Darkness is a powerful force. Not knowing what lies beyond the safety of the light can be absolutely terrifying to those with an overactive imagination. But fearful fantasy turns deadly in the bucolic town of Bright Falls, Washington, where the whispering shadows hold untold horrors that reach out from the darkness. Alan Wake spins into an intensely atmospheric psychological thriller that bends the barrier between reality and fiction until it snaps, delivering a chilling story-driven experience without leaning too heavily on schlocky gore. With a beautifully updated graphics engine and free pack-in downloadable content that fills in some of the gaps left by the original's cliff-hanger ending, the PC version is worth the long wait.
That sure as heck wasn't a coyote.
For successful big-city writer Alan Wake, a much-needed vacation to the remote countryside turns nightmarish as he is beset by demonic beasts and haunted by a malevolent paranormal presence that seeks to destroy him. When Wake's wife goes missing from their lakeside cabin retreat, he sets out into the dark woods to find her and winds up a protagonist in his own horror novel--one he doesn't remember ever writing. Unfolding across six TV-show-like episodes, the main story features top-notch suspense packed with memorable characters, humorous moments, bizarre plot twists, and an abundance of eeriness. Wake's narration of each freaky event as it unfolds in and around Bright Falls weaves an inner monologue laced with self-doubt and disbelief. It makes him an intriguing, troubled character and serves as one of many effective storytelling mechanics put into play.
Manuscript pages found scattered throughout each chapter flesh out the tale in other ways too, offering backstory and perspective on the creepy town, its people, and what's happening to them. These snippets of narrative text are most potent when they describe horrific foreshadowed events that have yet to happen to Wake. It's pleasantly nerve-racking to pick up a page that describes a gruesome encounter only to realize a few minutes later that you've just stumbled into the setting where its about to take place. Alan Wake's classy horror vibe relies on escalating tension and building suspense to keep you hooked. You might not jump out of your chair outright, but expect sweaty palms and general anxiousness at every turn on the gripping trek through this unsettling tale.
You'll need more than a shabby blazer and a hoodie to survive in these parts.
Bright Falls is anything but--the gloomy mountainside town is a patchwork of gas stations, a small downtown with shops and houses, a radio station, a sawmill, an abandoned farm, underground mines, scattered pockets of communities, and lots of wilderness. It's an isolated place cloaked in dark mystery, which provides a fitting, rural setting for the supernatural adventure to play out. Exploring the diverse terrain through each distinct area, often with little more than a flashlight or dim lamp in the distance to light the way, is simply captivating. These remote vistas were hauntingly beautiful on the Xbox 360, but the extra visual details, enhanced lighting, and overall crispness found in the PC version make it even more impressive. While some of the character animations feel a little jerky and dated at times, the tightly crafted presentation gives off a great moody atmosphere.