Alan Wake Review (Xbox 360)

Alan Wake Review (Xbox 360)

Alan Wake has been tempting and teasing gamers since 2005 and after various setbacks and redesigns it’s finally arrived in 2010 but is it worth the wait? Let me shed some light on it.

The game follows best selling writer Alan Wake who has suffered a writers block for the past 2 years, in a bid to recapture his creative essence he and his wife Alison head for the idyllic town of Bright Falls. On arrival Alan meets the townsfolk’s, some of which are fans, and we learn a little bit about the supporting characters in the game. After some brief encounters Alan and his wife head over to their rented cabins where we are treated to some character development particularly Alison who we learn is terrified by the dark.  After a brief scene in which Alan and Alison argue things o very wrong. Alison disappears and Alan wakes up in a car crash on a road (which is similar to dreams Alan has had of late) and thus he story begin and the horrors of the dark emerge.

The story of Alan Wake is one full of twists, turns, intense action and style that is carried off with a vibe similar to Twin Peaks and Stephen King novels, all these factors in addition to the thick atmosphere create a thrilling story which is nicely divided neatly into episodes. The episodes begin with a recap of the past episode in the same fashion as T.V shows such as 24, as well as this each episodes ends on a cliff hanger which captures the player and subdues them in the story and forces them to continue playing. Throughout the story Alan plays narrator which adds a nice little touch to the story telling and also helps build Alan as a character which in turn allows the player to make more of connection to him making the story all the more tantalizing.

Alan Wake has suffered a writers block for the past 2 years, in a bid to recapture his creative essence he and his wife Alison head for the idyllic town of Bright Falls.

The game play found Alan Wake is fast and fluid and rarely offers frustration. Combat is fast and smooth yet manages to convoy the same feeling of desperation found in survival horrors such as Silent Hill this is achieved by the method in which you kill the enemy, unlike most 3rd person titles Alan Wake requires you to light up the enemy by using various sources of light primarily a torch, aiming the torch at the enemy begins to bring the enemy out of their shadowy state and one this has happened they become vulnerable to bullets allowing Alan to destroy them.

This game mechanic can create a tense standoff when Alan encounters a group of enemies (known as the Taken) which is a fantastic addition to the overall game play experience. As mentioned light plays a huge role in Alan Wake not only in combat but as way of survival, large lights such as lamps offer Alan Wake safe sanctuary from the Taken as well as his the light allows Alan to heal and indeed the player to catch their breath.

Light also offers safe passage in the form of flares which let out a beautiful red glow which also wards off the taken, flares can also be used as a last ditch method of survival by cracking one out at the last minute will force any close by taken to back off and even take damage making them vulnerable to bullets. 

Other forms of survival Alan Wake has at his disposable is a doge mechanic that resembles the one found in Silent Hill: Homecoming however the dodging found in Alan Wake  feels more effective and more fluid and also earns points for presentation as dodges  that timed right will be displayed in slow motion, this touch is purely cosmetic but does look very nice and the animation is superb however the doge mechanic can become a issue if Alan finds himself backed into a corner and mistimed a doge as this allows the Taken to do a flurry of damage which feels quite cheap at times. Overall Alan Wake plays like a dream and is hugely satisfying allowing combat to become a joy while being intense and  provoking a sense of desperation at times.

Alan Wake is visually appealing, the town of Bright Falls and the surrounding landscape is beautiful in the light of day and yet wonderfully menacing at night. The forests are dark and dense and lighted in a way which provokes creepiness and mystery along with intrigue which makes each level full of atmosphere and tension.

\There are some issues with the visuals such as the odd case of a NPC looking a bit blocky and not very detailed; this also applies to the occasional location in which things can look a bit dull and a bit lifeless. For the most part the visuals are decent and at times fantastic however the lighting takes centre stage, the way the lighting bounces of objects and creates realistic shadows greatly adds to the game and at times almost plays tricks on your eyes leaving the player with a shudder down the spine and a sweat on the forehead.

The lighting is also effective during the day as the world sparkles and glitters with a sense of beauty that Bright Falls encourages and pulls off. The Taken look fantastic with life like movements and shadows cloaking their body they manage to look both terrifying and intimidating while carrying off a almost life like movement which blends well with the surrounding environment.

Light serves as your safe heaven as well as checkpoints – if you’re engulfed in light, you are safe.

The range of locations found in Alan Wake is nothing to special but still manage to stay fresh and not out stay their welcome, the dark forests mange to be menacing while the town of Bright Falls carries an essence of peace about it. Some levels contain a number of set pieces which are accompanied by sharp music can create a heart pounding situation which leaves the player feeling breathless. However some people may be disappointed by the linear levels which may appear quite open with some multiple paths that lead to collectibles and the like but stripped down the levels are designed with a single path in mind which can at time feel a little claustrophobic.

Alan Wakes audio is a other highlight within the game with gun fire sounding beefy and heavy and the muttering of the Taken sounding creepy, along with the sound effects the voice acting is top notch with very little to be desired, lines are delivered well with a sense of realism and no over the top hammy acting which seems to plague video games.  The audio adds nicely to the overall experience with loud sounds booming through the hollow forests and the cry of birds echoing in the dead sky, a other great additions including the clever use of music throughout the game which strangely feels relevant to the game even more so at the end of each episode where a music track plays and ramps up euphoric feeling while summing up the chapters events.

The replay value of Alan Wake isn’t great with the story lasting around 8-10 hours with no multiple endings however there are a number of collectables to gather such as flasks of coffee, manuscripts, item chests,radios that play small audio clips and TV’s that play the in game TV show Night Springs which offers some funny moments. That being said DLC has been promised and with multiple difficulties settings there is some replay ability to be had.

Dual Weilding isn’t uncommon, but one of your weapons (and arguably the most important) is a flashlight.

The story may not be one that is revisited in a hurry either, the narrative plays to its strong points and keeps things mysterious. But once that mysterious vail has been lifted, it’s spark is lost – but no means misunderstand this though, the story is fantastic, you will come back to it at some point, but many months down the line. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem the type of experience you would want to replay right away, the length is satisfying and is accompanied by a relieving feeling upon completion. While it does suffer from slight repetition towards the end, this is only as Rare noticeably depend on their strong points too much;  there is a lot of point A-B gameplay, but it works beautifully in its own credit.

Alan Wake is a fantastic gaming experience, an interesting and compelling story filled with plot twists and intense action that is complemented with fast and fluid game play with a fresh spin on combat  add to that the visual and audio treats Alan Wake has to offer and you’re in for one heck of a ride. Wake up and see the light and be sure not to miss out on this experience.

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