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Game On, Bitches: Alan Wake Review!!

05.05.2010

ALAN WAKE

BUY THIS GAME AT AMAZON.COM NOW!!!

Developer:Remedy
Publisher:Microsoft Game Studio
Systems: XBOX 360

I had the splendid opportunity take an early look at Microsoft's newest game, ALAN WAKE. This thriller features a Stephen King-like author, Alan Wake, who is thrust into a real-life horror story not very different from his own works. He travels to Bright Falls with Alice, his wife, and is quickly overcome by strange dreams and the mysterious disappearance of Alice. With his trusty flashlight and book-agent sidekick, can Alan solve the mystery of (dunh dunh dunh!) Bright Falls?!



Before I get into my review of the game, it is important to note that ALAN WAKE was in development since before the launch of the XBOX 360... in 2005. Considering the five years it took for this game to make it to the console, ALAN WAKE looks and plays better than I expected. Compared to its peer group from 2005 (PERFECT DARK, KAMEO, and CALL OF DUTY 2), ALAN WAKE looks more contemporary those games that came out way back when.

Putting a new spin on how games' work, ALAN WAKE delivers its story not through levels or areas but by episodes. The game is clearly modeled after shows like TWIN PEAKS or THE X-FILES, letting players enjoy a good chunk of a themed episode that is part of a much larger plot not yet revealed. There are six episodes available in this game and there has been mention of future episodes available via download. Each episode runs about two hours in length if you play the game as you don't rush through everything (therefore, you explore the map looking for extra ammo, batteries, and coffee thermoses). For my personal taste, these episodes are a bit longer than I like and would rather play more episodes ta a shorter length (like the one-hour length levels in LEFT 4 DEAD).



Because the game is broken up into multiple episodes, my enjoyment of the story varied from episode to episode. While I was thoroughly bored and annoyed during the first episode, I started enjoying the story more in later episodes. My major gripe with the storytelling was the piss-poor narration. The game uses the thoughts and narration of the character of Alan Wake to explain specific game expectations or gameplay quirks. It does so in a silly and implausible way that took me out of the story several times at the beginning of the game. As the episodes progress the narration subsides and the story entertains more than it annoys. It might come from the fact that the character of Alan progress from a sack-less chump in Episode 1 to a tough flashlight-wielding lover scorned in the later episodes.



When it comes to the horror aspects of this game, I have a very hard time qualifying ALAN WAKE as a scary game. Compared to CONDEMNED: CRIMINAL ORIGINS and DEAD SPACE, this game is more like LUIGI'S HAUNTED MANSION. I was never scared, grossed out, or surprised. Hell, I wasn't even creeped out. I would call this game more of a whodunit than a horror game.

On the graphics front, ALAN WAKE has a lot to look at - in the background. Very detailed and realistic settings make the game feel legit. When it comes to the graphics of elements involved in actual gameplay, the lighting affect provided by the flashlights and the streetlights are smartly crafted. It is obvious that the game designers spent a lot of time making sure that the light physics in this game were perfect and that it was accurately represented by the graphics.



Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that enemy design was given much importance in ALAN WAKE. While the graphics of each enemy is acceptable, the repetitive nature of the enemies (there are three or four different kinds of enemies) leaves much to be desired. Repetitive enemy types was acceptable when the XBOX 360 launched. However, five years later it just appears to be lazy and uncreative. Furthermore, the horrendous one-liners that these enemies spout might be the worst part of the entire game. Evil shadow fishermen should not be threatening me with the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids.

Also troublesome about ALAN WAKE is the floaty nature of the game's gravity. The protagonist seems to hover around game elements far too freely. The game doesn't feel like it received a final polish on it's physics engine and I experienced some troublesome collision detection problems. For example, when jumping from one platform to a lower platform, my character got stuck in an invisible free fall (without falling) that froze me in mid-air and eventually killed me. It wasn't like I was trying to break the game or jump into a hidden area. I was just following the path the game designers intended.

Despite my problems with repetitive enemies, collision detection, corny one-liners, and horrendous narration, I recommend ALAN WAKE for gamers looking to try out something new. While the game failed to scare me in the the least, I enjoyed the adult themes of the game and the mature approach that it had to exploring characters. It reminded me a bit of INDIGO PROPHECY, a seminal game from the last generation that deserves more credit for pushing game designers towards better storytelling. If you're looking for an interesting and different new game, ALAN WAKE is worth a shot.

FINAL VERDICT: 7.9 out of 10

Source: Cool Columns

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