Review: Alan Wake

Alan Wake, a game that people thought would never see the light of day, was Remedy’s latest after two Max Payne titles. So the question upon the release of the game wasn’t just how does this stack up against Remedy’s previous efforts, but also how does this game do on its own merits after such a lengthy devlopment time? This review will focus on the latter question, and spoiler* : (It’s a 10 out of 10). Find out why below.

The basic narrative set-up for the game is as follows:

A writer by the name of Alan Wake, is being faced with writer’s block. To help counter this obstruction to his profession, and to help fix his marital life, he and his wife Alice head to Bright Falls. While getting a new idea for a novel wasn’t what Alan Wake necessarily set out to do, he finds himself doing just that, and much more.

That’s it, because if delved any further there is a risk of spoilers, and even minor details should be kept under wraps because this is a game that everyone should go into without any significant plot knowledge. This is also a game that once the credits roll, one should sort out time to go through it again. Yeah the story, and overall game, is that good.

Since this is being touted as a phsychological thriller, it should come as no surpise that this title doesn’t stray far from those genre conventions and thus bringing players twists galore. While the ending may come as a huge cliffhanger, leaving alot of questions unanswered and posing new ones entirely, this was to be expected seeing as how Remedy has structured the title to mirror that of a genre tv series. And just like any season finale of a beloved show, it leaves the player anxiously waiting for Season 2, and of course the DLC that will be released as bridge leading towards the next season. (With two already announced)

When it comes to video games, in essence, the gameplay must be prominent throughout the entirety of a title, thus leading to concerns with Alan Wake having too much of a focus on its plot while neglecting enjoyable and sufficient gameplay mechanics. Put all those conerns aside, because this title delivers not only story wise but gameplay wise as well, with mechanics that conveniently compliments the plot’s dread induced atmoshpere.

The game has you, in it’s night time sequences mostly, wielding a flashlight in one hand and a fire arm in the other. These two pieces of equipment are meant to compliment each other when taking out the game’s foes known as “the taken”. Cast your light on the sharp object donning townspeople taken over by the darkness, then finish them off with a reasonable amount of ammunition from your acquired firearms. It works well and it makes for some great encounters, especially when faced with a multitude of taken all at once. This is where the secondary items come in: flares and flashbangs. Drop a flare in a strategic spot while you reload or cast light to a far away enemy while in your crimson colored safe haven. Then finish them off with bullets or a flash bang, the gameplay may seem limited but it opens up to player preference and allows for alot of tactical input the likes of Dead Space’s dismemberment.

As aforementioned, most of the combat takes place in the game night time scenarios, so one might ask for what comprises the day time scenes? Adventuring, and alot of interaction. Adventuring in the form of finding items and also having to rely on cars as a form of transportation. This is where the game shows its free roam sand box roots, in the driving segments and the majority of the game actually. You’ll spend a majority of your time trekking through a creepy atmoshperic forest, more on that later, and there is alot of distance covered if one decided to travel off the beaten path. It makes one wonder how this game would have been if it were a full fledged sand box title set in the fictional town of Bright Falls.

But going back to gameplay, yes it intuitive and no the day time scenese aren’t dull and boring, far from it. They serve as great plot devices advancing the plot and permitting players to getter more acquianted with the world around them and the people who inhabit it. This is where atmosphere kicks in, and oh boy is it effective.

Every game worthy of critical acclaim has memorable aspects to it. Whether it be Uncharted with its action packed set pieces or Bioshock with it’s underwater utopia. There is always something the player will remember long after the credits have rolled, and in Alan Wake’s case it relates to the latter seeing as how Remedy has created a world that is extremely memorable. Enter Bright Falls.

One can’t talk about this game’s atmosphere without also mentioning the graphics and sound that lend a critical hand in making this world extremely full of life and horror. Trees howl and even growl in the darkness, branches sway, and you always feel like you’re being pursued what with the sounds of footsteps present in the background. The game is visually arresting and effictively makes one feel terrified of this place. The sound is no slouch in this either, Remedy has done a remarkable job with the audio department.

Licensed tracks are used and you get to a point of goosebump inducing thoughts when you hear how some of the songs’ lyrics may mirror what the titular character is experiencing. The presentation of the game makes Bright Falls seem like a real place. Akin to something one can about in issues of Weird NJ. Yeah not a place a great number of people would be calm in visiting. Oh and how can one forget to mention the other subtleties thrown into the mix? I won’t spoil anything for the sake of having everyone reading who hasn’t played the game yet experience it for themselves, but fans of Twilight Zone will not be dissappointed, nuff’ said.

So with all the praises I have been singing for this game with this review, was it ultimately worth the long wait Remedy imposed upon eager fans? You bet it was. Remedy has delivered another gem to the survival horror genre and all the while succeeding in crafting a world that is as terrifying as the exeriences Alan goes through in the story. It also presents a perfect marriage of sound and visuals to further cement Bright Falls as a memorable video game setting. Quite simply, this game cannot be missed whether you’re a fan of the genre or not, this is single player story driven gaming at its finest. Deserves more praise that it has been getting , critically and commercially.

Alan Wake gets a 10 out of 10.

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