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Alan Wake
Alan Wake

PC | Xbox 360
Genre: Action-Adventure Players: 1
Developer: Remedy Games Official Site:
Classification: MA15+
Alan Wake Review
Review By @ 02:46pm 12/05/10
When Remedy pitched Alan Wake as something of a television series handed to players in episodic form, they weren't kidding. The game takes many cues from various films and TV series of the past; the kind that have reached plateaus of pure pop-culture benchmarks, and I'd be remiss to not mention the likes of Twin Peaks, X-Files, The Shining or even Evil Dead. But it does have its own flair, and this is probably strongest in the early part of the game.

Alan Wake's immediate strength is in its unique-to-videogames narrative, which borrows heavily from the aforementioned, with the added bonus of player interaction. The problem with this is, it seems the guys at Remedy, and Alan Wake's writer, Sam Lake, peaked the experience too early. Understanding this, however, requires a true understanding of the developer's overall intention, which is seriously admirable in the grand scheme of the game's inner workings alongside the arguably daunting task of pacing a game to reflect the static experience of watching events unfold in a non-interactive viewing environment.

The premise for Alan Wake, for those of you who've been living under a rock, sees a successful crime-writer at his wits-end. He's been unable to write for the past two years, suffering from an unmovable writer's block. His wife sees an issue beyond the creative impediment however, and so suggests a holiday in the mountainous small town of Bright Falls. When he arrives though, things turn from bad to worse as a mysterious blanket of darkness begins to haunt Wake, leading to not only the disappearance of his wife, but also an entire week of his life where he has no recollection of where he's been or what he's been doing.

Typical to this somewhat cliched setting, the town of Bright Falls - a fully realised environment for the game - is populated with quirky characters and that small town Americana mentality. Wake arrives there via ferry, and we're immediately introduced to the game's inner monologue narrative pacing, with Wake taking us on his journey, personally. He immediately sounds unnerved and uncomfortable, and this is easily accessible by the player as an extension of the game's foundation. But at the same time, Wake is weak and unyielding in his inability to HTFU; this adds a sense of initial dread - taking this guy through what is already being set up as a thriller is going to be no easy task. This is introduced when you first step off the ferry and into the local diner - controlling Wake is a bit awkward, and he doesn't *feel* strong. Part of this seems intentional, and part of it feels like they're a bit behind the animation and control times over at Remedy.

Events unfold quickly in the game, and it's not too long before you're introduced to the ubiquitous impediment and essential gameplay device that will follow almost the entire way through. Darkness is essentially a character unto itself, along with whatever light you can find. It's safe to say you'll spend at least 90% of the game literally in the dark; your only tool (and weapon) is light, and it's in light you find solace, safety, essential items and strength.

Without giving too much away, for initial reasons unknown, townsfolk have been taken over by a dark presence; their bodies no longer functioning as rational human-beings, but rather vessels through which the darkness can puppeteer its chaos and destruction. What's more is it seems this entity and its minions want Wake, and he has no idea why. The malevolent nature of it however, is not always so direct; setting up moments or instances of divine complexity to ensnare the troubled writer, with the inclusion of various players in this twisted nightmare around him, who either end up savy to the threat at hand, or dead. It's an excellent concept in that the very darkness around you is essentially alive, and pissed at you, and makes for incredible atmosphere and a gameplay mechanic worth touting the game around alone.

If you've ever played Resident Evil 4, you're going to be reasonably at home with Alan Wake. The third-person controls are very similar (though the camera shifts on its own between being behind his left or right side, you can fix this with a click of R3 though), and combat is actually quite satisfying. Enemies are shrouded in the darkness, so getting a bead on them with your torch will wear it away, once you've stripped them of their shadowy shield, you can open fire, and most take between one and five or six shots to bring down, depending on the weapon you're using.

Unfortunately this satisfying combat can become tiresome with the game itself only offering a handful of weapons and even less enemy-types. This takes the scare-factor away quite quickly as everything can become a little repetitive in the confrontation sequences, and I honestly feel they just didn't capitalise on the light versus dark concept. It's a great system in place, to be sure, but only a portion of its potential is truly realised here.

Pacing throughout the game is narrative-driven, and it's actually not such a bad thing being led down a controlled path. There're plenty of wide-open areas for you to explore, and equally plenty of goodies for you to find. Chief among these are manuscript pages from a book Wake apparently wrote but has no recollection of doing so. When you find these, you can read them and pretty much prepare yourself for the event ahead, as they usually outline everything that's either happening to you, or about to happen. For the most part they're not overly in-depth, and the writing itself is pretty good, it's not Orson Scott Card good, more Dan Brown good, but serves a ready purpose for the game's overall narrative and lore. Beyond this are coffee thermoses, the usual weapons and items (Energizer brand batteries anyone?) and hidden weapons caches. You can also switch on radios and listen to radio programs, or televisions replete with story-driving images of Wake going mad in a room, or a Twilight Zone rip-off called Night Springs (which is just plain awesome). Finding all of these will net you the obligatory Achievements.

At the end of every episode, the game will pretty much end with a bit of a cliffhanger, or a hook for needing to get right back into it, and in keeping with the television show concept, these endings are always accompanied by a song, with the next episode always opening "Previously, on Alan Wake...". It works in the game's favour and there's really nothing like it in the videogame realm, I just think the intrigue peaks too early, and you're aware of the overall arc too soon.

From a visual stand-point, the game is lush and engaging. At night, trouncing through dense forest really is immersive through the game-engine, and the lighting is absolutely second to none. Wake's animations, as mentioned earlier, are rigid and lacking, while the facial animations throughout, and lip-syncing need some serious work (we're being told DLC will cover this). Aurally, the soundtrack is actually very good, and sets the game's tone and mood with ease, but at times the voice-acting is just a little on the annoying or cheesy side, and it's hard to work out if this is deliberate or not. As for DLC, we'll definitely be seeing it in the not-too-distant future, and the game's ending definitely leaves room for more exploration of the world Remedy have created here. It's just a shame it's over too quickly, the engagement peaks just a little too early, and the combat lacks any real variety or depth. Wake is a great concept and an enjoyable game, it just falls short of its true potential. Here's hoping Remedy keep their weight behind it though, and broach all of this for subsequent DLC or even a sequel.
What we liked
  • Excellent lighting and atmosphere
  • Episodic approach is handled well and is definitely unique
  • Great soundtrack
  • Fully realised game-world
What we didn't like
  • Not enough enemy variety
  • Shameless product placement
  • Story peaks way too early
  • Driving sequences are balls
We gave it:
Latest Comments
Posted 02:54pm 12/5/10
Driving sequences are balls

I love Ausgamers reviews.
Posted 02:56pm 12/5/10
Dismal effort for something which was in production for f*****g ever.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 02:57pm 12/5/10
the thing is, they're a really small team and the game is good, worth playing for sure, it just lacks the sort of development devotion the concept so sorely needed
Posted 03:17pm 12/5/10
a) Buy
b) Wait for 1st price drop
c) Bargain Bin
d) No Buy
e) Send the developers some faeces in the mail

This game probably rates around (b) then
Posted 03:30pm 12/5/10
Sounds like its another Assassin's Creed
good concept but just not quite there yet.
Posted 03:39pm 12/5/10
I really liked the concept and sound of this when it was first announced, but after reading this I feel let down again. It had such potential with the great ideas too :(

I will still check it out once it hits the bargain bin though no doubt!
Posted 03:44pm 12/5/10
it was ruined the moment it became 360 exclusive
Steve Farrelly
Posted 03:58pm 12/5/10
ravn0s you'd still have essentially the same game on PC, maybe just better visually
Posted 03:59pm 12/5/10
yer i know :(
Posted 04:07pm 12/5/10
it was ruined the moment it became 360 exclusive

agree, was looking forward to this then the made it less sandbox for memory and then xbox only when it was meant to be pc only at the start.

Edit: oh how things have changed
Posted 04:39pm 12/5/10
agree, was looking forward to this then the made it less sandbox for memory and then xbox only when it was meant to be pc only at the start

It was announced as a next gen console and PC title.

Nice review Steve.
Posted 04:44pm 12/5/10
The atmosphere and the story are what I'm interested in. One of my favourite games of all time is still Silent Hill 2 because of the absolutely awesome atmosphere it built up. I mean, the controls and the gameplay in it were pretty s***, and some of the cutscenes and dialogue at times bordered on painfully corny, but I forgive and forget all that because the atmosphere they created was just so awesome. Games like Resident Evil "scare" you, but its just cheap scares with s*** jumping out at you, Silent Hill 2 genuinely freaked me, it was like a slow, get under your skin and f*** with your mind kind of scare.

I'm *hoping* Alan wake delivers something like that, still sounds like a good game, 7.9 is hardly a bad score, a flawed masterpiece maybe? Either way I've been waiting for 5 years for it, even if the game totally sucks, I still have to buy it, I'm too committed to pull out now.
Posted 05:08pm 12/5/10
ravn0s you'd still have essentially the same game on PC, maybe just better visually

As a port yea, but as a PC game hell no.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 05:20pm 12/5/10
Trauma, how do you figure? They didn't cull the sandbox element because they were going to console, it was being developed for both 360 and PC with that in mind, but they couldn't balance the narrative and pacing they wanted with an open-world - it was a gameplay decision. Had nothing to do with tech, ergo, you'd still have the exact same game if it was on PC
Posted 05:54pm 12/5/10
I'm too committed to pull out now.
That's what i thought before sprogging all over your mum.

I'm sorry but someone had to do it.... i mean.. say it.
Posted 09:30pm 12/5/10
They will probably announce it for PC in a years time or so once all the hype over the 360 version has died down. Microsoft have already done it with a number of games which they publish.
Posted 09:51pm 12/5/10
Go steve!! :P
Posted 10:58pm 12/5/10
It's basically Alone in the Dark with lights instead of fire. Still good though, but very repetitive
Posted 11:27pm 12/5/10
That's what i thought before sprogging all over your mum.

Heh, I realised as I was typing it that there would probably end up being some kind of "pull out" related joke. I'm glad it was you though <3
Posted 12:12am 13/5/10
thanks for the review, now i'm definitely NOT buying this game....maybe one day when it's like 20 bucks.
Posted 07:32am 13/5/10
a) Buy
b) Wait for 1st price drop
c) Bargain Bin
d) No Buy
e) Send the developers some faeces in the mail

heh, this should be our official game rating scores!
Posted 08:15am 13/5/10
Is this game out yet??? last i heard it drops on the 20th.
Posted 05:34pm 20/5/10
I still want to give this game a shot. I imagine it being really repetitive, but highly entertaining non the less.
Posted 07:42pm 20/5/10
Picked this up a few days ago, I'm only a couple of hours in so far but I'm loving it, awesome atmosphere and nice and creepy when playing with the lights off.
Posted 07:54pm 20/5/10
yeah it is awesome kiddies, get it up ins your slot drive
Posted 10:12pm 21/5/10
Ok so SPOILER ALERT for anyone that hasn't picked this up like a hot cross bun just yet.

game story line is loosely related to Stephen King's newish one Under The Dome, in that it has fat cops running around like mad chasing some random guy and a small town is in chaos/confusion (although no mysterious Halo-like dome covers the town and the only externalities are freight locomotives and a blackhawk (that oddly goes down, just like in the movie)

It's a shame how the producers neutered the original plans for use of quad core i7 and physx and you can really see how it would have added to the intensity of the gameplay experience when you are watching the cut scenes where they have substituted unladen gpu and cpu power with sprites and bitmap overlay tricks

At a guess I would have to pick it as being an Epic custom Unreal engine or possibly Crytek based, and that's without even having any pre reading of the semantics of the tech used in this one so correct me if I'm wrong.

Bit harsh on a 7.9 Steve but I can understand how you came to that given your disappointments (yeah enemy diversity is very lax and gets boring quick like)

I'm giving this one a good old school C++ for the most engaging story outside of anything that doesn't have dragooons in it
Posted 10:17pm 21/5/10
But doesn't pretty much EVERY stephen king story have a small town in chaos/confusion and inept country cops?
Posted 10:54pm 21/5/10
you're the Kingopedia Khel do tell? Boring author?

maybe the recurring theme is because he likes the po po

last edited by trillion at 22:54:35 21/May/10
Posted 02:59am 22/5/10
Oh, no way, not boring, I love Stephen King, I wasn't giving him s***. I was just saying, small towns, usually in the south west, are a pretty staple thing for Stephen King stories (I think he lives there himself), so it probably wasn't ripped from one particular story, its more just trying to be a stephen king style story in general. Which is a good thing imo, cos it works.

In fact, a friend of mine asked me over msn to give a quick description of what its like, and I pretty much described it as a playable stephen king story.

Thats just from my initial impressions though, I still haven't had a chance to play it more than a few hours yet, and I heard some vague rumour type stuff that the story involves old gods so it may even get a bit of H. P. Lovecraft in there, who knows (well, I'm sure people who've finished it know, but it was a rhetorical question, I don't want the answer, I don't want spoilers :P)
Posted 09:38pm 22/5/10
is the voice on the radio in the Moonshine barn that of Moe from The Simpsons?
Posted 11:43pm 23/5/10
It's not a lake...... it's an ocean O_O

Havok tornado towards the end almost one ups the nuke explosion in Half Life 2

brilliant game, even if it is darker than the ace of spades and more twisted than Conroys Internet filtering policy

last edited by trillion at 23:43:36 23/May/10
Posted 11:50pm 23/5/10
Gonna look for this on ebay and see if I can get it around 50 - 60. If so i'll pick it up and give it a burn
Posted 11:54pm 23/5/10
There was a nuke explosion in Half Life 2?
Posted 12:27am 24/5/10
or was it a gravity well implosion followed by a sudden rapid expansion? Would have to play through it again

actually now that i think about it, what im reffering to happened in either episode 1 or 2 but definately wasn't in the lost coast

Posted 12:39am 24/5/10
cool mgc do progress tracking, who knew? :P
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