Alan Wake Review (XBOX 360)
Goes to show how a creepy setting in a nameless Pacific Northwest backwater town can scare the shit out of the manliest of men. Now I try not to toot my own horn but I eat meat, spend time bulking, and share the same general anatomy below the best as Sir Chuck Norris, but even the man who could skewer three men with but a single strand of hair from his beard would scream at some of the set pieces in this really creepy game.
Alan Wake is about a writer who faces the nightmares of his imagination in the sleepy deer hunting town of Bright Falls. The setting is very reminiscent of some of the rustic island towns here in WA State (where I live) and was very familiar to myself having visited (and been creep'd out at night) by the towns here that served as the inspiration of Bright Falls, WA.
The pacing of the game was spot on, and if it wasn't so damn scary I could have allowed myself to beat the main game in a few days (I kept my playing at night to a minimum or I'd never get to sleep). The game plays out in a mission format, with each mission playing out like an "episode" of a TV series, complete with an ending theme song and a "previously on Alan Wake" recap as you start the next mission. The main areas that you traverse vary from a diner or police office in the day time to various wooded areas complete with dilapidated buildings that serve as where you battle the darkness at night. The game plays out like a typical survival horror game, you fight creepy things that go bump in the night and scramble for supplies to keep yourself alive. The game features some of the most unforgettable set pieces and some seriously surprising scares along the way. The music and sound direction is one of the best I've heard in a game for a very long time, you'll find yourself being scared by everything from the wail of a taken to a light bulb cracking in the background.
To fight the darkness you need to shine your flashlight on them until the shroud that protects the "Taken" (the many enemies you face) vanishes, then you can use all sorts of weaponry to make them your evil dual voiced bitch. The controls are very intuitive and battling the Taken is both simple yet challenging. Since light is your weapon, items like flare guns, flash bangs, and road flares play a very important role in your survival. Switching weapons is handled with the d-pad and LT and RT control your flashlight and weapon respectively. In lieu of health items, your health with slowly regenerate, but to get the most regeneration you need to take Alan to a safe haven (usually a lit lamp post or a building with the lights on). The game doesn't do much in the form of encouraging exploration, but a few side roads do lead to hidden caches of items and weapons. The game is very linear, but you never notice it because the pacing is so spot on.
Story: The main story behind the game is about a writer who comes to the town of Bright Falls to get away from his day to day life. Alan Wake is a successful novelist, having hit a bit of a dry spell he decided to take a vacation after his book tour ends. A series of happenings have him and his wife staying at a creepy house in an island on cauldron lake, after having a fight with his wife he steps outside to collect his thoughts; hearing her scream he rushes back to the house and sees that she may have fallen into the lake, Alan jumps in and he suddenly wakes up in his car... seven days after he arrived. The story is engaging but can be confusing at times, overall the highest point for me in the game were the moments in between story cut scenes. The acting is on point but can get pretty cheesy at times, overall it was enjoyable.
For anyone looking for a good scare, Alan Wake is a game for you. If you plan to play it once, give it a rent, but if you want to experience all that Bright Falls has to offer... Alan Wake would not be a disappointing purchase.
Final Score: 4 1/3 out of 5 (B+)