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Alan Wake

Creepy, Disturbing and Far Too Short!
From the development house that brought you the Max Payne series, Alan Wake from Remedy Games is a work five years in the making. There have been rampant rumors and discussion about this title over the years. The story revolves around a famous novelist by the name of Alan Wake and his travails in a creepy town called Bright Falls. Alan ends up in Bright Falls because his wife books the vacation for him as a way to cure his writerís block. Iím guessing the marketing materials for Bright Falls didnít contain information about having to run from everything when his wife booked it.

The presentation in Alan Wake is, without a doubt, the most atmospheric, insanely compelling narrative that you will play in 2010. Much of this has to do with Alanís own hackneyed writing style and the pages of his unpublished manuscript that litter the levels. It certainly rivals any game released in the past two years and blows the heck out of the tired Silent Hill franchise. Ironically, the main goal of the game (rescuing Alanís wife) is very reminiscent of the Silent Hill series.

The core focus traversing the scary landscape comes in the form of a one-two punch: light, then firepower. The creepy crawlies are sapped of their strength when bathed in light and Alan can subsequently destroy them with the weaponry. The player really has to balance defense versus offense as well. Many times, you are better off running to the next large light source rather than getting tagged from behind by some nasty dark birds.

There is plenty of ammo lying around on normal difficulty, so finding yourself with an empty firearm rarely happens. Even if you do, thereís a handy dodging mechanism that will work in a pinch. The control system is pretty standard to third person shooter and itís definitely rock solid in Alan Wake. Beyond escaping the frightening enemies, the player is rewarded for exploring the landscape in the form of Alanís unfinished novel. Interestingly, he has no idea that he wrote the pages. The pages typically reflect the dangers that lurk beyond the next turn of the road as well as painting a backstory to Alanís predicament.

All in all, the story is ultimately what drives the player to fight through the endless stream of dark shadows and discover the root of Alanís issues in Bright Falls. The action is well paced and the level ending sequences are wonderful. Iím not going to get into specifics or spoilers, but rest assured that you will be impressed. Remedy really pulled off a wonderful, although short game.


  • After five years of arduous work, Alan Wake is absolutely visually stunning. The town of Bright Falls and the surrounding area is absolutely frightening at times. Much of the credit can go to the contrast between light and dark. The lighting effects are chilling at times and, depending on the light source that Alan is using (flashlight, flare, headlights, etc), makes you feel like Kevin J. O'Connor when his torch is going out in The Mummy.

  • Remedy captures the Pacific Northwest beautifully. The forests are lush with vegetation and thick fog (as well as creepy creatures). The shadows dance off the backgrounds and play with your mind. I havenít been frightened by this many disturbing scenarios since wandering though that mannequin factory in Condemned. The only nagging issue I had with the game was from disappointing lip sync animations. Itís the only aspect of the visuals that occasionally took me out of Bright Falls and reminded me that it was just a video game.


  • I havenít been this impressed with sound effect work in combination with a powerful, moving soundtrack (in-between levels) that nails the Stephen King-esque feel that the gameplay emulates. The sound effects are designed to make you leap off the couch, especially if you are playing at night.

  • The voiceovers are fairly solid, certainly a nod to the script writers over the voice actors. The weakest portion of the voiceovers would be the work of Fred Berman, who voices Alan Wakeís agent Barry (and Vinnie Gognitti in Max Payne 2). Thatís not a dig at the voice actor, but rather the misplaced comic relief. It felt a bit too forced, especially at the most suspenseful points of the game.

  • Quite frankly, the inclusion of the small town AM radio host was one of my favorite audio inclusions. Similar to Remedyís previous games, the radio announcer caps off the current events in Bright Falls in a plausible fashion. Also, the Twilight Zone programs that play on the rabbit eared TVs were absolutely fantastic.


Alan Wake is quite the quandary. On one hand, you likely arenít going to find a game oozing with this much atmosphere, attention to thrilling storytelling and compelling pacing in 2010. Conversely, thereís a nagging linearity to the game, an obnoxiously short length (8 to 10 hours on normal) for a $60 game and a few gameplay devices that seem more at place in a game released a few years ago (Alone In The Dark anyone?).

You absolutely need to play this game, but to recommend a purchase for a game that can be finished during a rental period seems dishonest. If you are thirsty for more achievements and likely to play through the title several times on multiple difficulties, then purchasing is fine. If you want to experience the gameís story one time, then you can accomplish that feat over the weekend. Either way, you wonít be disappointed in this creepy, polished action-adventure title.

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