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Alan Wake 360 Review - -

Gameplay 7.5
Graphics 8.0
Sound 7.5
Value 7.0
Distributor: Microsoft
Review Date:
May 2010
Tony Smith


Alan Wake

With scores of 10 out 10, 95% and plus, not to mention praises from almost every corner of the globe, I thought that my version of Alan Wake was different than everyone else's. Was I missing something or was Alan Wake not my cup of tea. It was like a new version of Alone in the Dark, not like the bad sequels but like the original. With state of the art graphics, this third person adventure game was eagerly awaited by the gaming community... unfortunately for me, something was missing.

Letís get this straight first, Alan Wake is not a bad game but in the grand scheme of things, itís also not that memorable either. The hype of Alan Wake has been around for a few years now and in my opinion, Alan Wake is a little late for its party. Were this game released a year or more ago, it would have received a higher score from me. Max Payne was memorable (by the same creators as this) as it pushed the boundaries of the gaming world, whereas Alan Wake rests a little on its laurels. It doesn't add anything new to this genre and borrows heavily from others, such as Silent Hill, Resident Evil and more specifically Alone in the Dark. It's Stephen King meets the XBox 360!

In terms of story, the game attempts to transcend the world of realism versus the surreal as gamers take the leading role of Alan Wake, a popular author who has unfortunately hit a rough patch of writerís block when it comes to his stories. To compound the situation, his fiancť has suggested that they both go away on a holiday, however she is hoping that this holiday will reinspire him to write again, much to Alanís disgust. The plot starts early in the game and when his fiancť goes missing, it's up to Alan and you  to piece together this big mystery. It's definitely a what the moment!

Using elements of the survival horror genre, Alanís world is turned upside down and on the way to this remote country town where he experiences one of his most vivid nightmares ever, it opens the plot to the gamer. Upon arriving in the town, Alan meets some strange people that at times makes this game more akin to Twin Peaks, rather than Silent Hill. Apparently, Alanís creations from his books have seemed to have manifested themselves into his world and without spoiling the story any further, things go from strange to totally bizarre. The game, even though it's clichťd is setup quite well.

Exploring this strange hybrid world of light versus darkness does offer some challenges along the way for the gamer and the more you explore, the more you will be awarded as you search for clues. Thankfully the first part of the game works as a tutorial and the basics of combat and movement are explained. The best way to describe the game interaction is Alone in the Dark 21st century style as you're always on edge, attempting to explore, gather clues and of course fight for your life and those around you.

The two elements of Alan Wake are light and darkness. When things go dark, you immediately know that Alan will eventually come into danger but whatís even worse is that you donít know when this will happen but you know that it will. As mentioned, the first level plays like a tutorial that teaches you how to use your flashlight on your enemies which they despise. By shining the light at them, this makes them more tangible and allows them to be damaged by a variety of different weapons. Of course, it doesnít help that some of these creatures are actually townsfolk who have been turned by this darkness but it does setup a great psychological aspect to the gameplay.

As Alan explores this dark world, the developers leave subtle clues around the world that you explore from pages of your unpublished manuscript which does (pun intended) shed some light onto this mystery. I also like the fact that Alan Wake is presented like a TV mini-series with particular chapters in the game and speaking of the TV, there are TVís and radioís in the game that give you more insight into this strange psychological thriller, ala Twilight Zone. In terms of controlling Alan, he does interact a little jerky with the environment but all in all, it manages to work but does become a chore when there are too many enemies around. Thankfully the controls are relatively sturdy.

Combat is the key to Alan Wake and is quite intense, especially as you progress and the enemies grow and grow. As mentioned, you need to shine light onto them to make them susceptible to damage and when youíre surrounded like a Dawn of the Dead movie, it sometimes becomes annoyingly frustrating to dispatch them. At times, these enemies will overrun you but then the game throws a spanner into the combat mechanics and allows you to duck in an almost quick-time event setup. Destroying enemies is not the problem, itís trying to shine your torch or flare on them to make them tangible. Eventually, when you piece together the clues, it's time for the grand finale and unfortunately this comes a little too soon... around 12 or so hours.

Level design is good and quite detailed, nut the game does have a little dated look in some places but then again, it looks amazing at other times. There is good use of lighting and special effects that is only enhanced by the engaging soundtrack and of course all the sound effects. The voice acting is a little forced but hey... what game isn't?

In conclusion, Alan Wake delivers an interesting and sturdy gaming experience, however for me, the whole experience seemed a little dated from the combat engine to certain gaming moments that we've seen it all before. The story may not be the most original in the gaming world but as a psychological thriller it works and if you're looking for a third person adventure game, there are definitely far worse than this. Of course, most gamers will able to knock this title over in around 12 or so hours and once you've played it, that's probably about it. Good but not great!


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