Welcome to The Otaku’s Study, XBox360! This marks the first review of an XBox360 game, and if you have had time to read my Xbox profile (Scroll a few posts down), then you may ask why I chose this game over all the others? This game has a different sort of gameplay to the rest of the games I have on the system, it is similar in form to Heavy Rain, that it attempts to tell a story rather then act like a game, however in comparison, Heavy Rain is more storyline oriented whilst Alan Wake is more game oriented. Heavy Rain got a decent review from me, so let’s see if this game is any better!
When the wife of the best-selling writer Alan Wake disappears on their vacation, his search turns up pages from a thriller he doesn’t even remember writing. A dark presence stalks the small town of Bright Falls, pushing Wake to the brink of sanity in his fight to unravel the mystery and save his love.
This game calls itself a ‘Psychological Action Thriller’ which overall I would say is true to what the game is, it has scenes that focus on the psychology of Wake and the mentality and surealness of the environment, action which involves well, action and thriller in which some cases does act as a thriller, however during the course of the game, whilst it did have those elements, they were not really prominent over other elements of the storyline. The game prides itself on being a mystery turned horror storyline which is openly mentioned during the storyline, but as a player, I was just calling for more, even if in real life, any more most probably would have broken down the characters into fits of hysteria. However, from start to finish, the storyline is well done and did keep my interest through the entirety of the game.
Now, I have established the fact that it is a good storyline, however there was an issue with the storyline and DLC which annoyed me in the slightest. The game does well covering the storyline however it seemed to leave the ending completely open to ones own opinion, which most probably will lead to future DLC content, but personally, I wanted to see the ending without having it up to my own interpretation. For those who have watched the movie Inception, it is the same as the ending to the movie.� This is my primary peeve and I do hope that at the very least, they release the DLC content covering it.
One of the unique aspects of this game is that you can collect manuscript pieces on the ground, which contain further background to what the other characters are doing whilst you are controlling Alan or alternatively, warning you of the dangers you will be facing ahead. A good example of this is;
The man turned to face me. His face was covered in shadows. It was hard to make him out in the darkness of the forest that surrounded us, but the axe he lifted was plain to see. It glistened with the blood of his victim.
He grinned madly. The shadows were alive, distorting his features.
It was a scene from a nightmare, but I was awake.
During the course of this game, there are two primary characters, Alan Wake himself who is the protagonist of the story and Barry Wheeler, the best friend and literary agent of Wake. Many other characters are introduced during the storyline however only play a prominent role in a few scenes or at best, a chapter or two. The background of Alan Wake is the most well covered with occasional scenes back into his past and the other characters have their history and past revealed through the transcript pages and interaction between them, which often has little to no differentiation between gameplays.
I was indifferent about the graphics in this game as there were some really good components of it, and some sort of bad components to it. Environment details were the best thing that they did in this game, the quality of all location designs within Bright Falls was excellent with so many picturesque environments you can just stare at and admire the beauty. The game does the greatest justice to forest areas however, which capture the spooky and abandoned environments well.
I hate to say it, but the character designs were average at best. They were different and appeared well done from a distance, but I just didn’t think the quality was there when looking at the character from the front, often giving the impression of slight blurring. On the plus side through, the lip syncing was pretty good from what I saw and character animations were good, and even if you blocked the path of the character the pathfinding system would just wait for your character to move instead of trying to knock you out of the way.
Music was the best component to this game, I would have to say it is the only game where you have the chance to beat dark beings whilst having a rock track blasting behind you. The music overall captures the atmosphere of the area you are in and does not have an overpowering presence which makes you want to just sing along to it. Of course, there are moments like the one mentioned above where you cannot help but sing. Overall however, I really enjoyed it. Voice acting was also good, and they offered a number of different ways to show it such as having radios spread out over town where you could tune into the radio station and listen to both funny and concerning shows, and TV series Night Springs where they show some creepy scenarios. The character voices were overall good, and I did like how the voices matched well with both the lip-syncing of the animated characters and the live action character of Alan Wake shown in some TV shows.
The gameplay is generally a greatly updated version of Luigi’s Mansion if any of you played that game on the Nintendo Gamecube (With overall better…. everything). Your job is to run around an environment, quite often in a forest and defeat the Taken, humans who are infested with darkness through the use of a flashlight and a gun (Revolver, Rifle, Shotgun or Flare Gun) or grenade items (Flare or Flashbang). The difficulty increases during the game where the number of enemies increase as well as the time it takes to flash the darkness out of the person before you shoot makes it a game requiring precise time management, else you will find Alan dead.
I suppose it is because I recently replayed Demons Souls, that it annoys me that if you don’t see an enemy sneak attack you, the game will give you a warning and show you where the monster is in slow motion, therefore, giving you a chance to attack it. In the games defense however, there is a significantly tiny health bar which can run out relatively quickly near the end of the game.
The replayability of this game relies on two factors, difficulty levels and collectibles. There are three difficulty levels within the game, Normal, Hard and Nightmare with Nightmare being unlocked at the conclusion of hard. Therefore, to achieve all the achievements, you have to theoretically complete the game three times. There are a number of collectables to complete however, in the form of coffee mugs (100 in total), manuscript pages, radio shows, tv shows and can towers, therefore offering another dozen hours of happy hunting.
Personally, I thought this was a creative and good time wasting game overall, keeping me busy post-exams. I think if you were willing to put money into DLC content you may get more out of this game, however it is worth a play if you are in to the mystery/horror genre of games.
Storyline – 8
+ Fulfills the Psychological Action Thriller criteria in my opinion.
+ Some decent horror and mystery.
+ A unique and non-generic storyline.
+ Manuscript page system unique.
+/- Gameplay length about a dozen hours.
- The ending leaves you with a number of unanswered questions.
Characters - 8
+ A diverse number of characters, where every character introduced has a role to play with no character being useless.
+ Interesting main character background.
+ Cardboard Alan Wake cutout!
- Some “main characters” as shown in promotional material are barely even minor characters.
Graphics - 6.5
+ Environment designs are very very good!
+ Pre-rendered cutscenes are pretty good.
- Character designs were okay, but could be a bit more higher quality.
Music/Voice Acting – 10
+ Pretty much all of it was perfect.
Gameplay – 8
+ Battle system is challenging but not so complicated that one would have difficulty.
+ Driving system was fun, even if it was poorly controlled, don’t want to drive over real people in GTA? Drive over some darkness characters!
+ Good variety of weapons at your disposal.
- Warning about unseen attacks.
Replayability – 7
+ Three difficulty levels
+ A number of collectibles such as manuscript pages and coffee mugs.
- No real storyline changes to warrant an extra playthrough.
Personal Opinion – 8
Overall Score – 8