The lost, lonely, frightened child plunging blindly through a suddenly strange forest at night is capable of a rare form of terror. With their heart pounding, their chest burning, they scrabble desperately through sticker bushes, hoping blindly to burst out into the open and find their parent’s porch light burning in the distance, leading them out from the darkness and into the safety of their home.
It’s that terror, that primal fear of the darkness that every child shares, that Alan Wake so masterfully conjures from the deep shadows of our collective memories and its own unsettling environments.
Remedy’s psychological thriller stars Alan Wake, a best-selling novelist whose talent has gone wasted thanks to a mammoth case of writer’s block. Alan and his wife travel to the rustic, heavily wooded Pacific Northwest town of Bright Falls for rest, relaxation, and Alan’s wife hopes, a reawakening of her husband’s long dormant creativity.
Of course, Bright Falls isn’t what it appears to be, and through a series of events I won’t spoil here, Alan is thrust into a nightmare world where darkness is a living, malevolent thing, a hungry unknown horror that distorts and corrupts the world around him.
Where darkness shrouds Bright Falls in mystery and violence though, light can purify it, revealing the threat within and exposing it to harm. It’s here that Alan Wake fuses horror with gameplay, bringing all the tension and fear into harmony with the game’s combat mechanic, which works thusly: see enemy/possessed object, burn the darkness off enemy with light (usually a trusty flashlight), and shoot enemy until it shatters out of existence.
Its sounds simple, but when you’re frantically plying a rapidly dying flashlight on a pack of fast-moving, darkness-empowered enemies thirsting to cleave your head with an axe, all while dodging the maniac impulses of a possessed bulldozer, there’s little simple about it.
Now, add top-notch presentation to the cheek-clenching, nail-biting action, and you really begin to understand what Alan Wake brings to the table. Here’s one of my favorite examples.
With my flashlight sputtering and the shadows of once good men closing in for a hatchet job, I turned to my only recourse, a flare. Cracking the flare at the right moment sends the game into a slow-motion 360 degree pan, showcasing Alan holding the life-sparing light aloft, melting the darkness from the enemies and sending them skittering back to the safety of the shadows. It feels fantastic.
This is no great rare moment either. Rather, the game understands the small dramas that play out during combat and uses camerawork and slow-motion to effectively accentuate them. Dodge an incoming attack perfectly, for example, and you’ll also be treated to a bit of slow-motion highlighting the narrowness of your escape. Likewise, vanquishing the final enemy in an area will produce a similar result.
For all its excellent atmosphere and combat though, it’s the story that propelled me forward, constantly asking new questions while trying to decipher clues that promised to hold answers to questions already gone by. Of particular note is the manner in which the story is told.
Yes, there are of course cut-scenes (and very well done too), but it’s the manuscript pages, TV shows, radio programs, incidental dialogue and episodic nature of the story’s delivery that really helps Alan Wake’s drama rise to the fore.
Scattered throughout the world are pages to a manuscript our hero doesn’t remember writing. More importantly, the manuscript pages cover both events that have come to pass as well as moments waiting for you just around the bend. This mix of past, present, and future further distorts the anatomy of the drama, while also giving you needed context for the story and insight into some of the more mysterious characters.
You’ll also find TVs that play out episodes of a surreal, creepy television show reminiscent of the Twilight Zone, called Night Springs. Radios are available for discovery as well, and work well to flesh out the town/citizenry of Bright Falls.
Finally, Alan Wake is broken up into discreet episodes (six in all), each lasting a couple hours or so. Importantly, each episode exists as a standalone story which ties into the larger drama. They work great as natural stopping points, but if you’re like me, you’ll play a few episodes at a time, so eager are you to find out what happens next.
Alan Wake ships on Tuesday, May 18th. If you don’t find a way to play it, the darkness will find you. Well, maybe not, but I wish it would, because this is an experience, not just a game, and it deserves to be played.
I can't wait for Alan Wake. After all the years of development and we finally start getting impressions and they are all positive. Bring it on already.
I have been waiting 5 years for this game it was the only reason I didn't get a PS3 when I was looking at new consoles.
this game sucks, dont buy it
this game sucks, dont buy it!
Good game. If you like Stephen King style books you will probably like the game. I was a little disappointed at the end but I am glad I bought it and I'm about to start my second playthrough (gotta collect all those manuscript pages). Beautiful scenery. Pretty intense story. It is definitely worth renting.
i will buy one
alright. sold. lemme get my jacket...
looks like a very intresting game
this game is one of the best i have played in a long time :)
bought the colecters edition
Where came i get one. if anyone wants to help my facebook is email@example.com please and thanks
love the game nd the charter was realy hot
OMFG THE DARKNESS WILL FIND ME OMFG i have to barricade i have to get food water weapons chainsaws oil bullets and....oh i wish it would???dang :( i wanna use the chainsaw D:
it is definetly worth renting if you are a horror came fan.. good story line and play through. just disliked the way you had to use flashlight to stun the darkness off then kill them made it hard to play but very good story.
they put a lot of work into this game. But they should have spent a little more time syncing the audio with the character's mouths. its like a poorly dubbed kung fu film. heavy plot, but how am i suppose to follow when i have watch these poorly dubbed cut scenes?
i'll let you try my wutang style!!