Alan Wake

Alan Wake is a psychological action thriller that has taken over eight years to hit store shelves

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Alan Wake
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By  Jason Saundalkar Published  December 6, 2010

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Age rating: Mature
Price: $76

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Alan Wake then has been in development for over eight years and this reviewer is glad to say that the time was well spent.

Remedy Entertainment describes Alan Wake as a psychological action thriller and uses TV-series-style presentation from start to finish. The game is broken into a series of episodes (five in total) and as each is finished, the player comes one step closer to understanding the main plot (and of course finishing the game).

Gamers play the part of protagonist Alan Wake, a bestselling crime fiction author who has suffered from writer's block for over two years. The story opens with Alan and his wife Alice arriving in the small town of Bright Falls in the hopes of relaxing and kick-starting the author's creativity. However, things go awry shortly after the couple arrives at their rented cabin in the middle of Cauldron Lake; Alice falls into the lake and, after diving in after her, Alan awakens to find that he has been in a car crash and a week has passed since he and his wife arrived in town.

The game's storyline is carried forward by Wake who provides narration from time-to-time as well as by various objects that he comes across within the game's down-right spooky environments. Every so often Wake will find a page of a manuscript - written by Wake himself though he doesn't remember it - that actually tips the player off about what he's going to have to deal with in the future. At the same time these pages also fill in the blanks about what has happened. Wake will also find TVs that serve to fill in the proverbial blanks and in contrast to this, the radios scattered across Bright Falls actually tell the story in the present tense, from the perspective of the locals that inhabit the town. Overall, Alan Wake's story telling style is brilliant and had this reviewer glued to the game until it was finished.

Unlike other action thriller games Alan Wake's primary and most effective weapon is not projectile-based. In fact, projectile weapons are almost useless against the foes in the game - known as Taken - until Alan first weakens them using, wait for it, light. The process to take down baddies then is two-fold; Wake must first weaken them using his trusty flashlight or any other source of light he finds and if the light itself doesn't destroy them, he must then unload with pistol, shotgun or rifle fire. The game's combat system is top notch in terms of how it works, is very satisfying to experience and is innovative too. When was the last time you played a game that made light sources your
primary weapon?

    On the normal difficulty level Alan Wake presents a fair challenge thanks to its clever artificial intelligence. The Taken will setup ambushes where possible and if you use light sources such as flares or flash-bangs, they will back away and try to hide until the light has faded. The Taken also have ranged attacks, which will strip you of valuable life.

Unlike Resident Evil 5 however ammo isn't in very short supply so you won't find yourself counting every bullet. There are also ‘Safe Haven' areas in the game; these are lit areas that can heal Wake and often have weapons and ammo - a nice touch as the game world is dark most of the time. The mostly unrelenting darkness makes the player feel constantly threatened even when baddies aren't in immediate view (it doesn't help that you'll also see a few trees being violently pushed over by an unknown force in the distance).

Alan Wake's excellent storytelling and combat are supported well by its sound effects and graphics. The music and sound effects help sell the intriguing story and threatening atmosphere and in terms of graphics, it's more of the same. The environments are beautifully designed, are fun to explore and will downright scare you senseless from time-to-time. While facial animation is lacking compared to some of today's games, the overall effect is brilliant.

Our only real complaint with Alan Wake is that it's over way too quickly. On the normal difficulty level, and two aching hands later, the game was over in six hours.

Verdict: Incredible atmosphere, exciting and engaging gameplay combined with superb visuals and audio make Alan Wake a masterpiece that everyone should play.

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