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Alan Wake 360 Review

19/01/2011 Thinking Dressup Gamer Review
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Alan Wake 360

Alan Wake




Further reading:
The Fog

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Other GamePeople columnists have reviewed this from their perspective - huh?:
Story Gamer (360)
Family Gamer (360)
Soulful Gamer (360)
Perpetual Gamer (360)
Returning Gamer (360)
Scripted Gamer (360)
Scared Gamer (360)
Considered Gamer (360)
Tech Gamer (360)
Podcast (360)
Soundtrack Gamer (OST)

Alan Wake 360 is a horror action adventure that paints a delightful picture, but its reliance on combat left me wanting something more. It wears the trappings of a good horror novel but without the trademark scares and plot twists the genre is known for.

I had been patiently waiting for Alan Wake ever since I saw the first trailer, included when I bought my 360 at the end of 2006. The promise of a game mixing Twin Peaks with Silent Hill and those cutting-edge visuals had a real effect on me.

Ironically, when it was finally released in May 2010 I didn't play it, but this was a conscious decision since without winter's darkness much of the power to scare is lost. This Christmas I finally decided to fulfil the promise of entering the setting of what could easily have been an interactive Stephen King novel.

It's not accidental that I think of Stephen King whilst playing this game, since he is quoted and name checked more than once through the adventure. All the elements of his work are there - a writer struggling to pen his next work and dark forces about to be unleashed on a small American town. This provides the setting for a surprisingly combat heavy third person action adventure.

Once designed as an open-world adventure, Alan Wake presents its linear chapters in huge and beautiful environments that are really worth experiencing. Sometimes I just stood and looked around at the snow-capped peaks and deep valleys that made me want to be there myself. Alan Wake, if it did nothing else, would do an excellent job of selling the wild beauty of Washington State.

Playing a writer I perhaps expected to use my brain to progress the story in a way I imagine one of King's protagonists might do.

And in game play terms it's worth exploring these environments for the collectibles they hide. Whilst searching for Thermos flasks might be incongruous in a story about desperately seeking your missing wife, finding the manuscript pages does make sense. The former is just an excuse to enjoy the level designer's work, while the latter tells the back story and portend what might lie around the next corner. With a plot that centres on Wake's writing these little snippets of his work were a delight every time I discovered them.

Alan Wake admirably filled my screen with beautiful images and spectacular lighting effects; but I found the game play less satisfying. Unlike similar title, like the Silent Hill series, there is no puzzle solving here. Each chapter is comprised of some daylight based scene setting, that soon moves into frantic night-time combat. Every time more of the possessed townspeople ran towards me wielding axes I wished for more time to experience the townspeople and the stories they might have to tell given the chance.

Playing a writer I perhaps expected to use my brain to progress the story in a way I imagine one of King's protagonists might do. Instead you rely on the limited but hardly scarce amount of ammunition and weaponry to clear every roadblock.

This reliance on shooting and the almost as regular running began me thinking once again about the great action adventure games. A common technique used to elevate the best of them is the careful balance of downtime and adrenalin filled moments. Alan Wake spends too much of its time trying to leave me frantic, which in the end dulled my senses as the combat became repetitive.

Alan wore the same threadbare jacket throughout his adventure, just as I wore the same hangdog expression

Despite this though, Alan Wake does an exceptional job of presenting its story, filling every scene with an atmosphere that is evocative of horror films such as The Fog. Unfortunately it does so without providing that same dread in the pit of your stomach.

Developer, Remedy has traded action for scares and beauty for schlock. Scenes where this transaction pays off are truly amazing. Taking on an out-of-control bulldozer with death on its metal mind and traversing a working saw mill are just two of the scenes that remain with me.

Alan Wake both thrilled and disappointed me. Beautiful and at times technically jaw dropping, but with repetitive game play I struggled to stay engaged. Wake wore the same threadbare jacket throughout his adventure, just as I wore the same hangdog expression, wishing for more of what was promised in those early videos.

Written by Jon Seddon

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Jon Seddon writes the Dressup Gamer column.

"Dress-up is the door to a world of make believe and theatre. I review games that let me escape my world and take on a myriad of roles. I love games that emphasise my character and the choices I can make - whether I am merely outfitting them for the fight or choosing which of my crew to save."

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