Alan Wake (XBox 360) Video Game Review

Alan Wake XBox 360 Video Game Cover

Alan Wake was released on May 18, 2010 by Remedy and published by Microsoft Game Studios.  It tells of a man by the name of Alan Wake, an author of popular thrillers, who loses his wife in a cabin in the Northwest by a lake.  Although the video game was critically acclaimed by the media upon its release, I beg to differ — somewhat.  Remedy could not escape its past, like Alan Wake’s.  Despite the ingenuity of its gameplay mechanic, the story itself was something reminiscent of Remedy’s past — the Max Payne series.  There are too many similarities not to ignore.  With this in mind, the story and gameplay that were originally captivating at first fell to the wayside of tedium by the end.

Story/Plot

This game is heavily dependent on the story, but the main story lost its impact at the end in my honest opinion.  Upon the arrival in Bright Falls, the couple of Alan and Alice Wake get a cabin near Cauldron Lake during Deerfest, the yearly festival within the town.  As told by the locals of the community, Cauldron Lake is said to hold spirits that want to enter the real world.  When they finally settle down, Alice is kidnapped.  As Alan Wake walks to resolve the mystery and battle Taken with his flashlight and assorted guns, he finds the kidnapper, but he is ultimately stolen away by the Dark Presence.  After battling more and more Taken and possessed objects, he eventually comes face to face with what happened.  Through the help of Sheriff Sarah Breaker, his public relations officer Barry Wheeler and others, he finally faces the Dark Presence and defeats it with the guidance of Thomas Zane, a writer who disappeared before.  However, it was not without cost in that he sacrificed himself and his writing to bring everyone back. Alan Wake eventually finds himself back with Dr. Emil Hartman, a psychiatrist and author of  The Creator’s Dilemma, at Cauldron Lake Lodge.  The game itself is broken into six intermingling “television” episodes.

Gameplay (Out of 10)

The gameplay is almost directly counter to the game mechanics in Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell video game series.  Whereas Sam Fisher, the main character in the Splinter Cell series tried to find ways to stay cloaked in darkness, Alan Wake, on the other hand, had to find ways to stay in the light through use of generators, spotlights and streetlights throughout the city.  He gets upgrade from normal flashlight to a heavy-duty lantern and guns from a revolver to a hunting rifle. The combat itself is fluid.  Lastly, he can dodge attacks from the Taken and occasionally go into a “cinematic dodge.”  This cinematic dodge is similar to the original Max Payne‘s slow motion minus the shooting.  It is a solid 9, as on occasion, Alan does get stuck on objects in the world.

Graphics (Out of 10)

The graphics are quite amazing.  The vistas of Bright Falls are quite beautiful in the daylight.  In the darkness, however, it is not quite as good.  The particle effects on the Taken are quite spectacular.  And the movie cinematics are quite compelling. The only downside of the game is that Alan Wake and the characters overall are a minor improvement over Max Payne in Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne.  It is a solid 8.8.

Sound (Out of 10)

The creepy effects are half-way decent, although not out of ordinary for traditional horror movies.  It lacks the impact of Electronic Arts’ Dead Space or Dead Space 2.  It is a solid 9.5 nonetheless.

Verdict (Out of 10)

The game gets a solid 9.1 from me overall.  However, this game is about $20 now and well-worth the price of admission for about an 8 to 10 tour of Bright Falls.  There is a free download of the first expansion pack, The Signal, included in the package.  The Signal itself is a bit more difficult than the original game, and by playing the expansion pack, Alan Wake encounters Thomas Zane for the first time (in his mind through this two-hour long dream sequence essentially.)  This video game is perfectly suited for fans of the horror genre and video game survival horror genre.  As a gift, it would be perfect the gamer on Halloween as a basket-stuffer.

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