Alan Wake has been one of the most ancipated Xbox 360 titles since it was first announced at E3 way back in 2005. It’s now here, delivering an intriguing plot, dramac visuals and an immersive atmosphere, yielding more to the cerebral than skiet, skop en donner.
This psychological action thriller kicks off with the title character, gifted and published author Alan Wake, going on holiday in the Pacific Northwest town of Bright Falls with his wife Alice. Things soon take a turn for the worse as Alice disappears under mysterious and paranormal circumstances, sending Wake on a terrifying quest to find her.
The engrossing storyline of the game is brilliantly presented, with the sequence of events unfolding in six episodes just as dramatic as TV offerings like Lost. Just like its TV counterparts, Alan Wake’s episodes have cliff hanger, edge-of-your-seat endings, urging you on to the next one. Later episodes even begin with a “Previously on Alan Wake” recap.
It wasn't only the TV world that acted as a muse for the game’s developers though. They have also taken inspiration from literary works, predominantly Steven King, complete with references to the works of King in the game.
The controls within the game are just as slick as the storyline and presentation. Utilising the easy and fluid controls, you can take out all manner of enemies, who are called the Taken. The Taken includes humans, birds and various machinery that have been infected and are being controlled by a dark force. This force covers them in impenetrable darkness and killing them involves constantly switching between gun and torch, while reloading your ammo and batteries as well.
Being a game focused on the dichotomy of good (the light) and evil (darkness), the lighting techniques used in the game are extremely well done. While walking about in the ominous forest that envelopes Bright Falls, the shadows cast by your torch are eerily realistic and the wind effects as well as the mist also look stunning. Considering how brilliantly designed and vast the environments on offer are, the character models are a bit of a let down, with especially facial expressions and lip-syncing just poorly executed.
Alan Wake sports a stunning TV-series styled presentation, an engrossing storyline and dazzling graphics, all of which will keep you hooked to the very end. Unlike first person shooters where you just blast everything in sight, it leaves you feeling as if you’ve experienced a bit of Wake’s surreal and gripping life, even becoming emotionally attached.
Games like Heavy Rain and now Alan Wake hopefully marks a move in the gaming industry towards more cerebral games, where the on-screen action is matched by a just-as-stimulating storyline and characters.
PROSGripping storyline and presentation. Excellent environments.
Lip-syncing sometimes on the same level as dubbed kung-fu movies from the past.