Alan Wake Impressions

Developer Remedy rocked the Microsoft Press Conference with Alan Wake, and we got to see even more of the game behind closed doors.

Alan Wake has garnered as many headlines for its protracted development time as it has for its impressive technology, but this year's E3 was a completely new beginning for the game. Seeing it in action alongside the development team at Microsoft's booth, we caught ourselves watching open-mouthed numerous times. Let's just say that Alan Wake will top a lot of Best of E3 lists by the end of the show.

The game puts you in the shoes of, er, Alan Wake--a struggling writer who decides to head out to the countryside with his wife. So far, The Shining, you might be thinking, but Alan Wake is much more like a TV series than a movie. The game is split up into distinct parts, such as the 18-minute demo we saw, and each "episode" will open with the message "Tonight on Alan Wake." It will also feature a previous episode recap and a cliffhanger ending, hopefully propelling you through the overall story by providing plenty of thrills along the way. This is a format that people may remember from Alone in the Dark, and while the developers do acknowledge the similarities, they seem to be confident with their implementation of the idea.

The setup for the game comes shortly after Alan and Alice arrive on their holiday. Alice disappears, which leaves Alan understandably distraught, and he soon comes to believe that she's being held hostage in return for pages from his manuscript. As the story unfolds, he collects pages in various locations, and as he reads them, he sees the events he's written about come to life. In the demo we saw, Alan read how a man was firing his gun, and these events played out in the game shortly after.

As for gameplay, it's clear that Alan Wake revolves around the interplay between light and dark. The unspecified enemies are all controlled by the darkness, which can control humans, animals, and vehicles such as trucks. To fight them, Alan has to use light sources such as his flashlight, flares, or streetlights to remove their "dark shield," and he can then kill them using his gun. Basically, darkness means death for Alan, so he always needs to stay in the light to stay alive. Sometimes this means starting up a generator, as we saw in one minigame, or upgrading his flashlight. We didn't see it in the game, but Remedy stated that Alan is able to concentrate on the light to make it stronger for short bursts of time.

The combat mechanics look to be fairly simple: you just point the light at your enemies to remove their darkness shield and then open fire with your handgun. However, with multiple enemies or vehicles, you have to use a flare, which will vanquish the darkness in an explosion of light. We watched the developer of the game toss a flare at a couple of human enemies, and the camera panned round to offer a slow-mo view of the action. Remedy's previous series was the famously stylish Max Payne, and while Alan Wake is in a different genre, it looks to be just as beautifully presented.

From a technical standpoint, Alan Wake looks like one of the most accomplished Xbox 360 games yet. The lighting and shadowing are excellent, as you should probably expect from a game that puts so much emphasis on using light as a weapon, but there are plenty of other subtle details to take in. The trees look particularly beautiful, and when the darkness begins to topple trees right in front of you, it's a very scary thing to witness.

At the end of our demo, Alan Wake jumped into a car for a short driving section. The driving looked like it was fairly simple--the only weak part of the whole presentation--but it was worth it for the cliffhanger ending. Alan arrives at the lighthouse, but the lights are soon turned off and he slowly realizes that it was all a trap. As a tornado of darkness approached, Remedy turned off the game and announced the end of our E3 session, and we were certainly left wanting more. There's no playable code at this year's E3, but expect to hear more about the game soon ahead of its first-quarter 2010 release.

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Discussion

63 comments
Vasot
Vasot

coolcon2000 the game will be released normally for X360. The PC version of this has not been abandoned but it is unknown of when it will be released...

coolcon2000
coolcon2000

Heard this isn't on PC anymore, exclusive to 360?

Vasot
Vasot

Uncharted 2 is the best ??? LOL another ps3 loyal sheep... Alan Wake PWNS uncharted 2 in almost everyway !!

CarnageLV
CarnageLV

4 years of waiting luckyduke24, well it's a long time...bad luck and "exclusive to the Windows Vista operating system", sounds like a joke to me...

luckyduke24
luckyduke24

There is nothing wrong with having a game where the action is simple and easy to use. That doesn't make it less of a masterpiece. Take Indigo Prophecy, one of the better sleeper hits to ever grace the original Xbox. There wasn't much action but was intriguing and innovative. It doesn't have to have action nonstop, some of us actuall want a game with a plot. And not those paperthin ones that have been coming out lately. I'll pick this game up for sure because I've been looking forward to this for about 4 years now.

irwin888
irwin888

They nailed the look of the Northwest right on the dot! This game is definitely a precedent setter in the making.

androidcraig
androidcraig

The episode format, with cliffhangers and recaps, sounds a lot like the last Alone In The Dark game (as stated in the article). I don't like the link! I really hope that's where the similarities end between the two games. I disliked the last AITD - cheesy, frustrating and essentially on rails. Alan Wake has great potential, if the controls and level of freedom are much, much, MUCH better than AITD. Here's hoping...

Excedra
Excedra

This...is...awesome...

Vasot
Vasot

Looks awesome and the story is unique

maxcue
maxcue

I've been watching and waiting for this game for two years now. By the time they get it done it will be graphically obsolete....at least to hope finishing my PC upgrade this week but really would like to use my PS3 to play it...

gnial
gnial

The combat mechanics seems interesting, but I hope they implement the necessary variety and pacing so it doesn't get repetitive and boring.

gmax
gmax

Looks like some scary goodness.

dkjestrup
dkjestrup

Why do I get a similair feeling as Heavy Rain. Looks like a good exclusive for you xbox owners :) Now we can all be happy

Junior_AIN
Junior_AIN

This game caught my attention, certainly looking forward to it.

chaaarmar
chaaarmar

When Alan Wake was first announced, it was supposed to be for the PS3; then it shifted to XBox and PC and now it looks like XBox only. What happened? Are they planning to role it out for other platforms after the XBox launch?

PAL360
PAL360

This game looks amazing!!! Its incredible that 360 (4 years old tecnology) is still competing with high end graphics :o

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Let me understand, the shooting was simple, the driving was simple, but the graphics were gorgeous? Another pretty game with poor gameplay coming again by the sounds of it. But I will be the first to say only time will tell. This preview doesn't give me huge hope though.

Mixi360
Mixi360

yeh its great look like Mysterious Horror

SSBFan12
SSBFan12

Most anticipated game of E3 so far!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Killer6b9
Killer6b9

pakhair.....better late then never, still looks very good I am going to keep my eye out on this one. I would so much rather have a game that has everything polished to a fine tune and be great then rushed and have bad controls, graphics, ect.

pakhair
pakhair

Looks fantastic............ BUT still quite late................

shaunk89
shaunk89

Looks amazing. Silent Hill meets Alone in the Dark made by the creators of Max Payne? I'm sold.

chirumbolo
chirumbolo

I've been waiting for this game ever since they first announced it back in 2005. It sounds and looks incredible.

ahadj
ahadj

Felt like it had a lot of influence from Silent Hill games. Fights looked basic. The story and the atmosphere will be the only things which will make or break this game. Also I will prefer a PC version too. Coming in spring 2010 is a bumer though.

Ghost_Face
Ghost_Face

You are an awesome game... and your name is Alan Wake!

crazerlapd
crazerlapd

This game is for Xbox360. Why not for PC?

Klarden
Klarden

Aitd: The New nightmare+ObsCure+AitD (2008)+Sam Lake A great combination for me:)

OkuLaris
OkuLaris

Looks to have tons of atmosphere, must buy for me. :)

mach-stem
mach-stem

madd_hatter: then why even post in the comments? You're obviously interested, or a complete idiot who likes to waste his time. I for one am excited for this game, can't wait to see how it pans out! PEACE

sirkoj
sirkoj

Im not excited.... Actually really dissappointed... Graphics and music are killer, just don't like the plot at all.

madd_hatter
madd_hatter

I think I'm the only one who DOESN'T want Alan Wake. Just doesn't seem all that appealing to me. =/

gnial
gnial

Promissing. I'm hoping to play it in windows 7 (or 8, or whatever...). :)

Metedea
Metedea

I'm really hoping this game will be as good as it looks.

spazzx625
spazzx625

This is easily my most anticipated game of the near future. Can't wait.

madsnakehhh
madsnakehhh

Looks great, i hope that it comes to the PC too.

Fearless07
Fearless07

so they give us a hole year to sleep well!! 'cause when it comes we will probably loose our sleep

konradak
konradak

Sweet. Looks good and I'm glad it's heavy into story. Cannot wait to be running it.

Avenger1324
Avenger1324

Still no playable code for E3? Sounds just like Duke Nukem Forever - they managed to produce the occasional video or screenshot every few years.

Gamer4Iife
Gamer4Iife

I'm a bit disappointed that you can use firearms to shoot the ghosts coming at you, it makes the experience much less scarier. I was expecting something frightening... Still a day one purchase, though. :)

XanderKage
XanderKage

Is it still fro Vista? Hope not.

dynomitemasta
dynomitemasta

This is great! I have heard nothing but good things about Alan Wake from E#, except of coarse from Humorguy_basic.... he thinks it's dumb. I was really stoked for Heavy Rain, but now that it just seems like an interactive movie from what I heard at E3, I'm less thrilled with that one now, and happier with this.

nyranasaurus
nyranasaurus

Well i would actually like a game that is like silen thill that isnt silent hill. The game silent hill hasnt made any thing great since SILENT HILL 2 and 3. The new silent hill wasnt that great unfortunately it lost its silent hillish substance different developers. + i LOVE the fact that the game is in a wierd town and it may be like a Stephen King book. That actually sounds good NOT bad. 1 Big issue i have is it may only be played on Vista and not xp. If thats the case i will have to wait for an xp crack Because Vista i still hate.

Simple_malk
Simple_malk

I really can't get why everyone's so excited about this game. Like initially I had high hopes but honestly now this is looking more and more like a rip-off of Silent Hill and a Stephen King novel. Like c'mon weird town where all goes hell at night? A writer who's own horror story starts coming real? Overall using light as a weapon seems very cool but apart from that nothing really seems to separate this from any other shiny survival horror. Now I'm not saying this game doesn't have potential. I'm just disappointed so far that this game isn't something completely different at the moment it seems to copy an existing game setting almost completely and from what I've seen has very conventional game play RE4 style shooting + quick time events. I guess time will tell ultimately but color me unimpressed. In a huge line up of awesome looking titles like Brutal Legend, Halo ODST, FFXIII, SP: Conviction, etc. you need to be something really special to stand out. Overall Alan Wake is looking like something that they either stole ideas from other things or showed up too late with the same game just bigger and shinier and they are claiming they brought something amazing and fresh.

-Hells_Gate-
-Hells_Gate-

This will be as epic as Max payne when it came out

DiscGuru101
DiscGuru101

The natural setting looks especially realistic and mysterious.