Alan Wake Impressions - Flashlights, Spotlights, and Christmas Lights

A famous author's imagination unfolds before his very eyes in this tense psychological thriller.

What's the light without the darkness? What good is action if tension isn't built first? These are questions developer Remedy's psychological action game seeks to answer, and based on the latest demo we saw at Microsoft's X10 event today, it may do just that. We saw two separate sections of the game in this demo. The first, which occurs early on, is about building anxiety by showing the lighter side of Alan's adventure. Here, Alan meets the people of Bright Falls, a small town where everyone knows everyone else. The second portion of the demo focused squarely on the action and took place mostly under the cover of darkness and featured Alan's main enemies--zombie-like atrocities called the Taken. Alan Wake has been a long time coming, but we're happy that the end is near: Remedy announced a final release date today: May 18 in North America and May 21 in Europe.

In the cutscene that opened the demo, we saw Alan wake with a start in a car's passenger's seat. He is stirring after a bad nightmare, but thankfully, his wife Alice is there to announce their arrival. The camera pans across a river and we see a bridge that spans its width, welcoming everyone to Bright Falls, an idyllic town that seems to hold nothing but hope and prosperity to all who enter. A few moments later, Alan walks into a diner, filled with colorful people eager for his arrival. The author is a celebrity of course, and the waitress, clearly excited to meet a star, chats with him cheerfully. As Alan, you can walk about the diner at will to see what the locals are all about. One diner regular drinks so much coffee that the waitress is convinced he must be made of it, and two old-time rock-and-rollers argue in their booth. However, you're there on a mission: to meet Carl Stuckey, who's waiting with the keys to his cabin at Cauldron Lake.

The sunny introduction doesn't stay so bright for long, however. Just as he starts down the hallway to see Carl, an older woman in a booth warns him of the darkness ahead, and indeed, the hallway is almost devoid of light. Alan knocks on a door asking for Stuckey, but Carl is a no-show. Instead, a mysterious figure emerges from the blue and black shadows, and she (at least we think it was a she) tells him Carl is indisposed, and she has the keys. Alan thanks her, but clearly there is something sinister at work, and the kooky woman that warned him of the darkness has a similar warning for him when he emerges from the dim hallway. There seemed to be a lot yet to explore, but the demo then moved forward in time to a point later in the game.

We didn't have a good idea of the full context of the events since Alan's diner visit, but it was clear that his beloved Alice had gone missing, and Alan was searching for clues. The current goal was to investigate a crash site--a helicopter crash site, as it turned out. Alan sets off through the forest and is eventually accompanied by two cohorts called Sarah and Barry (we learned later that Sarah was the town's sheriff). In contrast with the luminous lighting of the first part of the demo, the second half was eerily dark. It isn't long before Alan is attacked by several of the Taken, so we got to see plenty of action here. The Taken avoid the light, making your flashlight as important as your firearms. By shining your flashlight on them, you make them vulnerable to gunfire, at which point you can pump them full of lead. In most survival horror games, shooting and aiming are laborious affairs, but based on what we saw, Alan moves and turns fluidly in combat. Alan seems comfortable with both a handgun and a powerful-sounding shotgun, and we got to see both of these weapons in action.

Those aren't Alan's only offensive tools, however. As you can imagine, flares are anathema to the Taken, and shooting them at your foes results in some cinematic slowdown and a lot of screaming as the light vanquishes these denizens of the dark. Light sources are obviously important. You'll be turning spotlights on the Taken, and your companion Barry wraps a string of Christmas lights around him, hoping they will ward off enemies in the way garlic wards of vampires. It didn't seem to help, but it certainly didn't hurt either, though the Taken still descended on the group with axes in each hand.

The troupe eventually reaches a dam, where Barry refers to Mordor, Sauron's sinister home in The Lord of the Rings. This wasn't the only pop culture reference, either; we also heard a reference to Stephen King's The Shining at another point. The trio heads for a doorway from which light is pouring, but as soon as Barry and Sarah enter, a load of industrial waste falls from above, blocking Alan from the doorway and forcing him to continue--alone. From here, things get even freakier. A moment later, Alan is besieged by a number of industrial-sized spools, obviously possessed by an unknown evil. They fly toward him out of the air, though Alan manages to dodge them on his way to the top of the dam.

These giant spools aren't Alan's only new nemesis. A short while later, the lights dotting the top of the dam are extinguished one by one, and a flock of shadowy ravens descends upon him. They are soon replaced by a horde of Taken. Outnumbered, Alan uses a searchlight to even the odds, with the help of a few flashbang grenades, which blind and injure the oncoming gang. When Taken are defeated, they vanish in a bright flash of light, an effect that never got old, no matter how many times we saw it. Remedy is clearly going for a game of great contrasts. The black of night is all the more effective when distinguished from the glowing light of the aptly named Bright Falls, and the Taken seem all the more evil because they're so very different from the happy-go-lucky locals. Your companions even remark that your arrival in Bright Falls has not been exactly fortuitous.

Alan Wake's story further contributes to the creepiness of these contrasts. As you wander through the threatening woods, you discover pages of a manuscript--a manuscript based on a novel you never wrote. These pages warn you of upcoming dangers, but they hint at something far greater. How is it that Alan's imagination is coming to life before his very eyes? Where is Alice, your muse? Who are these Taken? The narrative is presented as an episodic television series, each part of the story separated into episodes that recap what has come before and that end with an appropriate "to be continued."

Based on what we saw, the game's visuals are outstanding, and the voice acting--of which there is plenty--is great as well. If you were looking for a survival game that offers something truly unique, Alan Wake might offer just what you've been hoping for. This creepy, story-driven experience is beautiful to look at and fun to watch in action, and we look forward to bringing you even more information as it becomes available.

Written By

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

Want the latest news about Alan Wake?

Alan Wake

Alan Wake

Follow

Discussion

127 comments
CravingGibbon
CravingGibbon

Whoop. 21st of may. the day after my birthday... Ha. and people have been telling me that 25 is too old for games...

megamega777
megamega777

Hopefully when they put it in episodes, it will leave you screaming at you TV like "WHY!?!?!?!?!?!!! Why must you end it in THAT WAY!?!?!?!?!"

Vaultboy-101
Vaultboy-101

It could be because if you had a PC then you would have to pay more money on an xbox or something to play the game making micro$oft richer as usual they just love money and make faulty xboxes.

AZE160
AZE160

Screw Microsoft for Canceling the PC Version of Alan Wake, Why did they have to do it?

breakstress
breakstress

I think it's crazy how long this game has been in development.

KaizerJinn
KaizerJinn

game seems interesting. look forward to seeing how this game develops...

awesome
awesome

Survival horror, Evil, Flash lights, lone player wandering in the dark... can anyone say 'Silent hill?'. Seen it all before... I hoped this game would have been Xbox's answer to the awesome Heavy Rain...

SERGE_Let
SERGE_Let

This is a very interesting moment for this game to show something different about "survival horror" genere. I played some videogames like Resident Evil, Condemned, Silen Hill,FEAR, Dead Space etc., and they eventually lost the magic because they are linear. I just hope that the team making this game will give us something more and it does not end in a trash videogame with bad angle of camera and too bad control usage.

godzillavskong
godzillavskong

Looks good to me. If you own a Xbox, this one would be a no-brainer to add to your library. Unless you aren't really into the survival horror genre, but I think most gamers are. Can't wait.

SirMordredX
SirMordredX

@Tommz7070 Just leave it at the complement on Alan Wake, and you'll get +10 thumbs up, rather than the negative response. Plus, I don't see why you believe Max Payne sucked - maybe you thought it was made in 2009, and judged it like that - too hard or not an action-game fan maybe? Either way, I agree that the episodic system of Alan Wake will be an awesome feature, really addictive - I just hope people don't throw it in the same basket as "Alone In The Dark 5" due to this feature.

SirMordredX
SirMordredX

@xTheExploited Point taken, I am just unsure as to why a the game being sandbox would change your mind concerning the Survival - Horror genre, it doesn't take away from the fear factor after all.

gellis1981
gellis1981

"shadowofkuga Posted Feb 16, 2010 11:16 pm ET @gellis1981 like what!?" Mass Effect 1&2, Halo 1&2, Gears of War 1, ShadowRun, L4D 1&2, Fable 1, Splinter Cell Convictions...etc that are Xbox exclusives that released for the PC..keeping the PC somewhat current. I'm trying to think of a PS3 exclusive that has released for the PC??

xTheExploited
xTheExploited

@SirMordredX if you would have read my comment you would have been able to have see that I AM NOT A FAN OF SURVIVAL HORROR games. i like action/adventure sandbox games and that was the only thing attracting me to alan wake. i was going to give survival horror a chance with this because i wanted it for the open world aspect, now that its gone i'm not really interested. i'm not prejudging the game saying its bad, i just don't like survival horror. i'm pretty sure the game is going to be good, i just don't like the genre.

SirMordredX
SirMordredX

@xTheExploited Oh, hehe - any true fan of survival horror has played classics like Resident Evil, Condemned, FEAR, and so-on. They were ALL linear - so let's just forget ALL linear games just because they wish to tell well focused and directed tales, rather than GTA style shoot-em run-around sessions that usually end up in boredom which in turn results in the mindless killing of humans. Alan Wake is still more open than most anyway, just wait until the great reviews flow in, and sit back embarrassed at your own pre-judgement mentality.

parhar67
parhar67

Sounds awesome. Kind of like a cool playthrough of a long long x files episode!

Vlad27145
Vlad27145

Is it just my impression, or compared to what we had initially heard of this game it's now a lot more action focused?

tezzalodge
tezzalodge

@gellis1981 And there I was thinking that Sony were more than happy to line the pockets of microsoft , who do you think owns the P.C operating system exactly? On the other side of the coin, I own a P.C and ps3 so I get to play ME2 and Heavy rain....Microsoft aint stupid......If I want to play Alan wake (which I really do!) I'm guna have to shell out.....Without exclusivity, wheres the draw?

gellis1981
gellis1981

Some of you people need to calm down about getting mad at MS for not releasing it 4 the PC..Atleast MS releases most of their exclusives for the PC, unlike the PS3 who doesn't release any of their exclusives 4 the PC!

xTheExploited
xTheExploited

just found out its no longer sandbox, now i'm no longer interested. sandbox was the main thing pulling me into this game, i'm not a big fan of survival horror games but because this one was sandbox i was willing to give it a shot. no thank you. i hope it turns out to be good for everyone else who is excited but i don't care anymore. :(

efunk25
efunk25

@SicklySunStorm hahahaha, yeah, I got my wife a Wii and now she understands a little better how fun the games can be. As long as I get her something I don't get yelled at for getting myself something. LOL I also joined a bunch of online survey sites which I use to build my gameing fund.

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

@efunk25 - nice deception, I like it.... however, my wife is waaay too smart for that, trust me. as long as I butter her up with some iTunes vouchers or something, I'll be OK lol

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@thenephariouson -- That's exactly right. Because I met with the developers, the review will go to someone else.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

@Kevin-V Im assuming the reason for this is to avoid any potential bias

xgraderx
xgraderx

The games looking good.I preordered it yesterday,keep the info coming.

ChristoJean
ChristoJean

What a waste that would be if this game fails after so many years of work put into it!

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@o0_L0st_B0y_0o -- No. Generally, if someone previews a game, he or she won't be the same person to review it.

efunk25
efunk25

SicklySunStorm, This is what you do. Tell your wife you are going to go grocery shopping then buy the Gamestop card or Best buy card at the grocery store. Unless she dissects the receipts you can accumulate enough 25 dollar cards to to get your game.

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

@xApocalypse2012 - agreed.... but then I have a very frugal wife who keeps my spending in check, so she'll make sure I don't waste it on other stuff when I want these games so much :D she's good like that.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@Lambtastic13 -- When we review Alan Wake, we'll do what we always do: Give it an honest review that accurately reflects the reviewer's experience with it. It sounds like your mind is made up, but if a reviewer made up his mind before playing the full game like you have, he wouldn't be doing his job ;)

xApocalypse2012
xApocalypse2012

@sicklysunstorm: The only problem, sir, is finding the money to fund all of these great games...

efunk25
efunk25

Alan Wake sure has a big Forehead. Microsoft could take out advertising on that thing. What's the deal with that? Game looks cool other than that.

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

oooh nice.... could be the new Silent Hill maybe? I hope so.... between this and Heavy Rain, I think my 2010 is going to be a good one :D

KO4U
KO4U

@Drkr_Zen I know what you mean. Bought my 360 when Bioshock came out, and that was great and all, but what else would I want to actually own besides that and CoD? Really, I'm asking! :D

shaunk89
shaunk89

Looks really great. Creepy, stylish and compelling, like a real horror movie. Which, I guess, is what they were going for.

Lambtastic13
Lambtastic13

now we just wait for the game to come out and Gamespot give it a crap score and say how bad it was, even though it was a great game.

enzo2606
enzo2606

Interesting game. I will buy this game for sure.

iKrysis
iKrysis

I'm used to the Resdident Evil and Silent Hill series storylines, respectively. This "Alan Wake" really sounds promising in that it will deliver a newly developed, uniqueness that Survivor enthusiasts, like myself, have been waiting for. I can now say I am very anxious to see how this story unfolds once I get it in my hands. EDIT: @Tommz7070 - Regarding the episodic themes remark: I know the game will unfold in episodes, but I didn't catch anything about a DLC series like you mention. Can anyone clarify?

Tommz7070
Tommz7070

Great game and is gonna be very cool. The episodic theme is really cool. When you think about it will be a great factor to make you want to play this game until you beat it and then pray for the DLC episodes. You finish one episode and it was a suspenseful cliffhanger and you just have to play one more episode and so on. @SirMordredX - I agree that Remedy is not a hugely nooby industry but the Max Payne game suck. Face it, its true!

SirMordredX
SirMordredX

I know this is the general consensus from real fans, but I have to say - been waiting so long, definitely worth the wait I think. To all of those doubting it - these guys aren't some nooby company - they are REMEDY - MAX PAYNE, anyone? Alan Wake has been in development for like over six years now, so I think that doubting it to be a great and terrifying experience is ridiculous and mostly for jealous PC/PS3 gamers. [I am also a PC/PS3 gamer]...

DarkWatchman
DarkWatchman

@ McSchobbington It's idiots like that make the 360 look bad. A REAL gamer would buy both consoles and like them both equally. Stupid Xbot

guertt
guertt

At least, its not like Heavy rain where you have to push a button to get your characters to move... its not a car sony, its a walking man!!!!! but i'm still gonna play both as they come out. And no I will no say I buy all the games like all the childrens say here. I'm gonna rent them for 3 or 7 days and never go back again because story telling game always finish soon. (and I pay by myself for games, not my parents).

tevic
tevic

I just finished Alone in the dark so I'm a little wary of this kind of games. I hope there will not be too many hard-to-guess-how-to-do-it puzzles. They say the shooting is fluid so that's a good point. Wait and see...

Fadi-Bayzid
Fadi-Bayzid

I hope there won't be any bugs or unnecessary darkness like the one I saw in Silent Hill : Homecomming.

Drkr_Zen
Drkr_Zen

Looks fairly meh. Still lookin' for a few good reasons to own a 360, though, so I'll keep an eye on this one. Reach is convincing me what with its promise in returning to the series roots and ODST looked pretty snazzy, but 360 exclusives just haven't pulled my interest enough... all the good ones are usually sequels with very few new IPs that are good. Hopefully things change with this game.

Triangly
Triangly

@McSchobbington Oh lawdy! It's the truth! Cause I say so! Amirite?