An impressive XBLA title
Developer: Remedy Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platform: XBLA – 1200 MS points
Genre: Third-person shooter, action, psychological thriller
When Remedy announced Alan Wake's American Nightmare a stirring curiosity rose from gamers who enjoyed the first title. People pondered about the change in setting, new focus on action, and the fact that it would be a XBLA title instead of a retail release. If these or other questions have plagued you in the upcoming release then fret not because Alan Wake's American Nightmare is a well-crafted experience that tailors to both loyalist and new comers to the Alan Wake series.
Players should be aware that American Nightmare isn't a direct sequel to Alan Wake but a standalone title set within the Night Springs television show. You should also be aware that there isn't a "Previously on Alan Wake" video to summarize the last game. Alan Wake is trapped within an episode he wrote for the show and takes the role as the champion of light who must defeat his evil doppelganger Mr. Scratch by rewriting reality in order to escape the time warp that is causing him to return to the beginning of his journey when he reaches the end. It is pleasant to see how the story unfolds between Alan and Mr. Scratch while revisiting the same areas again with different experiences, but some fans may find themselves wishing that the story led to something that directly related to the main story.
For a downloadable title Alan Wake's American Nightmare provides a sizable amount of content. The story mode provides a short 4-5 hour campaign with over 50 manuscript pages to collect. In addition to the story mode is a new addition called fight till dawn which pits you against increasing stronger waves of enemies for ten minutes. Coupled with online leaderboards and you have a lot of content for 1200 M.S. points.
One of the most surprising things about Alan Wake's American Nightmare is the graphics. American Nightmare looks exactly like Alan Wake, an impressive accomplishment for a XBLA title. Character models look solid, environments are well-designed, and the lighting effects are excellent. The environments do lack the same atmosphere tension as the first title but it is still admirable that Remedy was able to pack as much detail as they did. Don't expect to have the same atmospheric settings as Bright Falls forest though.
Alan Wake's American Nightmare plays almost the same as Alan Wake with some notable changes to the combat system. You will use the same controls as the original title to peel away the dark shields that protect the taken with your flashlight and eliminate them with your various guns. Although the game plays like Alan Wake new changes such as more weapons, access to one type of flashlight, and easier dodging allows for a better combat experience. Along with old Taken opponents Remedy has added new enemies such as the Splitter that separates into two enemies when a light is shined on them but gets weaker, a towering hillbilly that carries a giant saw, and birds that transform into humanoid form. Players may find the story mode to be too easy due to the fact that you rarely run out of ammo and batteries due to the plentiful availability of supply caches that regenerate quickly and lack of surprise attacks that were present in the first game.
Littered throughout the game are manuscripts that convey future events, video diaries of Mr. Scratch, and radio messages of familiar characters. These various collectables allows those who have experienced the first game to gain more out of the title by learning about how the characters from the first title have been dealing with Alan's disappearance for the past two years and a taste of how Mr. Scratch is enjoying his new life. Within American Nightmare's story these are the strongest parts of the game due to the strong writing and original voice cast. It's a shame that the new supporting characters within American Nightmare are poorly portrayed with weak voice-acting that sometimes become completely muffled. It doesn't help that you'll have to endure these sorry performances as you revisit these same areas again.
The newest addition is an arcade action mode called Fight Till Dawn. Within mode you must take one waves of Taken and survive for ten minutes with the same weapons you unlocked during the campaign by collecting manuscript pages. There are a total of ten maps that are separated into regular and nightmare. In the regular fight till dawn you fight enemies that are separated into waves and in nightmare mode enemies continually come until time runs out. This is fun and hectic mode that encourages players to be quick and constantly aware for a chance at the top of the leaderboards. It is disappointing that this mode doesn't support cooperative play or a type of radar system.
Alan Wake's American Nightmare is an impressive title that teeters between a stand-alone title and DLC. The story mode alone will take you about 4-5 hours to complete and the action mode will keep you busy if you intend to unlock all the achievements. It is a shame that the developers didn't include a summary of the first title and doesn't answer any of the questions present at the end of the first title. However Alan Wake's American Nightmare manages to overcome these shortcomings through strong writing and fun combat.