Turn off your lights, grab a torch for I am about to tell you the story of a dark tale called Alan Wake.
Alan Wake is a physiological thriller, Third Person Shooter (TPS), horror, action adventure game, developed by
Remedy Entertainment and released on May 14th, 2010 on the Xbox 360 and February 16th, 2012 on PC. Alan Wake is an author who was once a best-seller but has hit a block in his career. Alan and his wife Alice take a vacation in the small mountain town of Bright Falls but all is not what it seems, his wife get’s kidnapped by “the darkness” (not the band). Alan loses a week and suddenly finds pages he doesn’t remember writing, the twist is that he is playing out his manuscript. Will Alan and his agent Barry be able to save Alice or will they succumb to the darkness?
Alan Wake’s gameplay is an unforgettable experience, it brought something new to our PC and consoles which really captured that sense of tension from the story and its gameplay. Throughout Alan Wake you will be armed with a torch and need to use the light to weaken the darkness that has possessed Bright Falls’ citizens. However, citizens aren’t the only thing that can be possessed, cars, tractors and day-to-day items will fly at you to stop you in your tracks. Light acts as a safety net in Alan Wake, each street lamp in the game acts like a check-point and a recharge point. You will face moments where you are absolutely overwhelmed with enemies and ammo is scarce so seeing the beautifully rendered light in the distance brings a sense of joy, if you can make it there without being killed. The light mechanic just adds so much to the feelings you’re going through and no game has re-captured that for me like this one did. The way it’s used isn’t over-done, it’s not in your face and Remedy Entertainment made sure of that by spreading it out. The gun play is also the same, a bullet won’t hurt the darkness at full power, you must weaken it with the light and then when the darkness vanishes for a few seconds you must hit it at the right moment which is a challenge in itself.
Alan Wake is full of moments that sent my heart racing, the best moment had to be where they find the Old Gods of Asgard’s moonshine farm and the stage from their concert days that is still up and running. Alan and Barry walk onto the stage and suddenly hordes of darkness come at you so the only thing to do is turn the stage on. Heavy metal blares through the speakers, sparks and flames erupt from the stage floor and that moment was when I knew it was a game that set itself apart from everything else by creating such moments full of excitement and dread at the same time.
Alan and Barry will explore many different settings in Alan Wake, from Bright Falls town to the lush forests in the mountains, Remedy Entertainment has sculpted this fictional world to perfection considering 2010’s technology. The way they made the tree’s sway in the hurricane-like conditions and when the darkness turns up, to the wildlife popping in and out between trees and rocks is stunning. In Alan Wake, it’s as if the world is real and reacting to the story as you shape it. As I mentioned light is a huge factor in this game so it had to look visually appealing in a dark world, they made some of the best lighting effects to make the night look beautiful but terrifying. You are mostly playing the game in a night setting and seeing the lights from windows cast onto the ground or the moonlight shimmering through each pine in the pine trees brings that sense of realism, it really creates what I can call pure beauty. The sounds of night, with Owls sounding off in the distance and the rustling in the trees and bushes making you think one of the darkness will pop out at any point, creates a great atmosphere, so many moments wondering what was lurking in the woods on those dark nights went through my head. Atmosphere is what sets the mood of a game for me. If the world feels alive visually and audibly then it captures my attention and I will get sucked into it. The characters are well-designed and feel like I’m watching a film as the voice acting and facial modelling is done to add to the tension with each character reacting in a realistic fashion. The game is set up as if it is mimicking a TV thriller which ends at certain milestones in the story. Each time it ends it gives you a sneak preview which is scripted just like you’d see on Supernatural but instead of “previously on Supernatural“, they say “Next time on Alan Wake” or “Previously on Alan Wake” and it creates the anticipation for the next chapter due to the way they have presented it. Most of the music in Alan Wake is written by Poets of the Fall and in Alan Wake they are the Old Gods of Asgard. The music played on the stage is by them and they also wrote an amazing song called Poets of the Muse which describes a lot of the story in Alan Wake but is performed beautifully.
Alan Wake will always be high on my top 10 list. The gameplay and the visuals set up an amazing title that is uniquely different to other games. I would love to see more story-oriented games with the style of play Alan Wake employs because the formula is what creates a perfect game in my eyes and sets up a scene not just through its narrative but through its design as well. Alan Wake was a lot like playing through a Stephen King book and that is always a positive. Sorry Alan but Barry was my favourite character, his humour set a light tone for a very dark story.
This review was based on the PC version of the game and the experience may vary on different platforms.