If it were up to me, Alan Wake would, in a variety of ways, represent the future of gaming. A new standard in immersive gameplay, the title has you playing as author Alan Wake during a vacation gone horribly wrong, and events unfold with the style and suspense of a television show. In fact, the game is broken up into episodes, and as you progress to the next installment, a “Last Time on Alan Wake” recap awesomely kicks things off.
From Remedy, creators of the Max Payne series, Alan Wake is part adventure, part mystery, and part shooter, but it’s all put together in a package that doesn’t quite resemble anything you’ve seen before (even though it resembles things you’ve seen before). Your trip to the quaint town of Bright Falls, WA is interrupted by the disappearance of your wife, and before you know it, a mysterious dark force is after you, and the division between fantasy and reality is becoming disturbingly blurred.
Piece together clues as the bizarre mystery unfolds around you, and use your wits and weapons to stay alive, including your most powerful weapon – light.
At each stage of your adventure you travel the forests, mountains, and surrounding area of Bright Falls, making your way from one goal to the next. The Darkness is after you, and it is possessing people (and objects) to hinder you along the way. Your gun may be a fine weapon, but you have to “burn” the darkness away with a light source before your enemies can be hurt.
There is much to be said for the fighting system of the game, and I suppose it requires mention, but it isn’t that interesting to me personally. It’s fun, easily managed, and gets the job done solidly, but it’s not as impressive to me as the overall experience. You aim your flashlight, hold LT to intensify your beam (thus using your batteries faster), pull RT to shoot your gun, and so on. Press X to reload, find a shotgun, more ammo, or flare, run and duck… you know the score.
It’s a good system, and stands up to the gameplay test, but the experience you’re put through apart from the fighting is simply brilliant, and makes any fighting you do simply one aspect of a rich world.
The living setting, interactive landscape, and superb soundtrack create a level of mood that sucks you into the game to almost unbelievable levels. Possibly the best example of the game’s general effect I can give is the mere fact that you actually run. For experienced gamers, you know full well that you are not actually in any hurry. Well, sometimes things are actually chasing you that need to be killed, but that’s not what I’m talking about. As events unfold when you’re following a path, you’re supposed to be “hurrying” to whatever goal you’re after, but you know it doesn’t actually matter. In fact, in some sense you probably aren’t really meant to. There are probably secret things to find. The bad or good things that happen when you reach point X, happen no matter how long it takes you to get there. In Alan Wake you run anyway… and it’s weird.
On the one hand, you do it because things are actually pretty creepy. Thankfully, the brightness can be adjusted, but if you turn it down and turn the lights off, you’ll be surprised, and don’t think I don’t know that hundreds of game have (somewhat laughably) said that before. On the other hand, you do it for much the same reason that you are hard-pressed not to fast-forward through an episode of LOST to get to the new information. It’s that compelling.
Don’t get me wrong, the combat is pretty intense and fun in itself (and even on the easiest setting you will die a few times – then try Nightmare and watch out), but the attention to the story and experience are a lot more important to me.
The only drawback I can see to the game at all is that, though you may give it another run on a harder setting, I’m not sure there’s really a lot of replayability. I’m led to understand that downloadable content will be available after the game’s release, and I look forward to it, but much as LOST is not particularly a show I would start watching again, Alan Wake is probably not something that one will run through again and again, and probably not six months later.
If we’re lucky, game companies will be smart enough to follow a similar line of bridging the gap between television/film and video game experiences (in this, the good way), and in years to come we will look back at Alan Wake as a major player in the next generation of gaming. A lot of people might have something like Mass Effect 2 in mind as a similar theory, and while that was an excellent game as well, Alan Wake is miles ahead in terms of pure fun.
I hear the stage is set for Alan Wake 2, and if I could order it right now, I would.
Alan Wake will also be released in a Limited Collector’s Edition, and I’d recommend going for it. It will include a 144-page book containing a short story by Alan Wake, a compilation of FBI dossiers on the events at Bright Falls, an exclusive XBOX Live theme and Avatar, video documentaries on the game’s development, in-game commentary and hints, and more. Seriously, in-game commentary.
In keeping with the general awesomeness of the game, Remedy has created a live-action prequel to the events in the game called Bright Falls. You can check out the episodes at www.brightfalls.com with more to be released as we approach the game’s release date. You can check a quick trailer for that series below.
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- Alan Wake video game developer interview (telegraph.co.uk)
- Remedy: Plot for Alan Wake 2 Already Mapped Out (1up.com)