Please just 5 more minutes!!
So I recently beat Alan Wake. I admit I was skeptical about this game at first, like it was just going to be an Alone in the Dark clone. (and not the good ones) I wasn't behind this game 100% before it came out but I saw a deal for it in the newspaper ads and had to go for it. I have to say, I was pleased overall.
I'm sure anyone who follows gaming knows the premise behind the story as it has been riding the hype machine for a good while now. A struggling author who writes very much like Steven King goes for a vacation to a sleepy Pacific Northwest town. He and his wife are planning for a nice quiet vacation just to get away from it all. You come to learn very quickly however that this isn't going to be a happy vacation.
The game actually starts you off in a dream where you are running through these dark woods and learning how to dodge and sprint and all kinds of things, your typical tutorial level fare. Then you encounter this bright beam of light that tells you how to kill these enemies called taken. Basically they are people who have been 'taken' (clever i know) by the darkness and there is only one solution. FLASHLIGHT MURDER!!!! In a game mechanic I haven't seen since Luigi's Mansion you have to shine your flashlight on the baddies and then vacuum them up. Well in Alan Wake just replace vacuum with bullets to the face. Also it seems that Alan has magical flashlight powers because if he squeezes it harder the beam gets more intense burning away their shields of living, moving darkness. Despite what you may think about the mechanic it is actually fun. I don't know if it's the repetitiveness or what but once you get into it you will enjoy it. Except for when it doesn't work.
This is where the game suffers an ALMOST fatal flaw. One of the major mechanics in the game is where you can dodge attacks and where a Steven King doppleganger gets the reflexes of a fighter pilot I have no idea but whatever. So when you dodge an attack the game slows down to slow motion sometimes. The first couple times you do it you look at the screen and go 'ooooh' but when you are doing it while surrounded by 4, 5, or even 6 enemies you don't want the camera to spin around and go slow. you want to keep your perspective. I can't count the times I have dodged an attack only to be killed by the next guy because I couldn't see him after the slow-mo. I thought dodging was supposed to keep you alive not move you into the path of a rusty ax. Tetanus much?
Speaking of axes... The music in this game is epic. So much in fact that I would buy the soundtrack. The music that plays in game when you are actually running about and killing things is forgettable but does help to purvey a sense of tension and despair throughout the levels. The sound direction isn't as tight or eerily close to whats happening on screen as say Dead Space. Where in Dead Space the music just added to the fear and terror of the game, Alan Wake's in game music is more for atmosphere. In Dead Space I was literally scared, and I don't get scared. I credit that to the fantastic sound direction. I never jumped in Alan Wake or really felt afraid for what was going to happen next. That's not to say I wasn't curious what was going to happen in the story, but I never had the feel of overwhelming I'm not going to survive dread. At any rate the actual music tracks they use are awesome. For this game they wrote a good bit of original music that really moves the story along and is enjoyable to listen to. The Old Gods of Asgard are my new favorite band. I know I talked about sound direction and all that and how it wasn't top notch, but there is one set piece in the game that blew my mind and I'm sure many others. Who hasn't dreamed of fending off zombies in the middle of a pyrotechnics loaded rock-and-roll concert?
Ok what next? Ahh the graphics. For the most part they look good, a few glitches here and there and the faces look weird, like woah. Uncanny Valley much? Games just can't really capture mouth movements yet. Other than that one thing really bothered me about the otherwise stellar graphics. When you would go from cut scene to gameplay the contrast and lighting, and overall style of the graphics would change. Where in the cutscene it would be dark and overcast looking, with a bit of a film grain when you would get back to actual in game it would be bright and welcoming. Just something that I thought really destroyed the illusion. That brings me to my next point.
Many people have griped about the plethora of collectibles throughout the game and how it pulls you out and really takes the game down a notch as far as innovation goes. In a sense the game wasn't really trying to innovate, it was trying to tell a story. Personally I think that the collectibles were there for a reason. I remember there were parts in Dead Space where I was praying to find a save station around the next corner because I was terrified of playing the game and my head couldn't take it anymore because it just got in my mind. Alan Wake does the same thing you really can get wrapped in the story and I'm sure some people can get scared. I believe they threw the collectibles in there for the simple fact that you need to know it's a game and that bulldozers aren't really coming to life outside. I've never had a problem separating games from reality, but I know some people. I could be way off base with this, if nothing else it's a good source of achievements.
Speaking of achievements there is one in this game where you have to watch a Verizon commercial, that's all I'm going to say about that.
Overall if you were a fan of shows like Twin Peaks, Harpers Island, Lost, Heroes, any of those shows where its all gloomy and crazy story twists, etcetera then you will probably like this game. I have to say overall it was an enjoyable game and I had fun with the time that I spent with it. I am also curious as to what sort of DLC they put out for the game.
Luigi's Mansion+Dead Space+Twin Peaks+Stephen King+collectible thermoses =4/5
I wish the controls would have been tighter and some of the graphical issues would have been non-existent then this game would have scored a 5.
Until next time
Ride Hard, Game On!