Review | Alan Wake
Is it me you’re looking for?
Format: Xbox 360 | Genre: Action | Publisher: Microsoft | Developer: Remedy | Release date: 14/05/10 | Price: £50
After years of delays, it’s finally finished. Daniel Lipscombe asks: has ALAN WAKE been worth the wait?
ALAN WAKE is a writer. He states this fact at the opening of the game. What he doesn’t state is that he can be rather monotonous, can’t jump in a straight line and runs into random objects when trying to avoid a blunt instrument.
Alan has lost his wife. She was in the spooky cabin on an island on a lake when he last saw her, and suddenly she’s gone. You’d think he would have known not to leave her. She’s scared of the dark, for a start, so leaving her alone for even five minutes was bound to cause trouble.
So Alan must search for her, in the dark. Unfortunately, when the sun goes down, the Taken come out. The Taken are shadowy figures that resemble humans, and who want to kill Alan. They’re genuinely scary. Imagine the Blair Witch and turn the fear up to 11, and you have the Taken. Alan Wake can only defeat these nefarious beings by using light. With a torch in one hand and a gun in the other, Alan ventures out into the woods and gets mixed up with lots of trouble. Why he didn’t just move around in the daylight and stay indoors at night, who knows…
That would make for a very dull game indeed, but even with all this trekking around in the dark, Alan’s journey has its moments. The plot itself is intriguing and mysterious, maintaining your interest and leaving you eager to find out more. There’s the clear influence of TV shows such as Twin Peaks, The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, and this is a good thing. The tension is carried very well throughout the plot, and the pacing allows you to stew over the moments of wonder.
It’s all very much like an episode of LOST, practically every step you take raising a new question and delivers very little in answers. It helps that the game is played like a TV serial, ending with the title screen and a melancholy track playing at the end of a chapter. Unfortunately, all of this doesn’t stop the game from becoming rather tedious in parts.
The tedium generally arises with the narration of the tale. Spoken by Wake himself, the writing is far too self-aware, which pulls you from your connection to the game as you roll your eyes and mutter something about the writer wanting to be like Stephen King. And this is heightened by the constant references to pop culture. Every thriller writer imaginable is namedropped throughout, and there are even moments when Alan muses about Nicholson in The Shining’s film adaptation. It so desperately wants to be accepted with this raft of writers, and it all becomes a bit overpowering.
And, as the game continues, it begins to feel increasingly awkward. At moments Remedy’s work shines, with excellent highlights such as the light-based combat and weapon combinations, but then it all goes downhill by some design choices made. Things such as having to stop and pause the game to read the manuscript pages, totally breaking the atmosphere. The jumping is clunky, too, meaning that any action sections can be let down by Alan falling down bottomless pits due to missing his mark.
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