The dark has always been a source of fear for many people, and in Alan Wake – a game based around fear of the dark – it is your deadliest enemy. In this 3rd person horror game, you play the role of Alan Wake, a novelist who hasn’t put pen to paper for over two years. Suffering from writers block, his agent decides it would be a good idea for him to spend a break away from the hustle of city life in the sleepy town of Bright Falls. He travels there with his partner, where he intends to spend a fortnight in a log cabin recuperating and finding his inspiration to write once again. However, in the first night the couple spends there, disaster strikes; his wife is taken by a strange supernatural force and Alan is thrust into a nightmare world where nothing is as it seems and the darkness is his enemy…
Reminding me as something of a cross between a Stephen King novel and an episode of Twin Peaks, the story in Alan Wake is probably the best thing about the game. Presented in the form of a television serial, with each chapter of the game introduced with a quick recap of the events that preceded it, it is both imaginative and original enough to keep you playing through until the end.
As gripping as the story is, it will come to no surprise to find that this game is heavy on atmosphere. Visually, you are in for a treat, with creepy, fog filled woodlands and forest paths to explore with only your torch to shine the way. Danger literally lurks around every corner as well, as your main enemy are demonic creatures called The Taken, who are manifestations of one of Alan Wake’s unwritten manuscripts who are susceptible to any form of light. Blast them with your torch for a few seconds and they will lose their resistance, leaving the door open to shooting them with a pistol or shotgun.
The in-game combat is also something that you will be impressed by, with the pulse guaranteed to be pounding as you frantically try and avoid enemy Taken, keeping them at bay with your flashlight and shotgun whilst you make your way toward the light.
Whilst this isn’t quite the free-roaming experience we were lead to believe it would be in development, the town and surrounding woodlands around Bright Falls offer a lot to keep you interested, even if you cannot explore very far from the games linear path. There are numerous hidden items to discover along the way, and both pages from your missing manuscript to collect and coffee thermos jars for added points. Actually, I am not really sure of the point in collecting the jars, but hey, it’s something to collect at any rate, and if they unlock an achievement after grabbing them all, then so much the better.
You will also find television sets and radios along the way that you can switch on and watch or listen to. They help provide background information on the plot, the town you are exploring and, on the television sets, a special in-game show that is modelled after The Twilight Zone. This in particular is entertaining to watch, and it is very cleverly done.
At the end of the day, this game is all about the atmosphere, and with a gripping plotline to keep interest high, and graphics that ooze eeriness and that are incredibly detailed, you are sure to get your money’s worth from Alan Wake.
Whilst this game has spent an abnormally long time in development (six long years), the wait has arguably been worth it. It is just such an atmospheric game to play, especially with the light off, and as an overall product it really is a polished effort. Roll on Alan Wake 2, but please, let it not be another 6 years until that particular game sees the light of day…