In Alan Wake, players assume the role of a down-and-out author who travels to a small mountain town on vacation. Almost immediately, things take a turn for the worse, with monsters lurking in the woods, a missing spouse, and a mysterious "dark presence" taking over the Twin-Peaks-like town of Bright Falls.
Alan Wake is heavily pitched as being a "psychological thriller." Do the story and gameplay work together, or does it all just get lost in the darkness?
Jeff: Alan Wake has been on our radar for years. It's been so long that at times it seemed the game was destined to fall into purgatory, never to be fully realized--but thankfully, all that has changed. Aside from an occasionally wonky camera, Alan Wake delivers on almost every level. The game is able to provide a compelling narrative; believable, fleshed-out characters; and legitimate moments of terror through its unique take on using the elements of light and dark.
It's refreshing to see a game attempt to innovate in ways few have tried before. Alan Wake concentrates as much on story as it does gameplay. This delicate balance forces you to invest in both evenly, which helped us connect various events and plot points in the game. The story isn't without its occasional confusing spots, but overall, the core exposition in Alan Wake is one of the best we've seen in games. It's one of the first psychologically thrilling stories we've really seen work well using a video game as a vessel to convey it. More of the story is told through manuscript pages scattered throughout the world, which unravel more of Wake's tale.
In homage to American dramatic television series, Alan Wake is set up like a season of episodes, each with its own unique cliffhanger. The "last time on Alan Wake" wrap-up that precedes each episode feels eerily familiar, like we are catching up on what happened last week. These not only give the game some narrative credibility, they actually work well to help explain the story. A lot happens in each episode, so we were happy to see something that refreshed our memory when it was time to jump back in.
Unique story delivery notwithstanding, sure, Alan Wake has its cliches. You'll be loading up on ammo and batteries at each checkpoint and your health will regenerate over time (even more quickly when under a spotlight). Mostly everything else is a fresh take on combat; your flashlight acts as the main weapon in your arsenal, removing the darkness from the creatures that plague you. Once you've eliminated the darkness, those enemies become vulnerable to conventional weapons like shotguns and rifles.… Read more