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James Varoutsos
28 May, 2010

Alan Wake Review

360 Review | Wake up Alan.
Almost five years have passed since the world first heard about Alan Wake, and since then the videogame industry has changed, many blockbuster titles have come and gone; though Alan Wake continued to remain an enigma, until now. Alan Wake built itself up to be a truly brilliant title, with great visuals, even better gameplay and a story that would have made Steven King jealous. Now that Alan Wake has finally been released in final form, how does it fare all these years after its conception?

Alan Wake has certainly delivered on all fronts, releasing probably one of the best titles of the year. The gameplay was right on the mark and the story behind it all is probably the best we’ve seen in many years. The game has the titular novelist character, Alan Wake, on holiday in the American northwest town of Bright Falls suffering a really bad case of writer’s block. Upon arriving at a small cabin at Cauldron Lake, a sequence of events occur that leave Alan sitting in his wreaked out car, a week later, with his wife, Alice, missing. What follows from there is a series of twists and turns that propels the game forward, bringing with it plenty of action sequences, mixed in with moments of sheer suspense. The episodic way the game is played out only helps to create the great sense of suspense, but also helps give the game a good consistent pacing that many modern titles simply lack. It helps highlight the innovative delivery of this game.

Be vewy vewy qwiet... I'm hunting a dark presence.

Be vewy vewy qwiet... I'm hunting a dark presence.
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Throughout the game Alan is confronted with an ever-growing dark presence, which seems to have consumed Bright Falls and its citizens. Dark humanoid beings appear from the shadows, consumed by this presence, set out to hunt down the citizens of Bright Falls, including Alan Wake. Since this dark presence is only affect by light, the important role of light is quickly established through the use of a torch and a supply of batteries, flares and flashbangs. The limited supply of these commodities creates a continuing sense of desperation throughout the game. Alan also has access to a variable arsenal of weapons, including revolvers, shotguns and hunting rifles, along with upgrades that give you more powerful torches and weapons. Alan Wake to date is among the few games where (most) quick-time events are given a real sense of meaning; as Alan pulls the ripcord of any number of petrol and diesel generators to get the lights going, a sense of urgency takes hold as Alan often gets surrounded by the dark beings.

What helps contribute to the environment of the game is the non-linear way sections of the game are set out in what is essentially a linear story. Getting from point A to point B will leave an open pathway that'll allow the player to explore any number of corners for collectables (coffee thermoses and can pyramids) and supply caches. There are also pages of a manuscript Alan has no recollection of writing lying about the place, and these pages help establish the story and give a little insight to events that may happen in the future. These manuscript pages aren't scattered in an orderly manner either, which helps create a sense of mystery to the events that are yet to unfold. A little exploration could mean the difference between finding roughly half the manuscripts and all the manuscripts, which can really help make sense of what is in happening in this very chaotic situation.

Flare up!

Flare up!
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The length of the game is reasonable, as rushing through the game will clock it in at roughly seven to eight hours, though the real enjoyment comes from stumbling across all the collectables, amusing Steven King-esque television shows and the rather interesting musings of the local radio shows. On average the game will last a respectable good ten to twelve hours (which is what was stated by Remedy), with the promise of add-ons in the form of additional-episodes coming very soon. The ten or so hours of play aren’t just fruitless puzzles, quests or artificial game lengtheners, as the story remains interesting and rich right up until the brilliantly done ending, and remains well paced with plenty of beings to fend off, new twists and turns even after the game is finished.

For what is a very polished game (which was finished almost a year ago), Alan Wake doesn't completely escape various bugs and glitches. There was an instance where Alan had been killed just as a mission had been finished, and after the cutscene had played I was taken back to the last checkpoint. Later in the game Alan comes up against poltergeists which possess various inanimate objects such as train carriages, appliances and tires. While these add an extra element of suspense to the game, their execution wasn't particularly great as they constantly ended up being stuck in corners and against walls. Apparently poltergeists don't understand the concept of a wall. While the majority of the quick-time events in Alan Wake were really brilliant, there was the trademark 'useless' quick-time event here and there which like in many games past, would leave you scratching your head.

I know what you did last summer.

I know what you did last summer.
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Overall, Alan Wake lives up to five years of suspense and absolutely delivers. A rich, truly brilliant story presented in an innovative and clever fashion with gameplay that accompanies the storyline very well. Alan Wake left the impression that this was a well thought out story, presented as a game that clearly knows what it wants to be and a game that despite a couple of negligible issues was extremely well-polished title for a game of this day and age. Alan Wake is a very strong exclusive horror title for Microsoft that has really set the trend for other games in the genre.
The Score
Alan Wake is an absolute masterpiece of great storytelling engrossed in a deep backstory, accompanied with brilliant complementary gameplay to an amazing degree. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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13 Comments
3 years ago
Sold me, was on the fence too.
3 years ago
One little thing: I definitely recommend playing on Hard from the outset.

Finished it last night and loved it. Can't wait for the DLC.
3 years ago
Yes, a must buy.
And I agree, sharkfinblues. Play on Hard.
Absolutely brilliant.
3 years ago
I've just begun it now.

Does the voiceover narration ever stop and/or get less annoying? Seriously, it's weird that one little detail (OK, two. The WEIRD AS HELL MOUTHS on everyone also get me) can so profoundly wreck a game for me.
3 years ago
Yeah I too agree you need to play it on Hard, Normal is fine but its a little 'too easy'. I think I only died about 4 times, and 2 of those times was by accidentally falling off a cliff lol

I'd give it an 8/10 though personally... not as good as I thought it would be but still a top game.
3 years ago
I'll be picking this one up once I'm done with RDR. That might be a while though..
3 years ago
Started on hard as I wanted some scares, right choice =]

Has anyone else died from falling off the bridge RIGHT at the start by the first thermos?
I wanted to see if there were invisible walls icon_razz.gif
3 years ago
Why is the reviewer talking about quick time events? There's no qte's in this game
3 years ago
I think he's referencing the starting of generators, which does feel a little tacked on saeeing as so far I have yet to switch one on in the thick of battle.

I'd probably give the game an 8.5, yet it's also my favourite game of this generation. I docked a point for the lip syncing and a half for the fact that the camera doesn't stay over the right shoulder when I switch shoulders.

I'm surprised at the "10-12 hours" though. My timer is on about 12 now, and I've only just finished Chapter 3, granted I'm playing on Hard as opposed to normal and I've done a bit of snooping (ok a lot of snooping) but it hasn't really felt like I've been procrastinating at all (possibly because my searches net manuscripts which add to the story, so it feels like even in my collectible hunt I'm still learning about the World).

So yeah, even though I'm only halfway (I think there's six episodes) I cannot wait for the DLC, definitely my favourite game of a very long time.

I forgot to add as well, that this is the most perfect example of survival horror as well. It also proves that you don't have to have a main character that moves like a tank in order to create survival horror. Wake can dodge better than most action titles, but the sheer number of enemies and the fact that they approach from every direction means that you never feel safe until you're standing under that lamp (or have a dozen flares on hand). It also helps that the best you can hope for weapon wise is apparantly a five round hunting rifle, sure it drops the bigger dudes with two hits, but getting the darkness off of them is 90% of the battle and without flashbangs this can prove very tricky.

The animations need extra credit too, I love how "human" Wake feels to play. Mainly in the combat, the dodges feel like a standard guy getting out of the way of a maniac with an axe, not superman doing thirty flips to get out of harms way. I particularly like the touch where you go to in the opposite direction to what you're facing and Wake stumbles a moment until he has balance. There's so many little things in this game that so many other titles forego that just create this wonderful atmosphere.

Also, in regards to the product placement, I'm really not seeing it. Everybody is rabbiting on about the "energizer" batteries but I had no idea of any brand until it was mentioned in Penny-Arcade, I've never been close enough to what I'm picking up to see any kind of logo. Is it really that rampant and I'm just blind, or are people making mountains out of molehills again?
3 years ago
Sin Ogaris wrote
I think he's referencing the starting of generators, which does feel a little tacked on saeeing as so far I have yet to switch one on in the thick of battle.
It was that, the quicktime events to get out f bear traps, pushing rail carts and the most useless one; the 'kick' button used to kick open a door just before a cutscene.

Sin Ogaris wrote
I'm surprised at the "10-12 hours" though. My timer is on about 12 now, and I've only just finished Chapter 3, granted I'm playing on Hard as opposed to normal and I've done a bit of snooping (ok a lot of snooping) but it hasn't really felt like I've been procrastinating at all (possibly because my searches net manuscripts which add to the story, so it feels like even in my collectible hunt I'm still learning about the World)
I only ended up with just over half the manuscripts, though if I did any more snooping I would've felt like I was milling around. Though at 12 hours, it's very respectable for a modern game, if your so inclined you could probably get it out to about roughly 20 hours if you did the nightmare difficulty and spent more time snooping around.

Though at 20 hours I still would've been just as happy.

Sin Ogaris wrote
I forgot to add as well, that this is the most perfect example of survival horror as well. It also proves that you don't have to have a main character that moves like a tank in order to create survival horror.
Everything came together to create such a suspenseful title, though you have to give real credit to the writer(s) of Alan Wake. It just added that extra layer of depth and allowed you to really become immersed in the events surrounding Alan Wake.

Sin Ogaris wrote
Also, in regards to the product placement, I'm really not seeing it. Everybody is rabbiting on about the "energizer" batteries but I had no idea of any brand until it was mentioned in Penny-Arcade, I've never been close enough to what I'm picking up to see any kind of logo. Is it really that rampant and I'm just blind, or are people making mountains out of molehills again?
I noticed the product placement, though really it's become such a trend it really doesn't need a mention, plus it wasn't as crass as most other titles that use product placement, you'd really need to take a close look around to really notice it.

I'll probably review the DLC when both episodes are released later this year.
3 years ago
Hmm. I picked this up and played it for a couple of hours and really thought it was well below average and pretty boring, so I swapped it for RDR. A bit creepy perhaps, but in no way scary and the combat was beyond ordinary.

Maybe I just needed to give it more time?
3 years ago
Great story and atmosphere, gameplay pretty meh. Still had that awesome feel that Max Payne had which was great.
3 years ago
Clocked this over the weekend. Fantastic game, I really enjoyed it. Agree with the 9/10.

It was a great story, I was worried in the trailers it would end up being a strange twisted mess. But it all comes together nicely and I'm actually interested in the DLC to see what they do.

One thing this sort of game does right is achievements. They are all achievable but placed in a way designed to make you play the game in different ways.

Did I like this or Heavy Rain more? Tough question, both excellent stories and gripping games.

Excellent stuff.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  20/05/10 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  Action Adventure
Year Made:
  2008
Players:
  1

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