Friday, August 23, 2013

Alan Wake (Xbox 360/PC)

TL;DR Alan Wake is a great thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and constantly enamoured by the many twists and turns the story takes.

The Horror genre as of late has gone under a drastic transformation from being the series that makes it so that you can't sleep at night to being the “series with the zombies in it”. Even game series that traditionally have nothing to with the horror genre have been trying to cash in by adding zombies to their typical formula. The results are understandably lackluster. An overabundance of zombies isn't the only problem though, the leaders of the horror genre have been losing their touch as they attempt to increase accessibility of their games to a wider audience.  Unfortunately accessibility has caused the games to forgo the creation of scenario's where you actually feel powerless. You know, the main basis for creating fear. Alan Wake is none of that. Remedy Entertainment knew that you can't have a scary game unless you are willing to make the player feel helpless.

There's no way I could ever hold out against all those undead!

Alan Wake is about a big-shot writer named (what else?) Alan Wake who's been dealing with a debilitating case of writers block and needs to unwind. Alan and his fiancée Alice decide to check out a small mountain town in Washington called Bright Falls to try and revitalize Alan's creative juices by having a change of pace. Upon arriving in Bright Falls Alan meets a strange old lady who gives him a key to a cabin in the middle of a lake on top of a dormant volcano. Everything seems to be going pretty well until the game drops the bomb that Alan's wife is afraid of the dark. Well as fate would have it the sun inevitably went down and the island in the middle of the lake wound up having unreliable power. The power goes out and Alice predictably flips out. After some shenanigans and dialogue Alan decides he needs to go for a walk to clear his head, but just as he walks out he hears Alice scream. Alice somehow managed to find herself coming down with a case of drowning and Alan leaps into the lake to find him, while he's in the water he swears he sees a strange old lady pulling Alice into the water. Alan Blacks Out. Fast-forward a week and Alan wakes up in his care dangling precariously off a cliff. Why did it take him a week to drive off a cliff? There are questions that need answering and this game answers them.

So basically the premise of the game is that Alan is trying to find his missing wife and wants to figure out where that week of his life went. Alan encounters many mildly interesting people (like Barry) and uncovers a plot that has been unraveling since the day he was born. In Alan Wake you balance solving puzzles with booking it away from murder monsters. What you don't like running away? Well you can defend yourself I guess. The many enemies you encounter throughout the game are the victims of the “Dark Presence” the titular omniscient villain of the game. As the name of the villain implies you use “light” to combat it. The light can be from anything from your trusty flashlight to a cars headlights. You are given a gun at a point but ammo is fairly limited so you really have to pick and choose your fights. The Flashlight most likely will be your main form of defense since you can use it to stun enemies. Unfortunately standing your ground isn't always easiest option, I more then once wound up cornered and out of ammo from trying to defeat every enemy I encountered.

Then again, who actually likes having a light shined in their eyes?

The game itself is broken up into multiple episodes each one containing an arc to the overall story. Because the game is broken up into these arcs the game is incredibly linear and only on a few scant occasions do you actually get the chance to revisit previous stages. Exploration is kind of out of the question. I guess as a way of making up for the linearity of the story there are multiple collectible items spread throughout the game that you will find strewn throughout the world like thermoses and copies of “Night Springs the Video Game” based on the hit TV series of the same name that you can find scattered throughout stages. You can also find signs and papers you can read to get more insight into the world and characters of Alan Wake which is pretty neat.

Puzzles can sometimes be pretty abstract in what they want you to do; frame of reference time, there will be a part where you have to fight a tornado full of cars and boats and stuff. Its not exactly easy figuring out how best to approach the problem with your puny flashlight and a handful of flares especially since at a point during your fight you have to start platforming while destroying buses and crows that come at your jugular. I'm kind of a sucker for events like this, it gets the blood pumping and forces you to make snap decisions.

Okay now, imagine for some reason you aren't already in love with the games premise and mechanics. Well maybe this guy will change your mind about the entire game.

I'm certain you've heard of him already that was Barry, Barry Wheeler. You want to deal with Alan Wake you have to go through him. He's Alan Wakes best friend and manager and adds humor to the game by being one of the normal people who's dragged into all of Alan Wakes problems. Barry is quite possibly the most relatable characters as he's so deliciously average in every way.

So whats the Verdict on Alan Wake? Buy it. I doubt it will disappoint you. Alan Wake is a thriller at its core and will easily keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire ride. The only major downside to Alan Wake is its lack of replayability thanks to the episodic nature of the game. Sure you can revisit episodes you've completed, but what reason would have to return to one besides obtaining any of the leftover collectibles? There is a DLC episode that you can download that expands upon the story and further answers questions that may have been left hanging by the ending . I'd recommend getting the DLC once you've beaten the game, or at least prioritize getting a version of the game that comes with the DLC.

Be warned, shit gets pretty weird in the DLC.