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Alan Wake took its time, and the quality is telling. But, for all you know about the game's mechanics, it's not until you look it in the eye first hand that you appreciate what makes it quite so exciting.
Alan Wake has been in a holding pattern for a few years. It was first announce alongside the brand new Xbox 360, and in the intervening time has changed somewhat.What started out as an open world experience taking cues from the likes of Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead is now paired down to a more directed experience. It was originally more of a thriller game with a lot less action, but gunplay and combat now form a big part of the game.
But rather than these changes being indicative of a developer unsure of the right way forward, they are more testament to Remedy's commitment to the thriller genre. This focus has remained consistent throughout the game's long life and is now, finally evident on the shelf.
Even with it's long pre-history Alan Wake was still quite a surprise to me. By the time I had played it I pretty much knew what to expect. The basic mechanic of using light to dispel the shadowy ghouls possessing the townsfolk before finishing them off with some lead was novel and worked well. The slow unfolding of the plot, and its echo in the novel pages you find throughout was well executed and kept me moving on apace.
These things I had expected, what I hadn't anticipated was just how wonderfully unsettling it would be. This was a world that felt like it had substance. Not just the voice acting and visuals - they were solid enough - but the setting as a whole, Bright Falls, has an imposing presence that made me shudder on more than one occasion.
It also provides something much more substantial to ponder.
Maybe I'm unusual in having such high expectations for the games I play. Others, I know, would reserve this for books and films. But Alan Wake vindicates my outlook somewhat. It's not only great fun, but it also provides something much more substantial to ponder.
The unfolding thriller works because you can believe in the world. When you first encounter more supernatural happenings it's all the more shocking. This is pivotal to any thriller story, and here it works a treat.
Like reading a good novel, I found my time playing Alan Wake a real escape. I'd look forward to playing the game in the evening as I plodded away at my day job. I relished this so much that I soon found myself at the conclusion. In fact this is probably my only criticism of the game, for all its quality it is a little short.
The unfolding thriller works because you can believe in the world.
The next evening after finishing I picked up my controller and started to play through again. It certainly warranted a second visit, but again what I hadn't expected was that it was harder this time through. The game, I discovered, adjusts its difficultly to match your performance. Playing a second time, it soon realised I was by now a much better shot - so more ferocious monsters were sent my way.
Alan Wake is an unusual game for a few reasons, but the most impressive is that Remedy have taken their time to get this right. I'm looking forward to playing the additional download content that has been promised, as well as a second full episode after that. I simply what some more reasons to spent time back in Bright Falls.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: