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Alan Wake Review

ON OTHER PLATFORMS: Xbox360, PC
GAME INFO
publisher: Microsoft
developer: Remedy Entertainment
genre: Action

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
n/a
ESRB rating: T
homepage:
www.alanwake.com/

release date: May 18, 10
» All About Alan Wake on ActionTrip


Wait, how long have we been waiting for this game? Five years, is it? Yes, definitely. Whatever the reasons behind all the delays and various decisions that slowed up production, I'm sure gamers won't care about it now. Alan Wake finally made it to the Xbox 360. And there it will stay, by the look of it. Microsoft and Remedy pointed out that, for the time being, they have no plans to release the game on the PC. Still, platform wars aside, the game is at long last available for purchase, which is amazing considering how many times they've pushed back the launch.

Described as a psychological action thriller, the game sends players on a journey through light and darkness, as recognized writer, Alan, struggles to find out the truth about the mysterious town of Bright Falls. Upon arrival, his wife, Alice, disappears without a trace. In a sudden turn of events, Alan realizes that everything happening around him is actually described in his own work, a thriller he can't even remember writing. Although things appear to be normal during the day, every time night engulfs the town of Bright Falls, the citizens turn into shadowy, bloodthirsty killers. Their one weakness is light and Alan is going to have to use the power of light to fight them off. Anything he can get hold of, from flashlights to flares. Going on what seems like a desperate search for his wife, the young author will also have to outrun the local authorities, including a rather persistent and unsympathetic FBI agent.

Finnish development studio Remedy Entertainment is primarily acknowledged for two excellent shooters - Max Payne and Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. Both of these were relatively short single-player experiences, albeit they are probably still the best tributes to the famous Matrix-style bullet-time combat. Alan Wake, however, signifies the company's strong turn towards a slightly different gaming experience. Granted there's still plenty of shooting and slow-mo action going on, but every moment in this game is centered around the story-telling, the dark and creepy atmosphere and the many characters you'll meet along the way. Progress through the main story is mostly linear, save for a few larger areas where you get to explore a bit. Exploring the surroundings usually leads to hidden ammo and supplies or a few in-game collectibles such as pages from Alan's manuscripts. These pages are meant to offer an account on things that have happened or will happen to Alan on his dark journey. A lot of the manuscript pages give you additional explanations on some of the events and give you a detailed description of a few characters.

Now, in my book, it's hard to single out Remedy as a team for delivering exceptional storylines. Max Payne was rather lacking in that department. That doesn't seem to be the company's best asset. Once you scratch the surface of Alan Wake, you'll soon discover that there's nothing remarkable about the tale. It's not original in any way. It's the type of story you've heard or seen many times before through TV series, thrillers or horror movies. I'm not saying the narrative itself is not worth a dime. Although, I'm quite certain that when it comes to telling the tale about Alan Wake, people will have high expectations after 5 long years of waiting. As it happens, the storyline isn't the main quality here and that's quite a serious lapse for a game that's been touted so many years as being one of the most thrilling stories ever penned for a video game. Ultimately, it's just a story serving its purpose for a thriller-style action adventure, which is what Alan Wake really is; let's not kid ourselves. It's just another action adventure game.

Again, I'm not saying Alan Wake has a crappy storyline. The scenes drive the player forward, making him want to know more about the character and what's actually going on in his mind. Sadly, that's all it does. It pushes the game forward, but eventually doesn't offer any particularly interesting moments of revelation. If we're to talk about things such as characterization, humor, dialogue and generally decent writing, I'm afraid Alan Wake doesn't exactly hit any high notes.

There's one thing, however, Alan Wake does incredibly well - drawing you into its world. The setting of the game is unbelievably compelling for some reason, evoking the ambiance and creepiness of chilling stories such as David Lynch's Twin Peaks. Entering the shadow world can be an intense and spine-tingling experience (especially, if you're playing alone with the lights switched off). It's not the scariest game ever made, but I still congratulate the developers for what they've done with the lighting and shadows. The shadows and the light are more than just visual facets. They're quite an important part of the gameplay too.

Sure Alan will get a chance to wield shotguns, pistols and hunter rifles, but his main weapon is light or anything that emits light, ranging from flashlights to powerful flares and flashbangs. Enemies need to be weakened with the beam of your flashlight before they can be harmed with a firearm. For multiple enemies it's best to use flashbangs that can destroy foes instantly or a flare gun, which are extremely powerful, but have limited ammo. Ah yes, ammo. In some survival horror games, ammo is pretty scarce, which means you have to make each shot count. In Alan Wake, getting ammo feels too easy. Bullets for shotguns and pistols can be found all over the place and hidden supply crates are very easy to locate. Perhaps, more experienced gamers should choose to play on a different difficulty setting, just to get more challenge out of the game and maybe prolong the experience all together.

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ACTIONTRIP SCORE
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HIGHS
Alan Wake succeeds in luring you into a dark, immersive and incredibly gripping setting, one that was clearly created with admirable attention to detail, the gameplay is great and quite enjoyable, accompanied by good voice acting and a pleasing soundtrack.

LOWS
It's easy at times, story isn't as interesting as we'd hoped, graphics look a bit outdated (mostly during the game's daytime sections), and... it took them 5 years to make only six Episodes?

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