Alan Wake is a game of extremes. Just like there’s constant playing with light to force away darkness and its evil powers, gamers get a horror adventure of which certain parts have clearly come from a rusty past situated in the dark ages while others are a beacon of light for more creative developers.
One of those highlights are the beautiful surroundings which make us recall the original vision of an open world game. Extensive woods, beautifully created villages and lumber factories, and houses of which the interior is brought to life completely credible add to the creepy and realistic atmosphere of the game. And the latter is together with the storyline the reason why you still have to get this game.
The story may be all but original and filled with clichés of the horror genre, it does manage to keep you interested until the end and reveals its secrets slowly so that you’re often at the tip of your seat. The typical characters may be very typical, they’ve been worked out nicely and do their role justice. Also the voices are quite good eventhough we found Alan himself to be quite the jerk at time and the lipsync is quite bad while the animations and direction could loosen up a bit…
Too bad the makers found it necessary to have the style of storytelling lose its subtlety at times. It seems they believe we’ve never seen a movie or read a thriller – or are just plain stupid – as the clichés, inside jokes and references are clarified by a voice-over that made us *rolleyes*. That does get made up quite good by unexpected events, exciting scenes in which beautiful work is done with light, and some true scare moments where the hairs on your arms will stand up straight.
We’re enthousiastic but not equally excited about the gameplay itself. Don’t get us wrong: the basics work perfectly but there’s little innovation to be found. The combat is shining your flashlight at an enemy and then shooting one of your weapons. That’s it.
Light arrows and other sources of light (think spotlights) give the gameplay a necessary and welcome injection of adrenaline and variation, together with some “set pieces” that will deliver you some of the coolest moments in the game year. Great how at those moments your expectations are being played with!
This all results in very exciting confrontations – after all, you’re not quite the runner and bullets and batteries are limited – and more than once you’ll stumble back while cursing and trying to keep the often scary enemies away from you. It reminds of Resident Evil with all the accompanying frustration at such moments.
The fact that you can find sponsored batteries everywhere in the woods does tend to draw you out of the game’s atmosphere and the handful parts where you have to control a vehicle are quite a disappointment.
Alan Wake has become a horror game that might not be the absolute classic we were hoping for but it’s a game that’s full of surprises, has a unique atmosphere and perfectly builds tension with the immersive story, and nicely scares the hell out of you. The gameplay is solid and although it’s all but original, the devs do work out the different elements well and will put you on the wrong leg more than once. A filmic experience as you see passing by at the movies every Summer: well worked out, entertaining fun that innovates and surprises just enough to enjoy the ride. If the devs build further on this for Alan Wake 2 we can expect a true top title.