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Alan Wake Preview
developer: Remedy Entertainment
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Feb 16, 12
|» All About Alan Wake on ActionTrip|
Sam Lake, the writer of Max Payne, has used the opportunity to present us his new hero at this year's E3. His name is Alan Wake and he's a writer by vocation; there is nothing extraordinary about that, except for the fact he uses his nightmares as a source of inspiration for his novels. Alan Wake is the hero of Remedy's new game, an action-adventure which takes its title after the name of its main protagonist. The game focuses on the verge between sanity and madness, questioning our perception of reality through the main protagonist, who is obviously a deeply disturbed individual (Just like our previewer -Ed) (And the rest of the staff -Smap).
Except for the influence of Lake's Max Payne games, other possible influences were stated, including film noir, David Lynch's phantasmagoric Twin Peaks, Steven King's novels, as well as a subtle Silent Hill reference. All this promises to form an interesting blend of unspoken evil things lurking in the dark (or even in the shadows), the symbolic meaning of dreams, as well as what happens when you become too attached to your damn fianc'e (Literally or emotionally speaking? -Ed).
In fact, Alan Wake isn't your ordinary horror novelist. (Though I hear they're a wired lot, mind you.) He leads a seemingly normal life with his fianc'e, writing novels inspired by nightmarish dreams he experiences each night. The sudden disappearance of his fianc'e leaves him desperate in more ways than one - he stops having nightmares, but he is also left without his only source of inspiration. Exhausted by the lack of sleep and driven to madness by writer's block caused by his fianc'e's disappearance, he decides he needs help and heads for the Pride Falls hospital for some much needed therapy. That's where the strange things really start to come into play, because the attendant in the hospital bears a striking resemblance to his fianc'e. For some strange reason, Wake's insomnia is miraculously cured, and he starts having nightmares again. This does not bring Alan the solution he hoped for, as he soon discovers he is unable to distinguish reality from fiction. The underlying sense of danger awakens in him, making him realize Pride Falls isn't just a small, quiet, American town it appears to be. Wake has obviously found his own version of Silent Hill, and he's been drawn against his will into the nightmare which, after all, may be real (This sounds exactly like the summer between my sophomore and junior years- Smap).
One of the most important things about Alan Wake (the game, not its damn hero), apart from the realism the programmers are aspiring to achieve, are the day-and-night cycles, which are the dynamic core of the game. These cycles present the typical dualism of good and evil, sanity and madness: it is at night that Wake will slip into the nightmare again, and the darkness is what will also draw Alan's enemies to him. The action segment of the game is very important, and the dark, night surroundings will help instill the rising sense of threat in the game's main protagonist, as well as the player. Light is obviously Alan's friend, as his enemies take damage if exposed to it: light serves the purpose of weakening them and thus making them easier to defeat. The behavior of lights and shadows is also very realistic, while the volumetric fog and real-time shadows deepen the impression by creating actual atmosphere typical for a certain time of day. Lightning and shadow effects are indeed the crucial game elements: Alan carries a flashlight everywhere with him, and with time this item will become even more important as, through the course of the game, the days will tend to get shorter while the nights grow longer, making it more difficult for Alan to stay in one piece.
Another thing that intensifies the feeling of uneasiness and horror before the nameless threat are the game's beautiful visuals. Pride Falls, (the town in Washington where the game takes place) is designed as a peaceful mountain resort, abounding in greenery and inspiring awe with the beauty of its surrounding landscape (That sounds like Twin Peaks -Ed.). This stands in contrast to the nightmarish landscape of Wake's dreams (or reality?). The city environments are rather large, managing to simulate a real life environment rather successfully. The feeling of believability is also achieved through realistic weather effects and with the help of the Havok physics engine (as seen from the avalanche presented at the demonstration), as well as the mysterious and at times rather tense atmosphere. The visual detail adds to the impression - the environments are rendered with careful detail, while the weather effects create an illusion of moving in a real, living world. Both the city and its surroundings, such as the nearby forest, gave an impression of an actual, interactive location. The influence of wind on objects in the nature is realistic and meticulously presented, with grass swaying and small ripples forming on the surface of the water.
The sense of freedom is emphasized by the fact the game supports a non-linear concept where you're allowed to explore your surroundings at your own pace. The choice of your future actions is yours alone, and you get to decide about the order in which you want to get things done most of the time. Although no actual game play was demonstrated at E3, the presented material was very impressive - this refers mostly to the graphics, as it was impossible to come to any definite conclusions about the game mechanism. The open and highly dynamic, interactive world, as well as the realistic physics, the amazing graphics and special effects, as well as the atmosphere of sheer horror, are something that promises a 'next-gen' experience in a very appealing package. The release date and the publisher are still to be decided, so to our own discontent, we can't expect Alan Wake anytime soon (Time to break out those Twin Peaks DVDs again -Ed.).
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