a review by Daniel Haynes
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Horror
Release date: 2010
Alan Wake is a third-person shooter/action game from Remedy Entertainment, who are best known for their ground-breaking Max Payne titles. Alan Wake is a mystery writer who after the release of his last best-selling novel has been suffering from writers block. During a holiday intended to get his creative juices flowing again, his wife disappears, apparently drowning, and he wakes up in a crashed car a week later. Stumbling through the forest to the nearest service station, Alan Wake gets attacked by possessed humans shrouded in darkness. As the story progresses it takes many twists and turns, and culminates in an ultimately satisfying conclusion.
The game is structured as six “episodes” – similar to a short season of a TV show. At the beginning of each new episode, the game even does a “previously on …” segment, much to my amusement. Throughout each chapter, Alan Wake finds pages to a novel which he apparently wrote, but has no memory of. These pages, combined with various radio segments and television shorts placed strategically through each section do a great job at giving the player a break from the intense and frenetic action. The basic combat consists of Alan Wake in various environments throughout the story, armed with a flashlight and a small arsenal of weaponry (picking up pistols, shotgun, hunting rifle, flare gun, flashbang grenades and flares at various intervals).
Overall, the story is quite engaging and very well-paced. The combat is good, but not as polished as I expected. The sections with possessed inanimate objects were very well done. On the other hand, Remedy seems to understand that in terms of atmosphere they were being most successful at creating atmospheric, spooky forests. I say this, because for two-thirds of the game it seems as though Alan Wake finds himself venturing back into the forests for whatever reason, which can get a bit tedious at times. Some other gripes I have with the game include absolutely awful lip-syncing, some inconsistent graphics quality (particularly at the beginning), and some minor graphics glitches and movement bugs. The game does feel polished, but I would expect it to be smoother considering it was in development for over five-and-a-half years.
- Graphics: 9
- Story: 8.5
- Gameplay: 7
- Music: 7
- Voice-acting: 8
- Overall: 8/10
This article was previously published in Dark Matter issue 3, April 2011, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.