Until last night, you had never fired a gun before, but priorities tend to change when you're being hunted by unholy creatures of the night. In Alan Wake, darkness is your most fearsome enemy. The shadows are home to monsters who shun the light, growing more powerful as they slink through the jet-black unknown. You hear a noise behind you and spin around to examine your surroundings, pointing your flashlight from tree to tree, scanning the ground while you ready your trigger finger for the imminent attack. The world of Alan Wake is one of fear and tension--a place where it's perfectly acceptable to be afraid of the dark, because if you're not, you'll be enveloped by the evil forces that dwell just beyond your field of vision. The foreboding atmosphere that permeates every inch of this wilderness never lets you forget the dangers that await the unprepared, but the feeling of dread that defines the early portions dissipates as you get deeper into this moody adventure. Alan Wake doesn't offer enough surprises to keep you unhinged, but the storytelling is so enthralling and the combat is so frantic that you'll be sucked in until the thrilling conclusion.
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A vivid imagination can be a dangerous thing. Alan Wake has been suffering from writer's block ever since he released his most recent best-selling novel two years ago, but he soon realizes there are much worse things than being unable to put pen to paper. A story he's written but has no memory of has come to life, flooding a quiet mountain village with demonic creatures that torment his every waking hour. The dark forces that populate this night-time adventure should be familiar to anyone acquainted with the horror genre, but the unique storytelling gives this game an identity all its own. The acerbic protagonist relays his thoughts on the outlandish events happening all around him through incisive yet oddly poetic prose that breathes believability into these supernatural events. Alan Wake's brash nature makes him unlikable at times, but his unwavering focus to save his wife at all costs makes it easy to empathize with him.
The most interesting aspect of the storytelling comes in the form of optional collectibles you find as you wind your way through dimly lit forests. Pages from your unpublished manuscript lie just off the beaten path, and it's in your best interest to snatch these up even though you have to venture deep into the deadly forests to do so. These passages frequently foreshadow events, giving you a snippet of something terrifying waiting for you around the bend. Other times, they fill in details tangential to your own quest, giving you a peek at what other people in the town are up to. These pages flesh out the story in fascinating ways, but there are even more elements tucked away if your eyes are sharp. Abandoned TVs and radio sets can be switched on to trigger brief expositions that give you another look at what is going on just beneath the surface. The television show is particularly intriguing. Modeled after The Twilight Zone, these creepy scenes contains all the twists and moral lessons the classic series is known for.
Alan Wake is one adaptable author.
The excellent combat builds on the fantastic storytelling, ensuring there is never a dull moment during this roughly 12-hour adventure. Alan Wake has a handy way of dealing with dark-fueled creatures: shine a flashlight on them. You carry said light source in your left hand, and you use this to weaken enemies who dare to challenge you. By pointing it at them for a few seconds, you destroy the darkness inside of them, making them vulnerable to your firearms. This mechanic is not only original, but also leads to thrilling situations. When you're surrounded by a gang of growling beasts, you have to choose one individual at a time to spray with your life-sucking light, and balancing your aim to keep all attackers at bay is exciting. If baddies get too close to you, you can duck out of the way at the last second, triggering a slow-motion dodge that lets you quickly retaliate before they have a chance to attack a second time. Because there is so much ammunition sprinkled about and your health regenerates after every battle, you'll rarely succumb to their aggressive advances, but each encounter is still exhilarating.