Alan Wake Microsoft Press Conference Impressions

We get our first look at the creepy action in Remedy's upcoming adventure game.

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Alan Wake has been out of the public’s sight for a long time. After being announced at X06 almost three years ago, the game went into hiding, with virtually no information about its progress leaking out. Today at Microsoft’s E3 press conference, developer Remedy pulled the curtain off its much-anticipated adventure game, showing a dark and tense world that seems to combine the atmosphere of survival horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill with the internal dialogue and slow-motion action sequences of Max Payne. Needless to say, it looks pretty sweet.

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The trailer begins with a flyby shot of a secluded forest. The daytime shot looks relaxing and peaceful; trees and a river filter in and out of view as the camera sweeps the landscape. Alan Wake and his wife, Alice, are vacationing here, a chance for him to take a break from the supernatural book he is currently working on. His wife is quickly kidnapped, ruining his plans, so he must put away his typewriter to track her down, all while surviving the evil beings that have mysteriously materialized around his quiet cabin. The story seems to mix in dream sequences at points. A few times in the trailer, Alan is abruptly woken up by Alice saying his name, so it’s unclear if the action sequences are taking place in a dream state, in his reality, or a combination of the two. The book he is writing is also a large part of the tale. The story seems to be coming to life, so Alan has to hunt down pages to find his wife.

When the story sequences stop, we finally get to see how the game will play. The atmosphere is tense and creepy. Alan Wake slowly walks through the darkened forest, a flashlight in his left hand providing the only source of light. At one point, he happens upon a mini junkyard. There are a few boxes and other trash littering the ground, as well as a dilapidated car that doesn’t look like it could ever move under its own volition. Inanimate objects love springing to life when a forest becomes haunted, so within a few seconds Alan has to deal with a levitating box flying toward his head. He dodges out of the way and then swings his flashlight behind him, keeping the beam on what seems like an ordinary, motionless box. When the car starts moving, Alan runs out of there, escaping the evil without being hurt.

There are things to fight other than boxes and old cars in Alan Wake. After surviving that first attack, Alan ventures deeper into the forest, and things get even creepier. The ground briefly shakes and trees start to fall off in the distance. Alan slowly creeps across a bridge that looks like it has seen better days. And then humanoid enemies start to attack. One of them, armed with an axe, runs at Alan. The action starts to move in slow motion here, and Alan ignites the humanoids with sparks. The enemies seem to be damaged by the light. They hide in the shadows, and when you shine your flashlight on them, they shield their eyes, and then if you hold the beam on them long enough, they start to spark. At one point, Alan finds a flare and uses it to ward off attackers swarming all around him. A crowd of angry beings forms behind him, and Alan is able to sprint away from the horde.

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Later in the demo, Alan calls a cable car to take him across a valley. Once he's on board, a swarm of bats reminiscent of the krill from Gears of War attack the cable, causing the car to break free. The mood is tense and terrifying throughout the trailer. Alan can use his gun to attack enemies as well, but it seems to just slow them down instead of killing them completely. He runs and hides in a cabin at one point, and then a bulldozer comes alive, crashing into his wooden sanctuary. The trailer ends at this moment, with Alice once again whispering for Alan to wake up. The game is scheduled for release in the spring of 2010.

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