Game Review – Alan Wake – Remedy (XBox 360)

Now and again, if you’re lucky, you will come across a game that grabs you on all levels, where the conception and execution are so fantastic that you get completely caught up in its world. Batman:Arkham Asylum came close, Bioshock totally took me over, and the latest game in this treasure trove is Alan Wake.

Wake is a successful author, now suffering from writer’s block, who goes on holiday with his wife Alice to this little town of Bright Falls. On their first night there they have an arguement and she disappears. Seven days later Wake comes to in a crashed car, with no knowledge of what has happened in the interim, but desperate to find Alice. Meanwhile there is something very clearly wrong in Bright Falls at nighttime, and Wake starts to encounter the Taken, locals consumed by darkness who attack him in a supernatural rage. Somehow he has to piece together what’s going on and rescue his wife.

The game is clearly influenced by the works of Stephen King and David Lynch, specifically Twin Peaks, and there are plenty of dialogue and soundtrack homages. Yet this doesn’t feel like borrowed work. Remedy have built an eerie and disturbing world where light is the best weapon Wake has.

Combat focuses on burning the darkness away from the Taken before you can kill them, and the combination of flashlight and revolver has to be well timed, to ensure that they don’t get you first as they disapper and reappear through the environment. A lot of the Taken are pretty generic, with the same characters appearing over and again, but this is an irritation at most, especially when they suddenly appear without warning right on top of you.

The storytelling is linear, but broken up with radio show snippets and a TV show called Night Springs, small 2 minute Twilight Zone shows that add to the mystery and menace of an already strange situation.

Visually, it’s fantastic, the graphics are superb, and so far I think I’ve seen only 2 examples of popup. The lip-synching of the characters is not great, it’s a minor niggle when so much of the rest of the game is excellent. Both the orchestral score, which is very reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti’s work on Twin Peaks and the songs used (including tracks by Roy Orbison, Nick Cave and Barry Adams) add to the unease.

Furthermore it’s structured like a TV show, with each “episode” running in at an hour and a half minimium, and each new episode starting with a cute “Previously…” intro. This is the sort of the game that demands you to buy into its concept, actively encouraging you to play late at night, with the lights off.

This has been in production an insanely long time, kudos to Remedy for having the patience and foresight to continually hone and improve it. Without doubt, a contender for Game of the Year.

This was originally posted on 16th May, 2010 over at Blogomatic3000

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~ by moviegrrlreviews on May 25, 2010.

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