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Other GamePeople columnists have reviewed this from their perspective - huh?:
Story Gamer (360)
Family Gamer (360)
Soulful Gamer (360)
Returning Gamer (360)
Scripted Gamer (360)
Scared Gamer (360)
Considered Gamer (360)
Tech Gamer (360)
Dressup Gamer (360)
Soundtrack Gamer (OST)
Alan Wake 360 gets the light and dark gunplay right before worrying about the fear factor. And it is the jubilation of shooting fun that stayed with me more than the zombies.
Alan Wake has been a long time coming, and possibly has become overly enlarged in our view due to the wait. Despite high expectation though it delivers an experience that stays with you long after you have put the controller down.
But it's not the haunting darkness, zombified villagers or threat or premonitions of the impending future that leave the deepest mark. It's the game play. This is a game that does a lot of things right, but knows throughout what must be utmost.
There is the simple light and dark mechanic. Before you can shoot any would be assailants you have to burn away the dark shroud that covers them. It's a little like Halo's ingenious two layer energy and armour shield. And like Halo it adds a joyous layer of complexity to what would otherwise be a derivative shooting mechanic.
Some of the most effective weapons in the game are light based. Even a torch becomes a spectacular attack as sparks fly as you burn away the darkness. Street lights become safe havens, halogen lamps machine gun like and flares more like missiles.
The first time you free a local from the dark force that controls them it feels a little odd to then shoot them, but such is the satisfaction of the dispatch you are soon looking for the next victim. Sadistic maybe, but this is all, pretty much, self defence. Either way it was fun of all this shooting that stayed in my mind between games can drew me back to another session.
Round this central strength is built a story that, although a little hammy, feels like it comes from a genuinely interesting idea.
Around this central strength is built a story that, although a little hammy, feels like it comes from a genuinely interesting idea. As you progress the game reveals pages of a novel your character can't remember writing, but is in his name. These pages echo the future and provide not only plot exposition, but a good heads up for what's coming next. If nothing else, it is a neat way of telling a story.
Progressing through the chapters as they are revealed slowly brings bigger threats. But just as challenging are some puzzle elements. These are pretty everyday fetch and press quests, but with the dark threat all around - and a lack of good light - the tension turns them into something much more difficult. Calm logical thought is at a premium.
This is a game that will stay with you visually too. It takes the iconic slow plodding zombie but manages to create a much more human threat than ever Resident Evil did. This is largely due to a graphical engine that offers both impressive draw distance as well as excellent lighting. It also helps that Alan Wake started life as an open world game, although now more constrained you still have the sense that you are working through a real environment - which of course you are.
But then, as I was just getting to relish my evening sessions with Alan Wake, it all comes to an end. This is a game you can complete in around twelve hours - or probably shorter if, unlike me, you are actually good at games.
I instinctively reached to start the game again, but then realised that although that would be fun, all the mystery and haunting premonitions of those manuscript pages would now not have quite the same impact.
I'm itching for another chapter, or at least some Download content - it won't be too long I'm sure.
I did go on to play through a second time though. And actually, even knowing the beginning from the end, my subsequent play was very different from the first. Not only because the game flexes its difficulty to suite your ability, but also because I could notice all the little touches and details that had gone into making the experience as plausible as possible.
Alan Wake is a good game. But as well as a recommendation, I'd suggest you take your time with the first play through, because it's a game you can also only really play properly one time. You will most likely play it more than once - but that first time is the real charm of the thing.
Dark and light, impressive writing and an intricately planned experience make Alan Wake much better than I thought it might have been. I'm itching for another chapter, or at least some Download content - it won't be too long I'm sure.
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: