I will never forget playing Alan Wake for the very first time in 2010. From start to finish, the creepy atmosphere, intriguing setting, perfect pacing and interesting characters had me hooked. To this day, I have beaten the game three times. As a matter of fact, I am going for my fourth now. That is how great I consider this game to be. The fun factor is undeniable, especially for gamers who like single-player campaigns. Remedy Entertainment’s head honcho Sam Lake is the brains behind this wonderful game.
Alan Wake is a famous writer with the dreaded writer’s block, so he and his wife Alice decide to take a vacation in the quaint little town of Bright Falls in a fictional Washington state. The setting couldn’t be better. The town feels alive, real and genuine. That small-town feel is definitely present, with advertisements everywhere for the annual Deerfest, a cozy little diner, a backwoods trailer park and a “secluded” aura among the townsfolk. Mr. Wake is undoubtedly out of place on his vacation, as he and his wife call New York City their home. Massive mountains, dense fog, flowing streams and small storefronts are just a few of the highlights in the somewhat creepy town of Bright Falls. When a dark presence shrouds the place, Wake’s wife goes missing as he is thrust into a psychological thriller unlike no other, where he must save her and reclaim his sanity. The main cast of characters consists of Alan Wake, Alice Wake, Barry Wheeler, Thomas Zane, Barbara Jagger and Emil Hartman. Of course, there are several others. Aside from Alan and Alice Wake, we have Barry Wheeler, who is Alan’s manager and literary agent. He is a standout because of his sens of humor and screen presence. He is a fan favorite. Thomas Zane is a famous poet who visited Bright Falls in the ’70’s and former owner of Bird Leg Cabin, the location of Alan and Alice’s vacation. This character is shrouded in mystery and his face is never seen. Barbara Jagger was Zane’s lover and long-time Bright Falls resident. She died after drowning in Cauldron Lake (where Bird Leg Cabin sits). Emil Hartman is a psychiatrist who owns and operates Cauldron Lake Lodge, a psychiatric institution.
Alan Wake’s presentation is impeccable with its TV-like episodic storytelling which moves along in chapters or “episodes”. We already talked about the excellent setting in the pacific Northwest. Gameplay centers around the idea of light vs darkness. Alan is usually equipped with a revolver, flashlight, some flares and batteries. The enemies are known as the “Taken” and are invincible at first, but when Wake’s flashlight hits them long enough, they become vulnerable and you are able to kill them. Since the Dark Presence has engulfed Bright Falls, your enemies sometimes become the townsfolk who have been consumed. The game has a perfect difficulty level. It doesn’t hold your hand yet at times it seems as if you may not have enough resources to get out of certain areas alive. You will rely on batteries and small amounts of ammo to keep you going. Combat and controls are great. Wake isn’t an athlete, he is a writer, so don’t expect him to run very far for long. You will have to time your movements and escapes well. The gameplay elements are diverse and engaging, as it’s all very fun and rewarding. There things to collect such as thermoses and manuscript pages (which tell you more about the story). You will also encounter televisions and radios that further engross you in the experience and enhance the storytelling. I especially like the “Night Springs” television show and KFB-FM radio. These little additions go a long way in the production quality of Alan Wake.
The game has a brilliant audiovisual presentation. The awesome setting only makes it easier to love. The frame rate never falters, the lighting effects are second to none and the overall sound design is impeccable. I really enjoyed the music, radio station, horrifying and sometimes funny dialogue from enemies and the top-notch voice acting. Everything is so believable and lifelike. Alan Wake makes for a very likable and awesome protagonist too. Get ready to lose yourself in one awesome gaming experience!
Overall, Alan Wake is nearly flawless and offers one heck of a good time. It’s like taking a vacation to the Pacific Northwest with a huge psychological twist that eventually turns into a flat-out nightmare. You get varied environments, a great cast, superb visuals and sound design, a cool setting and fantastic gameplay. All of Alan Wake’s strengths come together in what culminates as a truly engaging and unforgettable experience, one you will want to revisit time and time again. Let’s hope Alan Wake 2 is in the works.