Title: Alan Wake’s American Nightmare
Developed By: Remedy Entertainment
Published By: Microsoft Studios / Remedy Entertainment
Console: XBox360 (XBox Live Arcade), PC
Genre: Third Person Shooter, Psychological Horror
Classification (AU): This title has been classified as M for Violence
Review Conditions: PC, Steam
Special Thanks: A copy of this game was purchased by myself through Steam
After the events of Alan Wake, our eponymous hero finds himself in the middle of a new adventure in Arizona, where his own words again hold the key to defeating his evil twin, the malevolent Mr. Scratch, who spreads darkness where he goes. Now more experienced at dealing with the weird and horrific, Wake is determined to turn the tide.
Back in 2010 I gave the original XBox360 release of Alan Wake my Game of the Year. The game was able to deliver some interesting gameplay merged with a well planned out story, strong visuals and an interesting selection of background music and voice acting. This year both a PC version of Alan Wake and XBox360/PC release of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare were released… and unfortunately due to my thesis writing I was not able to get around to either of them until now. Alan Wake’s American Nightmares is a side-story taking place in a new environment with brand new characters but with the same gameplay with minor additions / changes. Read my review to find out how the sequel to my Game of the Year 2010 fares!
The original game was advertised as a “Psychological Action Thriller” and it achieved this well in almost every aspect. The same can be said for the two DLC chapters “The Signal” and “The Writer” which dealt with more twisted events which occurred after the storyline of the main game. Unfortunately while American Nightmare had some interesting concepts, the storyline did not live up to the expectations the rest of the series had and would have benefited from being longer, in which to describe and give proper closure to the world and its characters.
The story follows sometime after the events of the games and DLC where Alan has since been trapped in the Dark Place and is up against Mr. Scratch, his mysterious doppelganger who was set to replace him whilst trapped in the Dark Place however has been toying with him and threatens to take away everything he loves. Set up as an episode of “Night Springs”, Alan is flung into a completely new area where he must deal with a new set of Taken and finding his own writings / signals which have the power to alter reality… and more importantly defeat Mr. Scratch.
The game is split over three Episodes, each with three chapters. Each episode features a time loop so you are essentially looking at enjoying a similar storyline three times around, albeit with the characters a little wiser and more aware each time you go around. This means that the first episode is much more enjoyable than the other two which are shortened and quicker to play through, but this is more disappointing on a gameplay level, and the storyline actually works quite well for the franchise, and interactions between characters and Alan (Especially between him and Mr. Scratch) are actually quite well thought out. However character development is not the games strong point, with very little focus being put on them – especially Serena Valdivia in the third chapters which barely gets any attention in the second and third chapters unless you go out of your way. Characters from Alan Wake 1 such as Alice and Barry also make storyline appearances (Not essentially in person) which gives some look into their future from the original games.
The storyline as I said above works well for the franchise, but in comparison to other installments in the franchise I would have rather seen this as a DLC chapter then a full game as while it was an enjoyable little plot it was lacking in content and structure I was expecting from an individual (Albeit smaller) game release.
As I have only reviewed the XBox360 release of this game, it is very hard to compare the visuals between the two except by saying that equipped with an newer computer then my few other PC reviews have been covered on… it looks much more impressive. Of course, having the game take place exclusively at night-time while a gameplay feature does not do the series any favors in terms of visuals, purposefully looking around the dark environments do show quite attention to detail. While character designs of “The Taken” mostly come down to the same few designs, the design of the games main cast are as well designed as the previous game. In the original game we were occasionally treated to live action segments with Finnish actor and writer Ilkka Villi taking the role of Alan. This time they include several live action sequences, not only through televisions in each chapter but through proper live action segments implemented into cutscenes, a choice that was not necessary but I think added impact to such scenes.
Music / Voice Acting
Given they use the environment over music effects to set the mood, there is not much in the way of music for this game. However, they do include a new track by “Old Gods of Asgard / Poets of the Fall” which is implemented into the storyline and appears a couple of times. What the game does offer is voice acting, and quite a lot of it. The voice acting is overall well done and the voice cast selection was appropriate – most effective being the inclusion of the “Night Springs” narrator who will occasionally add his description of the storyline in a similar way to what he does during the video clips in the original game.
This release does not make any major differences to the original gameplay formula of Alan Wake. Your greatest weapon in the fight against the Taken is your trusty flashlight, as almost all Taken until exposed to it are invulnerable to any weapons. Upon removing them of their cloaks of darkness you are given access to a couple of weapons which depending on the number of manuscript pages collected during your adventure, can be increased with better ones – a “Hand Pistol”, a “Rifle” and “Flare Gun” are the three primary ones you will be given access to – however the game very occasionally provide you with Flashbangs and Flares to deal crowd control with. Unfortunately where the game goes wrong is instead of having you scavenge bullets for the firearms – provide you with ample storage deposits filled with the ammo which takes away some of the games challenge. The game also emphasizes dodging enemies who are about to attack you – which slows down time and grants distance but only really effective with smaller crowds of Taken.
Aside from throwing in the occasional different form of Taken, some which are new to this game including one that can divide itself into multiple copies when exposed to light, it is the same formula presented in the original game and works well and provides some challenge in the later levels. The game does throw in some collectible items as well… 53 Manuscript Pages as well as both live-action television segments with Mr. Scratch and radio shows each provide incite into the Alan Wake universe and encourage you to diverge from the recommended path.
While the core gameplay itself is enjoyable, there are elements of the game itself which take away from the experience. As you may expect with a time loop, you are forced to play through each of the games stages three times, often having to repeat some tasks and take routes you have already taken before. The secondary characters do get a bit wiser as the loops continue so by the third time round you are left with just defeating the “Taken” and navigating through the games small areas / pylons of electricity its enjoyment factor sharply drops between the first and third episodes. Given that I gave the original release my Game of the Year 2010, it is evident that I think the mechanics of the game are good, but unfortunately I was expecting more from Remedy Entertainment when it came to keeping my enjoyability towards the games main campaign up.
Once you have finished the game which should only take you a couple of hours at best, the game also provides a new “Arcade Mode” to test your third-person shooting abilities. In this mode, you are able to select from one of several maps and left to spend 10 minutes dealing with increasingly difficult waves on Taken – left to both scavenge ammo / batteries and put to the test to survive where in almost every area you are left vulnerable. Defeating the Taken earns you points which can earn you a spot on leaderboards. Honestly, this is where the game truly shines and is the one component of the game which will most probably keep me coming back for more.
Alan Wake’s American Nightmare did not live up to the expectations both the original game and its two DLC chapters have set. However, for a true fan of the series it is most probably something worthwhile checking out if you have not already purely due to the storyline element, and provides a rather interesting Arcade Mode which puts your Alan Wake gameplay skills to the test!
Storyline/Character Development: B-
Music/Voice Acting: B
Personal Opinion: C
Overall Score: C