The Average Gamer

Alan Wake – Second Opinion and The Future

Back in 2010, The Average Gamer reviewed the Microsoft-published hit, Alan Wake. Unfortunately, Tom Wallis did not see it as a hit.

Personally, I thought the game was excellent, much to the contrary of the review. Although you are able to skip through the cut-scenes, the episodic nature of the story telling does seem a little pointless. At first. By the end, I applauded Remedy for creating something different, and this decision certainly gives the game a TV series feel to it.

Unlike Tom, I don’t find the recaps annoying at all. In fact, they’re a perfect way to round off a session of the game, and due to the large amount of narrative storytelling, a good way to catch up in case anything was missed or misunderstood in the story. One negative point against the chapter structure, however; if the game had been released as separate XBLA chapters, this would complement the structure more.

Regardless of this, the game’s six chapters are Alan Wake’s ‘first season’, much like an American TV show, and it’s the ‘feel’ of the game that gives it its success. The surroundings throughout the game look excellent, and really provide a spooky atmosphere at times. Good to see that that was not lost in Tom’s experience of the game.

Much of the action takes place at night, or darkness at least (no spoilers here), and enemies can come thick and fast so there is a good level of panic thrown in for good measure. The voice acting is superb, and with good reason; as mentioned above, like a novel, there is a lot of narrative here. Which leads onto my next grumble with the review.

Tom’s view was that the cut scene visuals were ‘markedly’ better graphics than the in-game graphics, and ‘makes the rest of the game feel a bit cheap’, which I feel is unfair; they hardly diminishes the experience at all. They don’t ‘break the immersion’, they keep it going. This isn’t the first Resident Evil on PS1! Final Fantasy games have had ‘markedly’ better cut-scene graphics for years, and for me it’s an indication that I can put down my pad for a few minutes, and just enjoy the show. Metal Gear Solid 2, 3 and 4 arguably tip the scale for overuse of cut-scenes. Alan Wake sits nicely in-between.

With Alan Wake, Remedy has created a good dose of narrative, cut scenes and in-game action, and there really has been nothing else like it out there for the last year or two. Also, the in-game graphics of Alan Wake are excellent. Not ground-breaking by any means, but the dark mist effects are awesome, and give the indication that trouble is not far away.

Along with the essential lighting effects (also excellent), although a fairly dark game, the misty environment adds to the suspense the game provides. To be fair to Tom, he does acknowledge that the atmosphere and voice acting are excellent.

The game also boasts a neat set of characters that support Alan through his ‘adventure’, with ‘old town’ folk not too dissimilar to those in SWERY’s gem, Deadly Premonition. I enjoyed the story throughout; at times Alan’s own confusion would even make me doubt what was real and what wasn’t, only within the game of course!

The torch and weapon mechanism is very capable, very Resident Evil-like in execution, and fairly simple to get to grips with and use throughout. It can get a little panicky with the torch element however, particularly if you have ran out of oddly-product-placed batteries. Acknowledged as ‘functional’ in Tom’s review, but also ‘intriguing’, I believe there is room for some tweaking, but overall makes for some frantic, action packed moments.

The driving elements are highlighted by Tom as a particular weak area, but I failed to notice this myself, largely due to the rollercoaster pace of the game. I certainly didn’t get any feelings of dread that Tom felt when presented with another vehicle section. Could be worse; could have chosen to walk instead. The handling of the vehicles is more of a Saints Row The Third quality than Grand Theft Auto IV, so it’s capable, but not perfect, with headlights being used just as the torch is used when on foot. Unless you are hunting for all the collectibles, these sections can be made brief by just flooring it to the next section. It also provides some variation from the usual gun/torch combat.

All in all Alan Wake, in my opinion, is an excellent game, and I am very proud to have this in my collection. When I received the game Christmas 2010, it was retailing at £9.99, with the first DLC for free also. Quite possibly the best bargain on Xbox at the time.

These are aspects to build on/tweak for the impending release of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, an XBLA exclusive. But not too much, I hope. This has also been confirmed as neither a sequel to the original nor a follow on from the 2 DLC episodes. So, a self contained story, which from first impressions, has a ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ feel to it. I personally am looking forward to it, and will definitely purchase upon release.

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