heading thanks to a compass which points you in the general direction you need to go. What deaf gamers won’t be aware of is how the game’s music is used to alert you to the presence of enemies. Thankfully, a lot of the time the camera will pan to a nearby enemy and there are many enemy confrontations in the game so you’re pretty much on your guard whenever it’s dark.
On the whole, I’ve really enjoyed Alan Wake and I definitely think there is potential for a sequel or two. The combat isn’t anything special in truth, even if there’s a twist here with having to use various light sources to weaken the Taken, but the quality of the storytelling, genuinely interesting characters and the rich atmosphere is what makes the game stand out from other third person shooters. There’s no denying that the action can become repetitive and in the later stages of the game it feels as though it’s there just to bulk out the experience but these are minor complaints and it’s a game that fans of the genre will really appreciate.