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Alan Wake Review
Review Score:

I was excited to give Alan Wake a go. Make no mistake, it’s not the sort of game I usually pick up. I like simple and fun games like Mario Kart – I tend to avoid games where people are shooting at me, because it makes me feel slightly oppressed. However, Alan Wake felt different to previous third person shooters I have tried. It is high action, and people are trying to kill you, but at the same time, it’s like you are watching a horror film or TV series.

Alan Wake is an author, finding himself in the town of Bright Falls, where his wife, Alice, suddenly goes missing. The key to the game is that the mild mannered residents of the town have been taken over by some sort of Darkness (but not of terrible rock band fame), which you need to fight with light, before you can vanquish them with bullets. I must confess, I was hugely pleased that there were no snipers in the bushes and gunmen at every turn, I felt I stood much more of a chance than I did with other shooter games – where people are shooting back! However, axe wielding maniacs and homicidal ravens mean that there is no shortage of excitement in Alan Wake. I imagine it took me a little while longer than the average person to get used to the process of applying light to the Taken before I could shoot them, which was frustrating but ultimately surmountable. While the game takes full advantage of the various control options available to the Xbox 360, I did think that the controls were somewhat overcomplicated, an automatic camera pan would have vastly improved my experience.

There is no denying, however, that I found Alan Wake to be quite compulsive gaming; really quite hard to put down. As I was playing, I felt my heart going further and further up my chest. What had happened to Alice? Why was this ‘darkness’ taking over a sleepy town? Oh my days! There’s a man with an axe coming at me from out of the bushes! I found myself to be immediately drawn into the storyline.

There was a clear distinction between the two elements of the game – in the night you have the action, fight-based sequences and the happy-go-lucky plot development sections that ran in the day time. Although I must confess I breathed a sigh of relief when day came around, because there weren’t people trying to kill me anymore, the day time sections made me wonder whether Remedy Entertainment had gone slightly too far in trying to create a cinematic masterpiece. I wondered what the point was of me achieving banal tasks to make my way through the day. It felt like I was being led through an over scripted, almost pointless thoroughfare in the game. There were a number of occasions where I felt that not even the slightest challenge was being set for me, I was just being led by the nose through the plot.

In the night time sequences, a whole new set of skills takes over. You are now not only controlling Alan Wake and helping him make his way around Bright Falls, but you are helping him to survive. You are controlling his movement, his vision and his weapons. Personally, I found the camera control to be somewhat clumsy. More than once I had one of the local townsfolk running towards me with murderous intent, only for my clumsy camera control to have Alan staring at the sky, or his vision to be impaired by an inconvenient spectating tree or bush. No doubt those of you adept in this genre of game will have fewer issues, but still, it was very annoying, and even when I had settled into the games controls I found this a source of constant frustration during close combat.

Visually, this game is very satisfying. Clearly a great deal of time and effort has been expended to make Bright Falls feel like a real place. There is just the right mix of the everyday and the unmaintained that makes the town feel like a completely believable context. The narrative runs throughout and Wake runs into enough colourful characters to keep your interest, even in the linear daytime sections. The action side of the game certainly delivered for me, keeping me right on the edge of my seat. Personally, I loved the fact that running away from foes was not only an option, but quite often, the best option. I imagine that could detract from the experience for other gamers but it enhanced my gaming enjoyment, because I wasn’t stuck in pointless combat that I would have to try over and over again when all I wanted to do was find out the next stage of the story.

As the game progressed and the mystery unfolded, I realised all I was really interested in was the end of the plot. This meant that I was increasingly irritated by the lengthy film-like narrative sections that Remedy had included. All I wanted to do was skim my way from check point to check point, so I could find out what happened at the end. It was like reading a novel where all you want to do is read the final page, and so as a compromise you read one page out of every 10. At the end of the day, what’s the point in Alan Wake when I could feel truly immersed by a high calibre thriller movie? I enjoyed playing Alan Wake, and it’ll be some time before I make it to Nightmare mode, so for me it certainly has longevity, but I am not sure that this is the game that finally brings together cinematic and gaming experiences.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)
Alan Wake Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
  • https://?u=bax88 Alan Baxter

    Really good first review :) Welcome to the staff!

  • https://?u=kiffar kiffar

    I’ll have to give this a try now. I’ve been debating it but now I want to play. Good review, welcome!

  • Laura Hadland

    Thanks guys, glad you enjoyed the review. Just working through Titanic Mystery for DS for my next one.

    I still haven’t committed myself fully to Alan Wake, think I’m starting to err more on the side that I would simply prefer it to be a film, but I definitely think that other people who like action thrillers more than I do will love it!

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