Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Completed: Alan Wake

I originally wasn't planning to get or play Alan Wake. I thought the concept, a horror writer in his own story, was interesting and I like the idea of rewarding developers who do good ports of console games to PC, but I tend to steer clear of horror.

The most recent Spoiler Warning covered the game however, and combined with a well timed sale early in the season I decided to pick it up and play it. I actually tossed up between buying it on Steam and buying it on, I ended up going with Steam because I feel that it has a better system for handling updates.

Alan Wake is the story of a popular writer and his wife Alice who move to a small town called Bright Falls to get away from the city and Alice hopes this will also allow Alan to get past a writers block he has had for some time. Things quickly go wrong as Bright Falls is situated next to a place called Cauldron Lake which has some strange properties.  Typical video game plot ensues, Alice vanishes, Alan then sets out to get her back. While doing so he starts to find manuscript pages in his hand writing describing events that either have just happened or events that are currently happening. The game is not particularly scary but has many horror references as well as apparently plenty of Twin Peaks references which I missed being pretty unfamiliary with the source material.

The game is split into 6 episodes, followed by 2 DLC episodes (which come with the PC version), which are complete with previously on Alan Wake segments at the beginning. I really like this concept, it provides the game with natural stopping points every couple of hours or so. It could have been handled better than it was, the previously on Alan Wake segments were completely superfluous when you literally just finished the previous episode a minute or so ago, the game should be able to tell when previous chapters were played and only play previously on sections covering information that is say at least a week old.

The game was entertaining but did not particularly grab me until about half way through. Despite the episodic structure my typical play sessions were around half an hour or so until I hit Episode 4, then I played through the next 2 episodes back to back until I realised that it was in fact 1:30am and I was participating in a karate tournament the next morning. It caught me quite off guard that Alan Wake was suddenly able to keep me so involved and interested in seeing what was going to happen next in the story.

A lot of the actual game content of Alan Wake is the combat, which is a pity because the game pretty much has 4 enemy types and 1 non-creature enemy, all of these are introduced in the first two episodes and the game merely throws these enemies at you in slightly different environments and in different amounts. Initially this works fairly well, enemies are pretty much invulnerable until the darkness has been burnt off them via either a torch or other light source, which means you have to juggle your positioning and your ammunition and the game does a good job and making sure that you typically have enough enemies attacking you from multiple angles that this is challenging. Unfortunately this is pretty much the only approach for most of the 6 episodes in the game, the DLC episodes manage to really play around a lot with the basic game mechanics and enemies which by then was a very welcome change.

I was kind of amused at the blatant in game advertising, it isn't as bad as other games I have heard of, but it is very obvious that both Energizer and Verizon did a fair amount of in game advertising along with a car company. There is even a very mood breaking optional TV that you can turn on in the midst of a fairly tense escape from an otherworldly horror that exists only to show you a dated verizon ad as well as a likely similarly dated car ad.

I ended have having a great time with Alan Wake, the story is sadly pretty backloaded, it only really picks up about halfway through and most of the early content could have been trimmed and reordered to significantly improve the game. I especially liked the DLC episodes which were surprisingly easy to miss given that the game doesn't automatically continue through to them nor does it remind you about them at the end, even though they come with the PC version. I definitely would recommend people look into it especially if it goes on sale on Steam or GOG.

Games list at time of post: 400 unfinished titles    
Changes since previous post: Finished 0 titles, added 0   

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