The most recent game developed by Remedy strides away from the normal streets of New York, where crime lords seem to rule everything like we saw in their previous work, Max Payne. Seven years later, in fact, they created an entire new fictional town called Bright Falls and it works out quite well.
The main character in this story, Alan Wake, is not your typical “guns blazin’ action hero.” He’s a well known fiction author trying to get away from all of his new found fame and popularity; he is also suffering from writers block. Alan and his wife decide to take a vacation to the small town of Bright Falls. Not even twenty minutes into the game, she goes missing. Alan’s search to find her forces him to grab a gun, a flashlight, and as many clues as he can to find her whereabouts. The story quickly turns into something you would see on an episode of Twilight Zone or perhaps even in a Stephen King novel. The character development, art, and many plot twists is something you would expect from a Remedy title. The outcome is a twisting fictional story that offers plenty of intense thrills, edge of your seat moments, and laughs to keep you hooked until the very end.
The way the story is told throughout the game almost makes you feel as if you are watching an actual TV show miniseries of only six episodes. After each episode (all of which leave you with a cliffhanger) the game fades to the title screen and plays a catchy song (that never ends until you hit a button on your controller.) As soon as you begin your next episode you get a recap of what you just played in TV form with the narrator saying “previously on Alan Wake.” This was actually quite clever on Remedy’s part and certainly helped me remember the storyline when I have to step away from the game.
While playing the game there are plenty of extra details that are thrown in there. Be sure to stop by all of the abandoned houses and construction yards because there will be some sort of radio, or television that can be interacted with to get more detail on what exactly is happening in the little town of Bright Falls (and for you achievement junkies out there, you need them.) Also, probably the most important extra, if you are looking to get the full story on what is happening, there are manuscript pages hidden around that Wake wrote (but can’t remember doing so.) These pages help confirm what is truth and fiction in the stories plot.
Bright Falls’ residents are like any other small suburban town. They all know each other and seem to live very happy. Everyone is excited that a big celebrity like Alan Wake is coming to visit that no one even realizes the dangers that are approaching them full force. But like any small community, everyone has a secret, some bigger than others. This is why searching out those radio programs and interacting with everyone you come across is so important if you are concerned about getting full plot from the game. Pretty much all of them come off as an obvious stereotype and most of them are there just for comic relief, such as the batty old woman, the local cop, and the troubled FBI agent. Remedy put in a lot of extra dialogue that is certainly worth hearing, so stick around when you come across a new character to hear what they have to say, some of it is quite funny.
During each episode we have day and night. In the day, Wake is free to roam around and talk to people, but as soon as the sun goes down and the moon is lighting the sky, all hell breaks loose. Shadows are Wake’s worst enemy. Seeing as how they move at lightning fast speed when they come alive and attack him, he’s constantly fighting for his life in the dark. The light is his only way out, good thing he grabbed that flashlight earlier. Even though Remedy focuses on heavy plot lines, doesn’t mean that the combat system is any less satisfying.
Although Wake doesn’t have a huge choice of weapons doesn’t mean he can’t defeat the bad guy. The woods constantly throws at you humans infected with darkness, bloodthirsty birds, and giant pieces of machinery and cars. The first way to stop this attack is to simply shine your flashlight on the enemy, draining the darkness from it. As soon as the darkness is gone, go ahead and shoot it with your pistol, shotgun, or hunting rifle. As you play more you come across a few more tools to help drain the light from the enemies. You will find flares, flash bang grenades and even a flare gun (which is Wake’s own personal rocket launcher) for those massive groups of enemies. Although, running away is always an option as there are street lights placed around that act as a safe haven for Wake, it’s not always the best solution. The enemies are super fast and often swing shovels at you or throw some knives. A cool little feature that was put in to the game is the ability to dodge your attackers in a cinematic sort of way; however, it requires precise timing to master it. If you’re playing on normal the combat is quite forgiving. If you find yourself easily running through everything, go ahead and give yourself more of a challenge by ramping up the difficulty.
As far as exploration goes, you need to be careful, as you only have a limited amount of battery power for that flashlight of yours and ammo can be hard to conserve if you’re not careful. The areas in which you can explore are fairly small and for the most part linear. Every now and then, Wake will have the chance to use a vehicle as opposed to running on foot, using the headlights to blast away the darkness from enemies (and afterwards just hit them with your car to put them down for good.) It isn’t near as exciting as running around on foot, but it gets the job done just as well.
In conclusion, Alan Wake is not the ground-breaking game a lot hoped for, but it still gives excellent entertainment. Amazing environmental design and definitely some well thought out visuals and sounds make the fictional town of Bright Falls and its surroundings look alive. Even though at times the camera can be stubborn and hard to work with and the supernatural story isn’t as near interesting as some of the questions that come from it, I would agree that it is quite difficult to put down once you have gotten started. Remedy has always been good at mixing things you see in television, written work, and videogames to give you an experience that is just as fun to play as it is to watch.
Written by: Shaun Hilton