Alan Wake’s American Nightmare trailer analysis
Alan Wake released almost two years ago now. Just saying that makes me realize both how fast time flies by and how lasting Alan Wake’s appeal was for those who enjoyed it. Unfortunately more niche than it should be and more of a love it/hate it case, Alan Wake is back in Xbox Live Arcade’s, “Alan Wake’s American Nightmare,” and he has a lot to show us in this reveal trailer. GameTrailers has an (off-sync audio) high quality version of the trailer you can watch by clicking here.
It should also be mentioned this article will contain huge spoilers for Alan Wake and its DLC, and we recommend you play the game before spoiling yourself silly. It really is a story worth experiencing first-hand. Without further ado, let’s analyze this announcement trailer.
(click the images to expand them)
We open up to a flock of crows flying around. This isn’t anything unusual for the Alan Wake franchise as crows are a common enemy fought throughout the original game. Alan starts speaking the dialogue from the last teaser trailer for the game. “I’m going to tell you a secret. There are places in our world where fiction and dreams can come true. These places are a battlefield in a war between the powers of light and darkness.”
We see Alan getting attacked by a swarm of Taken. However, paying close attention to the enemies here, there’s obviously something wrong with the bodies of these creatures. The big muscular guy seems to have something all over his arm, sort of looking like a bunch of open scars and cuts. The guys in the red and blue shirts also have torn and worn-out clothing, suggesting they’ve all been through something rough or something is happening to them. Taken in the last Alan Wake were shrouded in Darkness, but it didn’t affect or change their form. Either these people have something seriously wrong with them (they might even may be corpses given life through Darkness) or the Darkness is doing something to them. We’ll get back to this point later.
We get a quaint sky view at one of the locations in the game. The first thing I want to note is to look at how open that space is. I say this because this might be an issue tackled by Remedy for this sequel of sorts (even if the game isn’t titled Alan Wake 2, it does seem to take place after the events of Alan Wake 1 and is being developed afterward, so a spiritual sequel in that sense). While Alan Wake isn’t going sand-box, it seems they might be opening up the areas to be more vast and explorable. A few other areas will be seen in this trailer, and all of them appear to be of good size with several interesting locations to visit. The locations of the trailer all seems to be confined to one episode, which takes place in a desert town by a canyon. There has been some theorizing this game may be released episodically rather than being a full title. While we can’t say for certain yet, it seems everything in this first trailer takes place during the first episode of the game (touching up more on that in a bit).
You can’t see this in the screenshot, but as this part of the trailer plays, the sky is moving at an extremely fast rate. Clouds zoom by quickly as stars dart by the skyline. This location also notably looks like it’s the evening, as opposed to night as seen in all the other screens. This leads me to believe that this scene takes place before the other scenes in the trailer at night and possibly after a day segment experienced by Mr. Wake. This seems even more likely when looking at the screen IGN released earlier today from the game.
You’ll notice this location matches the windmill and shed seen in the above sky view screen of the area, except in the IGN screen it’s seen from the front as opposed to from behind. It also is very clearly the middle of the night in this screen, suggesting that this might be the area where the episode begins as the town falls into night. However, for the place to even have an evening is a bit strange. Alan Wake when we last saw him was in the Dark Place, which doesn’t have a day and is stuck forever in the night. This might suggest that this location is in fact not the dark place.
A rather nice observatory. As seen a bit later in the trailer, it appears to play a rather big role in the episode, as well as the theme of space. We also get a look at the area from the game’s first screen and teaser trailer, a quiet small desert stop with a gas station and a motel. Finally, we see an oil-drilling plant, which is possibly underground or in a gorge of some sort with the air engulfed with dust and dirt.
And our star is here! He walks away from the motel to a rougher region of the desert. Notably, there is a car with it’s headlights on behind him. Not many people leave their cars on in the middle of nowhere, which suggests something happened there.
In a scene that’s particularly cool, we see physical darkness sweep from the sky and soar over the land, darting off some place to cause nothing but trouble. Darkness seems to have more of a physical presence in this game than the original, where the force of Darkness itself was not seen beyond those that were Taken and the Tornados made up of it.
And the area is given both a name and a map! The setting seen in this trailer is known as Mount Redtooth National Observatory. The map shows there is not but one observatory, but rather three: A main one, a northern one, and an eastern one. There also are a few other locations, such as a storage building and guardbooth, as well as visitor parking (likely what we’re looking at here). Alan is also stepping out of a car, and combined with the fact this area looks like it centers across several visitable locations suggests players may be able to drive cars in this game again. We also get to see Alan’s dazzling checkered shirt.
And we get to see a Manuscript page! While you can’t fully see all of it in the trailer, here’s all that can be made out:
“…and turned until the oil gurgled and
flowed , thick and flamable. The warning lights
were blinking in a fast rhythm, bright and
steady, powered by the battery. The Kasabian CD
was playing in the boom box, all disorted
guitars and intense beat.
High above, some piece of orbital junk or
another collided with the satellite, knocking it
radically off course. Trailing debris, it screamed
down from the skies at an impossibly steep
angle, all that high-tech engineering reduced to
nothing more than a bullet that would destroy…”
We’re about to see some of this play out in front of us a bit later in the trailer. This also clues us in one of the songs in the game will be from the band, Kasabian. To which song might be included in the game, it’s anyone’s guess.
Alan walks into some home and meets with a woman who upon seeing him exclaims, “Oh, it’s you.” Who this woman is, how she knows Alan, and how Alan is meeting with other humans is all unclear. She wears a shirt similar to Alan’s, and notably it looks like she may be Native American by her skin tone. She also is wearing some earnings made of a animals claw and appears to possibly be wearing glasses. They obviously both know each other somehow, but more so for Alan to run into another person besides Zane is one of the biggest mysteries if he is indeed in the Dark Place. However, possibly the desert isn’t the dark place at all, but rather a location in the real-world.
Now this is theory and could end up being something completely different, but Alan himself says, “There are places in our world where fiction and dreams can come true. These places are a battlefield in a war between the powers of light and darkness.” This desert location is obviously one of those places, and as opposed to being in the Dark Place it might in fact be a battlefield in our world. Thomas Zane notes in the Writer he has no idea where the Darkness has gone, for it is currently not in the Dark Place. The Darkness was awoken in the original Alan Wake, and it likely is stirring and trying to free itself upon the world. This place doesn’t seem to be a place Alan himself has ever been to and is his first time visiting rather than a memory. Chances are this either might be a real-world location or a piece of fiction brought to life, or possibly both. Whatever the case, this desert setting may only be one of several locations. Alan through the course of the game might visit several of these battlefields as an agent trying to prevent the Darkness from escaping to the world, spilling out with it and trying to plug it back into the Dark Place. Possibly each episode could be set in a different location around America, thus the title, “American Nightmare.” It might be Alan literally trying to prevent several areas in America from becoming a nightmare. This also would address another issue of the original Alan Wake, not enough variety of locations.
(Author’s edit: People have mentioned this woman may be possessed like Rose was in Alan Wake 1, for if you notice her shadow has shadows coming out of it like a Taken.)
In this next screen, we see a drive-in movie location. You might note that this area was seen earlier in the trailer from the sky during the evening. A film plays showing Alan dressed in a suit gagging and binding a man in a white shirt, putting a bag over his head and dragging him into a room, as if holding him hostage. During this segment of the trailer, Alan says, “I’ve seen the enemy, and it’s me. An evil caricature. He’s called Mr. Scratch.”
Mr. Scratch was from the ending of the original Alan Wake. He appeared in Wake’s image and Alan is told by Tom to not worry. Tom tells Alan that this person’s name is Mr. Scratch (his real name cannot be pronounced by humans and comes out as a bunch of scratching noises) and that he would meet with his friends while Alan was in the Dark Place. Tom being so casual of Mr. Scratch was strange back then, as the name is another name for the Devil in folklore. In the last year when replaying the game I actually had gotten suspicious of Tom. He’s always helping Alan throughout the whole of Alan Wake, but for what purpose? Tom is trapped in the dark place and helps Alan fight Barbara Jagger, the face of Darkness during the game. There’s a lot about Tom that is unknown, but it’s questionable after being in the Dark Place for so long if Tom is even human or why Tom wrote Alan to jump in the lake after him and end up trapped there like he is years before the event would ever happen. Tom may possibly not be as good of a guy as Alan believes, and his ties with Mr. Scratch, who is now Alan’s enemy, thins the lines between friend and foe. Who’s first idea when they find out their girlfriend is possibly possessed is to cut out her heart anyway?
A Taken spawns from a cloud of Darkness in the canyon, a city seen in the distance on the horizon. Notably, this might be the first Taken encountered in the game as you can see the drive-in movie playing in the top-right behind a rock. (Author’s Edit: Several people have noted that this is actually Mr. Scratch as opposed to a regular Taken. Thanks guys!)
Alan walks up to another woman, telling her she needs to tell him what she knows about ‘him’. ‘Him’ in this case is likely Mr. Scratch, but what does the woman know about Mr. Scratch? How does she know Alan? Who these people are is another big ringer, one which we might have to wait to find out.
Alan watches a television between a cabin and a trailer, which has Mr. Scratch on it still with the gagged man behind him. Mr. Scratch also seems to be relaying a message to Alan in an almost taunting way. “Do you know the real difference between us? I’m not afraid to be the center of attention.” Mr. Scratch under Alan’s guise seems to be making Alan’s life worse through a variety of ways. One could say Mr. Scratch, with the gagged man behind him, is implying him killing this man is like all the people Alan has killed as Taken unknown to the general public. Mr. Scratch appears to be poising as Alan as a criminal, a possible murderer. For unknown reasons, maybe for opposing the Darkness, Mr. Scratch seems to want Alan to suffer.
Here we see the event in the earlier Manuscript page coming true, a Satellite speeding towards Earth. To note, the Satellite appears to be possessed by the Darkness as it has the shadowy affect on it that possessed objects do. Various objects have been possessed by the Darkness before, but nothing as far-off or big as a satellite. This stage also seems to have a theme of Space, with the observatory, the satellite, and such. If this is indeed a piece of fiction as opposed to a real world location, it might be based off of a Night Springs episode focused around aliens, perhaps? It also will be interesting to see how the satellite is involved in gameplay.
Alan is entering a cavern as a bunch of Crows starts lunging at him. First I want to note how I love the use of colors in the game so far, but having a more thorough cavern location in the game could be interesting, and possibly it houses that oil field seen earlier in the trailer?
The crows seem to form themselves into a man who grows extremely long, almost beak-like fingers, and his skin gets a lot of black marks all over it and some torn clothing. It seems the Darkness has some new tricks up it’s sleeves and that the crows, for whatever reason, are forming themselves with men to possess them. This also explains the strange markings and torn clothing in the earlier part of the trailer, and leaves us with some questions as to what type of enemies might we be facing in the game?
We see Alan’s staple dodging technique, as well the fact that a weaponless Taken doesn’t swing a bat like other Taken, rather than literally lunge right at Alan with it’s beak-like claws. It’s also to note that Alan through some form of miracle can now turn off his flashlight, which may be a gameplay mechanic.
We see that Alan can still use flares, and pulling one when surrounded by Taken will cause the camera to whip around you with style.
More of the strange Crow Taken show up in what appears to be a desert slum. Alan flashes his light on the enemies even though they don’t appear to be shrouded in darkness. Alan also is shown carrying some new firepower, in the form of a UZI Pistol.
It could be the distortion of the scene making me see things, but is that a female Taken? That would surprisingly be a first.
Near the drive-in movie place, Alan has a face-off with a Taken with an axe. How open this area happens to be is quite refreshing.
This moment is a bit hard to express in photos, but in the trailer it seems the Taken does some sort of move where he quickly slides up to Alan with a Darkness spurt behind him, comes in close and stabs him a few times. It seems to be a new ability Taken can do, or possibly a new type of Taken? While there were fast-moving Taken in Alan Wake, they couldn’t actually hit you until after they stopped moving fast, unlike these guys.
There’s no Taken there, but some sort of shadowy monster on the staircase. It might be a Taken appearing, but nothing like this happens in Alan Wake and the way it moves in the trailer suggests this black cloud-like thing may in fact be a new type of monster. Also notice that it looks like this thing is literally forming from the shadow of the handrail on the staircase. This looks to be some form of monster made entirely of shadows. Alan Wake 1 in development trailers suggested that anything could attack you at anytime. Could shadows themselves become enemies? This scene also seems to take place inside one of the observatories.
Around one of the observatories, Alan Wake carries what appears to be a revolver of some kind that, when shot at a Taken, one-hit kills it and sends it flying away. What a powerful gun! The Taken also is going Gordan Freemen on Alan and coming at him with a crowbar.
And with that, the trailer comes to a close! With an almost B-movie title screen, we are introduced to Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. Maybe the location is set in the Night Springs television series, and the cheap movie/TV-series esque title hints at that? That would also explain the almost sci-fi setting and focus on space. We do get one final scene at the end of Alan getting attacked near some trailers.
These all are observations and theories, we’ll have to see how things really come together with time. Alan Wake 1 was said to be like season 1 of Alan Wake. If this isn’t season 2, would this be something like a movie special? The campy name and title screen might suggest so. Remedy says we’ll be getting new info on this game very soon.
Enjoyed the trailer? Noticed anything else we haven’t, have some theories of your own? Think it’ll be released as a full game, or episodic? We’ll bring you more on Alan Wake’s American Nightmare as it develops.