Alan Wake Review
After five long years of waiting, Alan Wake is finally here. It’s now time for Remedy to bring the big guns out for the Xbox 360. Alan Wake is a psychological thriller that will take you through six dark episodes and challenge the fear of darkness lurking inside you. Inspired entirely by the famous author, Stephen King, the story of Alan Wake involves a mix of the supernatural blended with a dash of drama. The battle between Light and Dark will once again clash in this epic psychological thriller that I’m sure will be revered by gamers for many years to come.
Being that Alan Wake is one of the big blockbusters on the list of exclusives for the Xbox 360, gamers are curious to find out what kind of experience they will be having while playing Alan Wake. Since it was announced several years ago, Alan Wake was compared to a lot of titles during that time, including Silent Hill and Alone in the Dark. The question is, does Alan Wake have the “it” factor to make it stand out from the crowd? Let’s take a look in the HOTs and the NOTs to find out.
Alan Wake follows the story of Alan – a famous writer who’s on a vacation with his wife Alice in a small town of Bright Falls in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. He gets his inspiration of writing novels from the legendary Stephen King. The purpose of their vacation was to get away from all their problems but things take a turn from the worst when Alan’s Wife Alice disappears in the cabin they’re staying at. Alan will then need to find Alice and unlock the mysteries surrounding Bright Falls. The power of light and dark will once again collide to unravel the puzzling situation of Alice’s disappearance and Alan’s quest will allow him to know more about himself and his writings. What could be the connection to his writings and Alice’s disappearance? All this and more will be revealed when you play through all the six episodes of Alan Wake.
The story of Alan Wake is pretty decent too. It has the unexpected twist that you will get to unveil as you are nearing the end of the game. Fans who will be watching the live-action short of Bright Falls will be able to understand more of the story. It is not necessary, but it is highly recommended as the characters in Brights Falls the Prequel to Alan Wake will be mentioned a lot in the game.
For an Xbox 360 game, Alan Wake has pushed the limits of the console by rendering a very crisp and detailed environment. The very precise and detailed designs of the dark forest in Bright Falls will give gamers an eerie and atmospheric experience. You can expect most of your time running through the dark forest while finding your way through to the next area. Aside from the detailed environments, gamers will take notice of the lighting effects in the game. For the first time ever, Alan Wake is the pioneering the game that uses the lighting effects to produce a perfect shadow.
Gamers will spot certain visual differences between the FMV cutscenes to the in-game graphics. While the characters all look good in the FMV cutscenes, the in-game character models take a dip in visual quality. Quite frankly, I thought they looked pretty ugly. Anyone can see that the way Remedy made these characters are horribly outdated (in the game’s defense development did start back in 2005). It is not too bad, but it is annoying to witness all the characters shined up in the FMV sequences but actually appear ugly in the in-game engine. The sudden change in quality will shock some gamers. Despite the bad in-game character modeling, Remedy did a good job on the voices behind these characters. One of the things that will remedy (excuse the pun) this game from the horrendous character models is the quality voice acting.
Since Alan Wake is an episodic psychological thriller game, gamers should expect a cliffhanger at the end of each episode. You should think of this game as a TV series you might be watching. Each of the episodes should take you no more than three hours to complete; depending on the difficulty you’re playing on. Followed by the ending of the each episode, you will get to listen to an old music track that will help give emotions to its players. Starting a new episode will give you a recap of the last episode, i.e. “Previously in Alan Wake…”.
Combat System and Gameplay
Alan Wake is an action-adventure game where you will have to use guns to take down your enemies. The controls are very easy to follow; pressing RT to shoot, LT to aim while using the Flashlight, and A for jumping. The only bad thing about the controls is the way Alan dodges enemies’ attack. Pressing the LB button will make Alan dodge whatever is coming for him. Dodge at the right time and you will be able to perform a slow motion action. Having said that. I felt the dodging in the game felt artificial and gimmicky. It was not as smooth and realistic as I thought it should be.
The survival of Alan Wake depends on two things; his gun and any light source he can find. If he is equipped with weapons such as the revolver, and shotgun, you will be able to take them out easily – but only if you can stun them first. That’s where the flare gun, flash bang, flare, and flashlight will come in. By stunning them, you get to remove the dark aura that engulfs them. To instantly kill them with any of the light source, using a flare gun and flash bang are one of the best ways to do it.
Exploring Bright Falls is also possible in this game. Even though Alan Wake isn’t traditionally a sandbox game where you can freely go wherever you want, the dark forests and towns you will be going through are big enough for exploration. Throughout the game, there will be things that you will be looking for to collect. These vary from the manuscripts, and coffee thermoses. To add more depth to the what is going on in Bright Falls, there are radios scattered throughout the game that you can listen to. Televisions are also there to let you watch a mini series called, “Night Springs” which involves a short psychological thriller film with real people appearing on the small TV. Finding all of these can take some time if you are a completest. This is not necessary, but to learn more about the game; I suggest to collect the manuscripts, watch the televisions, and radios. You will have to search every inch of the area to make this all possible.
For every great TV series, comes an equally great soundtrack. Alan Wake is not just a game – it can also be described as a mini-TV series. At the end of each episode, you will be hearing different soundtracks that will be familiar and match up to the episodes’ ending; the game has a mix of Johnny Cash style music. Voice overs are great too, making the characters believable and you feel empathize with their emotions.
Sequel? Most Definitely. Downloadable Content
After finishing Alan Wake, you will then realize there will be sequel in bound. Remedy already announced that a sequel is coming but as we all wait for years till it is out, there will be downloadable content to hold us over until then. It is confirmed that there will be a series of downloadable episodes that will expand the story of the first Alan Wake. I have no idea when this will be released but it is already planned.
As you finish the game, you will then realize as to how this game can expand into a big series. Yes, there are a lot of things that can be done in the next Alan Wake games to come. I am not going to spoil it; just wait until you finish the game and remember what I had to say.
When the cutscene starts in Alan Wake, one of the things you will notice is that the voices don’t sync with the animation. The mouth moves but you can clearly see that the words are being spoken first before the mouth is synchronized with the movement. The off-sync issues also applies to the “Night Springs” mini-series you will be watching when you find the TVs scattered throughout Bright Falls. It is no doubt that the voice overs are of high quality but it is a disappointment to see that the lip syncing is not.
Bad Screen Tearing
Through the 16 hours of play time I had with Alan Wake, I’ve noticed a lot of screen tearing from a specific chapter. The least screen tearing was in the first chapter. It is nothing major but you will notice it when Alan walks or the camera is moved. For the severe screen tearing, it will be found in the fourth episode. During the visit to Dr. Hartman’s office, you will see a drastic screen tear that will hurt your eyes. It only applies to one area but after that, it’s gone. Installing the game to the HDD or setting your TV’s resolution to 720p doesn’t help in minimizing the prevalent screen tearing that will appear in the game.
Alan Wake is one of the best and enjoyable games I have played in 2010. The story will engage gamers into playing non-stop as the twist at the end of each episode will crave you into playing more. Despite its bad lip syncing and screen tearing, gamers will be able to ignore these little inadequacies. Integrating a TV-series-like theme in the game works well with its episodic style. No doubt that Alan Wake is already considered to be included on my personal Game of the Year list of 2010. Good Job Remedy! We will now wait patiently for the sequel!Alan Wake Review,