Microsoft Game Studios and Remedy Entertainment show players the darker side of small towns with the recent release of Alan Wake.
The game tells the story of Alan Wake, a best selling crime fiction author suffering from writer’s block, on his vacation to the small scenic town of Bright Falls with his wife Alice. All goes well until Alice disappears and Alan finds himself attacked by shadowy humanoid creatures known as The Taken. These enemies are covered by darkness, so in order to attack them with conventional firearms found around the world, Alan must first destroy that darkness with various light emitting devices. The use of light is one of the most interesting aspects to the game, as the enemies can easily blend in with their surroundings in the darkness and the player never knows where the next set of enemies will come from. A flashlight is the most commonly used form of light but Wake will also use car headlights, fireworks, and handheld flares to fight his enemies. Weapons that are usually just support devices in other games become some of the player’s main weapons in Alan Wake, the most interesting of which are the flareguns that act as grenade launchers taking out multiple enemies grouped together.
Another interesting element of the game is the way the story unfolds. Each chapter plays out like a television serial, ending with a cliffhanger and adding more mystery to an already mysterious story. Just to make players guess even more Wake finds various pages of a manuscript around the world said to be penned by him, but he does not remember writing it. The manuscript is an interesting way of releasing story to the player, as it seems to be orchestrating the events happening to Alan. One page will depict the inner monologue of a character as he or she dies, while another will hint at future events as if preparing Alan and the player for an upcoming fight or plot twist. This makes the player want to find the next page of the manuscript and learn what exactly is happening in this seemingly peaceful town of Bright Falls.
While the battles are fun at first, they get a bit repetitive near the end of the game. This is not helped by the lack of different enemies Wake fights. Players can quickly learn how much time is needed to shine a light on an enemy to destroy the darkness and how many shots it takes to finally kill them. This takes away from some of the challenge of the fights, but the game keeps players guessing as to when those fights are to occur.
Overall, Alan Wake is one of the best psychological thriller games ever made. While the fights may be repetitive near the end of the game, enemies still surprise players by jumping out from shadows. The story plays out like a thriller should, keeping the story mysterious to the point of making the player want to know what happens next, but not too mysterious as to make some just stop caring. For anyone looking for a great thriller, this is a must play.