Alan Wake Review

Killer storytelling and creative demon slaying make the haunting Alan Wake one for the books.

Darkness is a powerful force. Not knowing what lies beyond the safety of the light can be absolutely terrifying to those with an overactive imagination. But fearful fantasy turns deadly in the bucolic town of Bright Falls, Washington, where the whispering shadows hold untold horrors that reach out from the darkness. Alan Wake spins into an intensely atmospheric psychological thriller that bends the barrier between reality and fiction until it snaps, delivering a chilling story-driven experience without leaning too heavily on schlocky gore. With a beautifully updated graphics engine and free pack-in downloadable content that fills in some of the gaps left by the original's cliff-hanger ending, the PC version is worth the long wait.

That sure as heck wasn't a coyote.

For successful big-city writer Alan Wake, a much-needed vacation to the remote countryside turns nightmarish as he is beset by demonic beasts and haunted by a malevolent paranormal presence that seeks to destroy him. When Wake's wife goes missing from their lakeside cabin retreat, he sets out into the dark woods to find her and winds up a protagonist in his own horror novel--one he doesn't remember ever writing. Unfolding across six TV-show-like episodes, the main story features top-notch suspense packed with memorable characters, humorous moments, bizarre plot twists, and an abundance of eeriness. Wake's narration of each freaky event as it unfolds in and around Bright Falls weaves an inner monologue laced with self-doubt and disbelief. It makes him an intriguing, troubled character and serves as one of many effective storytelling mechanics put into play.

Manuscript pages found scattered throughout each chapter flesh out the tale in other ways too, offering backstory and perspective on the creepy town, its people, and what's happening to them. These snippets of narrative text are most potent when they describe horrific foreshadowed events that have yet to happen to Wake. It's pleasantly nerve-racking to pick up a page that describes a gruesome encounter only to realize a few minutes later that you've just stumbled into the setting where its about to take place. Alan Wake's classy horror vibe relies on escalating tension and building suspense to keep you hooked. You might not jump out of your chair outright, but expect sweaty palms and general anxiousness at every turn on the gripping trek through this unsettling tale.

You'll need more than a shabby blazer and a hoodie to survive in these parts.

Bright Falls is anything but--the gloomy mountainside town is a patchwork of gas stations, a small downtown with shops and houses, a radio station, a sawmill, an abandoned farm, underground mines, scattered pockets of communities, and lots of wilderness. It's an isolated place cloaked in dark mystery, which provides a fitting, rural setting for the supernatural adventure to play out. Exploring the diverse terrain through each distinct area, often with little more than a flashlight or dim lamp in the distance to light the way, is simply captivating. These remote vistas were hauntingly beautiful on the Xbox 360, but the extra visual details, enhanced lighting, and overall crispness found in the PC version make it even more impressive. While some of the character animations feel a little jerky and dated at times, the tightly crafted presentation gives off a great moody atmosphere.

More than just a thematic hook to hang the journey on, light and darkness are integral components of Alan Wake's unique combat system. The demonically possessed entities that come howling out of the woods at Wake are sensitive to light. Using flares, flashlights, flashbang grenades, and other sources of bright illumination is the only way to hold them at bay and weaken the beasts enough to finish them off with a revolver, shotgun, hunting rifle, or another conventional weapon you pick up along the way. Other times light alone suffices, like when murders of crows swarm at you from the skies or when inanimate objects suddenly spring to life and hurtle toward you fueled by raw evil.

Thankfully, venturing off the obvious path reveals secret stashes to help in the fight. Scrounging every hiding spot for ammo and batteries turns into an obsession, and the stretches where these precious resources dwindle often lead to moments of panic-stricken chaos as you frantically try to dodge and weave your way to the nearest light source to escape being ripped apart. Since stopping foes requires a sustained blast of light that drains your flashlight, you're often forced to use it conservatively while also tackling large gangs of insidious creatures. This injects tension into every surprise encounter. It's a great, crafty battle system, even if the initial thrill it provides wanes slightly further in the game when such encounters become more predictable.

Flares buy you precious seconds to react.

In addition to the main story campaign, the PC version includes two DLC installments, The Signal and The Writer, that serve as a two-part continuation of the main plot and delve deeper into Wake's troubled psyche with a more surreal take on the twisted world he finds himself in. While the DLC gets off to a predictable start reminiscent of the main game, the second half breaks out of the box with weirder environments and a climactic conclusion. Even if they don't add much in terms of fresh gameplay, these story-expanding diversions do set things up for an eventual proper sequel and are absolutely worth playing.

Alan Wake feels right at home on the PC. While it retains some of the repetitive elements of the original console version, it does look prettier, and the extra content free of charge is a welcome addition to the package. Even the minor flaws are forgivable when you soak in the heady ambiance and get caught up in the foreboding current of this spook story. Killer storytelling, creative combat, and some of the slickest horror atmosphere you can find in a game make this supernatural showdown a memorable excursion to the dark side.

The Good
Strong writing and creative storytelling
Creepy without being campy
Dynamic combat is tight
Improved graphics
The Bad
Encounters grow repetitive by the end
Some character animations look dated
8.5
Great
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98 comments
barnoldcat
barnoldcat

Could not keep going beyond chapter 2, utterly bored. You soon get the idea - passable story linking you to the next linear run though the night to shine your torch on and shoot baddies. A console shooter dressed up as an intelligent game.


In 2014 the graphics can no longer carry it either, the trouble with going for realistic graphics (for the time) is that they date faster than any others.


You get the feeling the developers started with big aspirations for this game, then thought screw it, a simple shooter is much easier to make and where the easy cash is. Uninstalled and i'll pass on the American Nightmare expansion i also bought.

spastikman
spastikman

Absolutely love this game. I agree, some of the fighting gets a little repetitive, but the story and immersive atmosphere more than make up for any of that. Not the scariest game I've ever played, but it gave me goosebumps more times than I could count. Plus the quality of the story telling is in a whole different league than even most AAA games out there; I felt like it was a game had maturity and class which doesn't alienate older gamers (31 here). First episode was my favorite (loved the music and intro to the town).

sohail5566
sohail5566

loved it hope they make a sequel

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

Holy crap, I just bought the Alan Wake franchise for 90% off on steam. $4 for the whole thing, or $3 for the main game. The sale is on until Sunday night for those interested. I love steam sales.

Lausanna
Lausanna

I was really enjoying this up to episode 3. Then it just gets infuriating. Two especially tough encounters back to back equals rage, not a satisfying challenge. I hate games that make me so frustrated I have to take breaks. It kills the flow, which in a story driven game, is just plain stupid. We'll see if the rest of the game redeems itself. When my nerd rage subsides.

mddma
mddma

Awesome game, shame there arent more like it. Scary and atmospheric in the beginning but if they made enemies more powerful and less numerous it wouldnt get so repetitive by the end. The story was a bit confusing and the manuscript pages had spoilers (thats why i didnt read them until i finished the level) but overall its excellent.

GymFox
GymFox

Looks really really good with my new OC i7 + GTX 680 with all settings maxed... Super pretty and atmospheric game.. Definitely worth just experiencing the world. 

zzamaro
zzamaro

"Encounters grow repetitive by the end"

Pretty sure there are basically only 3 kind of enemies. The shadow guys being the most common. So the encounters feel repetitive after the 2nd chapter, not the end. Good game, but it could have used more kind of enemies like some comments said.


Strange GS didn't highlight this negative point in the X360 version.

karinkushi_11
karinkushi_11

I've played the game, it is amazing, but the graphics isn't that good to be honest, I felt so!!

MrGamerDerek
MrGamerDerek

This game doesn't really do it for me. It's a well made game with a good storyline and creates a good atmosphere. Just found the gameplay really boring and repetitive. The game is totally linear. It's just a case of following the 1 path available through the game, fighting off a few badies on the way and watching the videos inbetween. There's no thinking involved with this game either, the game just tells you exactly what to do and where to go at every stage. Good, well made game if you like that sort of thing but I much prefer open world style game play with variety, choice and where the player has to figure things out. Only played about half the game and was thoroughly bored with it.

j4x2020
j4x2020

Cool game. A bit pretentious, sometimes, but it has really well written lines (not the manuscript pages, they suck). And it's best console port I've seen in eons

 

outlawst
outlawst

it relies too much on story than action ! which becomes boring at some levels .

mixalisss13
mixalisss13

the last horror game i had play was alone in the dark 4 and i can tell you was much better than this.and what a terrble ending........

arifin_gamer
arifin_gamer

its not just a game, its a movie.......................

IamNick2k11
IamNick2k11

The story in this game is outstanding! The game is great from start to finish with enough mind bending and emotion to keep you gripped! I recommend it to anybody !

sargijeh
sargijeh

BEST STORY TELLING GAME EVER MADE!!!

ShadowsDemon
ShadowsDemon

The loading times in this game seriously stun me...

Leopard_Gr
Leopard_Gr

Very atmospheric enviroment, creepy with nice graphics and epic story! Really great game!!!

thorn3000
thorn3000

the nailed it with the repetitiveness towards the end, the game only has two types of enemies all together, it could have used more, some demon dogs or stuff...but otherwise good atmosfere mostly, gave it 8.5 as well

prince__vlad
prince__vlad

I played an hour , very cool atmosphere, reminds me of Stephen King's novels. I remember how bad I sweared Remedy when they announced years ago they decided to abandon the pc version. Now I know why;)

IcyRush
IcyRush

Great game,can't wait for Alan Wake 2

IcyRush
IcyRush

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

reivax_darkmage
reivax_darkmage

just played it couple of hours ago.. it was a very engaging experience! nice job fr remedy putting it on PC! now can't wait for max payne 3

rangeraa
rangeraa

Very Max Payne like...shouldn't be a suprise since it's from the same developer but it really reminded me how much I loved those games

The_Godfather_
The_Godfather_

If you're playing games for their single player experience and their story, than you're in the right place and you'll absolutely love the Bright Falls!

AkhilAnilkumar
AkhilAnilkumar

Played it........it was fun especially the combat once you mastered it....

AkhilAnilkumar
AkhilAnilkumar

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

edinko
edinko

AW while very good looking and the atmosphere is good has some basic flaw. Its unbelievable boring. The gameplay is exactly as shallow as mainstream console "handbook" dictates which is a bad thing to be honest. Neither my brother nor i could force ourselves to play the dlc after the main game. There is virtually nothing to do. Its a casual corridor PRESS X(start generator, open door) game with the same repetitive combat encounters over and over again ad nauseum. Actually I wished during my playthrough it would be SHORTER which is not very often. THe Gamyspy 6/10 is one i completely agree with. ITs a case of wasted potential. Great gfx and interesting story but the gameplay is nearly unbearable after few hours after you played enough of "PRESS X". I would rate it as many oscar movies. Its a good game/movie but a horribly boring one.

omgmike23
omgmike23

@lorddaggeroff what are you 12? Alan Wake is an AWESOME single player experience, I don't know about anyone else but im getting quite sick of mediocre campaign only to have an even more mediocre multiplayer. Alan wake has A VERY COMPELLING campaign and that's what they were focused on, they didn't have their mind split between a crappy story and a crappy multiplayer. Nuff Said.

Mitozz
Mitozz

@Lausanna  

Overall I died like 4 times in the game ( 2 from being careless and falling down ) L2P brah <3

NTM23
NTM23

@mddma The fact that the manuscripts spoiled what was to come was part of the story, and one of the reasons it was unique.

wavelength121
wavelength121

@mddma The manuscript pages aren't spoilers, they are part of the game. It's an intentional storytelling technique intended to foreshadow. 

wavelength121
wavelength121

@zzamaro I respectfully disagree. I propose the similarity and abundance of enemies is one of the game's strong points. It fits with the theme of the story. What were you expecting, aliens, leprechauns, dragons? The Darkness can only infest people and objects.

wavelength121
wavelength121

@j4x2020 Why do "they suck"? Can you back up your criticism or can you safely be ignored?

Mo60
Mo60

@PC-lovers95 Play it with default controls, but you need to change the manuscript pages control and make it left alt instead of F5 button,beside the game with its deafult controls is easy to control the game.Hope you enjoy a great game.

wavelength121
wavelength121

 @lorddaggeroff  @omgmike23 Shutup troll. It's Remedy's product, not yours. They can do whatever they like to it and are not obligated to explain anything. Go back to your private world where game companies exist to kiss your butt. Besides, Alan Wake is a great game and works fine as a linear shooter.

j4x2020
j4x2020

@wavelength121 @j4x2020 Can't really recall 'why' after all that time, but I guess it's very subjective anyway. Still better love story than twilight tho.

Alan Wake More Info

  • Released
    • PC
    • Xbox 360
    Alan Wake is a psychological thriller set in the American Northwest.
    8.5
    Average User RatingOut of 6558 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Remedy Entertainment
    Published by:
    Nordic Games Publishing, Microsoft Game Studios, Remedy Entertainment, E-Frontier
    Genres:
    Open-World, Adventure, Action, 3D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence