User Rating: 8.5 | Alan Wake's American Nightmare X360
Alan Wake's American Nightmare is a third-person shooter psychological horror video game, developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Microsoft Studios. Alan Wake's American Nightmare Presenting itself as an episode of a Twilight Zone-esque television show called "Night Springs," complete with a Rod Serling sound alike narrator, sees the titular hero facing off against an evil manifestation of himself, called Mr. Scratch. Scratch has taken up residence in a small Arizona town, and has turned most of the population into zombie-like hostiles called "the taken." Much of Alan Wake's American Nightmare's gameplay involves dealing with the taken, who attack Wake at regular intervals. The taken are usually protected by a cloak of shadows, which must be "burned" away using Wake's flashlight beam before he can then employ firearms to permanently put them on the other side of the dirt. Dodging enemy melee attacks is a heavily emphasized element of the gameplay: successfully doing it both slows down time and lets Wake get some distance from bad guys. At first, this dodge-and-shoot, third-person zombie bashing is a pretty cool mechanic, as the variety of conventional and light-based weapons (i.e. flares, flashbangs) and the game's first three maps provide a solid initial challenge (along with a decent, if rather pathetically Stephen King-wannabe-ish storyline). But things start to lose their luster when you play those first three maps a second time, immediately after completing them. And then, after completing those, you play them a third time. Sure, Alan Wake's American Nightmare truncates them a bit and saves you some time, but you're still playing the same maps, fighting basically the same enemies, and finding the same equipment, three damn times in a row. Even if the story weren't told through the clumsy mechanic of finding lost journal entries, it would still wear thinner than a politician's veneer of trustworthiness after two complete repetitions of the same stuff. Part of the reason for this is that the game's simple, third-person shooter mechanic is surprisingly fun to play with. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the game's Arcade Mode. Here, Wake is pitted for 10 minutes against waves of increasingly difficult takens (or one continuous wave if you play in Nightmare difficulty), on small maps strewn with items and ammo that you can collect between waves or during, if you're a true badass. Points are earned for enemies killed, and streaks of killings build up your score multiplier, as does successfully dodging enemy attacks. Something about Alan Wake's American Nightmare's Arcade Mode keeps you coming back for more, to see if you can't surpass your score and kick even more ass in ten minutes. Because weapons are unlocked in Arcade Mode by collecting more journal entries in Story Mode, you're encouraged to play both. Online Leaderboards are there so you can compare your abilities with others as you get better and better.