Developer(s) – Remedy Entertainment
Publisher(s) – Microsoft Game Studios
Designer – Mikael Kasurinen
Producer – Jyri Ranki
PEGI – 16
Heavily inspired by the works of my personal favorite novelist Stephen King, Alan Wake is a psychological thriller third-person shooter that though has an extremely gripping narrative, is wanting in terms of gameplay in my opinion. To me, it’s yet another example of how many developers these days want to put the story above all else in their games, and whilst many people are surprised that it didn’t sell particularly well, it comes as no particular shock to me personally, since whilst it isn’t a terrible game by any means, it doesn’t have all the elements that a gamer would hope to find in a classic.
Graphics – 7/10
Graphically astute, as well as conceptually compelling, a vast majority of the game takes place in a murky and atmospheric township called Bright Falls. The setting is very reminiscent of Silent Hill since there are a lot of grey skies and abundant mist hindering visibility, adding that much more tension to the entire experience. Another visual highlight is also how the world around the main character is horrifyingly distorted whenever the player is confronted with the game’s main enemies, the taken. Although it doesn’t make use of any kind of sanity meter, like in Eternal Darkness, the psychologically chilling atmosphere certainly makes up for it.
Gameplay – 4/10
Alan Wake is a survival horror as well as a psychological thriller, and as such, it is certainly lacking in gameplay, having only a linear path and one side quest. The combat element of the game is handled fairly well, and it plays out better than in many other mainstream releases such as Resident Evil 5 for example, but it does very little to alleviate my concerns over the genre in general, instead heavily perpetuating them, reinforcing my belief that most developers focus more on scaring people as opposed to making a fulfilling gaming experience.
Controls – 10/10
Unlike in Resident Evil 5, there are no issues with the control scheme and is much easier to cope with, lacking unnecessary complications. I understand now that the reason for taking away the facility to aim whilst moving was the developer’s way of adding a heightened sense of tension, but it’s hopeless unrealistic at the same time, which made it hard for me to take the game seriously. But the same issue hasn’t cropped up in this game, which I‘m thankful for.
Lifespan – 6/10
Alan Wake can actually be made to last about 12 to 14 hours, which is a little longer than the average lifespan of a survival horror title. Of course, with the gameplay being extremely monotonous and lacking in substance, there is a danger of the lifespan outlasting player interest, but for those who can engross themselves more in the gameplay, there is a fairly long experience for them to enjoy.
Storyline – 8/10
The story follows a best-selling psychological horror writer named Alan Wake, who after suffering from writer’s block for two years takes a vacation with his wife Alice to a mountain town called Bright Falls. However, after his wife goes missing, he starts to experience events coming to life of a later novel with his name on it, but one that he can’t remember writing. It’s up to Alan to overcome these events and uncover the truth, whilst also trying to find his wife. The game’s story is by far its strongest point, containing a strong sense of horror, build-ups of tension throughout, and enough cliffhangers to keep gamers looking for a story engrossed to an exceptional extent.
Originality – 5/10
The game’s story is by far the most unique thing about it, but as I alluded to earlier, in terms of gameplay, there’s not much to differentiate it from the likes of either Resident Evil or Silent Hill or even a game as more recent than that as Dead Space. It follows the same principles of those three aforementioned examples, but with fewer side quests and exploration involved, and that to me, is the main reason why I can’t really consider it to be the cult classic that many other people do.
In summation, Alan Wake is certainly is must-have for any survival horror fan, but for a gamer looking for a gratifying and incentive-filled experience, it won’t work anywhere near as well. I can’t help but feel that with much more substance in gameplay, and something to better distinguish it from main IPs in the genre, it could have been much more than it was, and it may have garnished enough sales figures to warrant quicker development of the game’s fairly highly anticipated sequel, which perhaps wouldn’t be stuck in development hell right now.