Sunday, 6 January 2013

Alan Wake Review

The titular character of the massively popular Alan Wake video game is not your usual action hero.  He begins the game as a popular mystery writer who has begun to have a number of problems writing his new book.  He and his wife travel to the small town of Bright Falls for a vacation so that he can escape these pressures.  Things take a dramatic turn for the worse when his wife goes missing and his search to find her shifts into the realm of the supernatural.  Alan is forced to arm himself and face some of his greatest fears if he wants to find his wife.

The game draws heavily from television shows such as the Twilight Zone, even having its own version in the game world.  It also takes a lot of inspiration for the literary works of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, at several points referencing King directly.  With a story that takes inspiration from suck beloved examples of the genre the game presents a tale that it scary, funny and thrilling in equal measures.
The story is spaced across six episodes, each one written like and episode of a television min-series.  Each episode ends with a cliff hanger like moment that will have you excited for the next part.  Each episode is accompanied by a ‘previously on Alan Wake’ segment to bring you up to date, and their own title song from the games excellent soundtrack.  Although episodic game play has been done many times before to varying degrees of success Alan Wake does it perfectly, creating a game that feels like it came straight form television itself.

The game plays very well, with fairly linear levels that offer enough freedom to leave the beaten track and discover new things that will add little gems to the experience.  Manuscript pages that build on the characters and tell you parts of the story you would not normally see, as well as radio and television sets that show you more of the world around Bright Falls.
Bright Falls itself is stunningly beautiful, a stereotypical small town in the state of Maine, as seen many times in Stephen Kings work, and it offers the gamer something both familiar and frighteningly different.  The wooded environments around Bright Falls are well crafted and great fun to explore on your quest to find your wife, taking you from farmsteads, to lake side vistas, to wooded mountains and abandoned mines.  Each episode has its own unique locations that all feel completely natural to the surroundings of Bright Falls and craft a fully formed, very real location.

The main antagonist in the game is the dark presence, literally a shadowy figure that is using Alan to further its own ends.  Over the course of the game you learn that it is some kind of ancient evil power that is trying to escape its confines and spread over the face of the earth.  Possessing various inhabitants of Bright Falls the dark presence sends these shadow men against Alan.  Having to use both sources of light and fire arms to combat these shadow men gives the game something more than just a traditional action game.  You not only have to worry about the amount of ammunition you have, but how much power you have in your torch, or the distance between the safety of light sources.

Alan Wake is a game that is an almost perfect blend of story, characterisation and interesting game play.  The game will appeal to anyone that is a fan of survival horror or action games, as well as people who may never have played a game before in the past.  If you like horror, especially the writing of Stephen King, Alan Wake is the perfect game for you as you will feel right at home. 


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