Alan Wake – First Impressions

30 May

The darkness is alive. Shadows stir and possess townsfolk, turning them into monsters and murderers. The light is your only hope, but it can last for only so long.

Alan Wake by Remedy Entertainment is an action psychological thriller video game for the Xbox360 and PC released in episodes. In it, gamers play as Alan Wake, come to Bright Falls, Washington on vacation with his wife Alice after two years of nightmares and writers block.

Immediately after entering the town, things turn strange. Alan picks up the keys to their cabin from a woman in widow’s garb (right) in the dark hallway of the town diner. After insisting on meeting Alan’s wife, he hurries out of the diner and gives Alice directions to the cabin. The two drive off as out of the diner a man comes running, holding his head and shouting that they’ve forgotten the keys to the cabin they rented.

After this, events only get weirder. Alice is terrified of the dark so when Alan and her fight over a visit with a psychiatrist and a typewriter, he storms into the night to catch his breath. That’s when he hears her screams and gets back to the cabin in time to watch his wife get sucked into the lake by an unseen presence. Leaping after her, all goes black for Alan who wakes up a week later on the edge of a cliff and without any memory of what has happened since Alice disappeared into the dark water.

Confused, worried, and surrounded by darkness, Alan has no choice but to hike from where his car crashed at the cliff and down to the nearby gas station. Along the way he encounters the Taken, men who have been possessed by the darkness. To survive, Alan must stay in the light and kill the taken before they kill him.

This is only the beginning. Where is Alice? What are the Taken? And why are their pages to a book scattered about the town of Bright Falls that was written by Alan Wake…but he can’t remember ever writing? With more questions than answers, the first Episode of Alan Wake opens with a bang and sucks you right in.

Unfortunately, the action part of the game isn’t as great as the story. In typical thriller fashion, players are given a limited amount of resources to defeat their enemies. This can leave a player without ammo – which means certain death as the Taken cannot be outrun. That wouldn’t be a problem if Alan could throw a punch – he can’t – or if the aiming wasn’t so shitty.

Players aim their weapons not at a reticle in the middle of the screen, but to where the flashlight is pointing. While you can aim the flashlight exactly where you want, doing so immediately uses up your battery – another quick way to end up dead. When not directly aiming the flashlight, the beam is pointed to the right and down a little bit – so the gun is as well. This is a massive pain in the ass during fights where missing twice means certain death.

So far, the story has more than made up for the iffy game play. Each new page of the mysterious manuscript keeps me on edge with a glimpse of what’s coming next. The story has me sucked in, questioning everything that’s said and seen and wondering who’s going to be Taken next.

Normally $35, the Alan Wake Collector’s Edition, including all episodes is on sale on Steam for $3.50 until June 3rd. For fifty cents more, gamers can pick up Alan Wake’s American Nightmare as well. I recommend any gamer to play this game – the twists and turns are worth it.

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