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Alan Wake

 

 

SCORE: 62

 

Alan Wake 

 

From the creators of the highly successful and critically acclaimed Max Payne series comes one of the most anticipated games of 2010 - Alan Wake. The development team at Remedy has been working for years on Alan Wake. Like the Max Payne series, Remedy has not only created a video game, but an identifiable character within a captivating setting. Alan Wake is a writer that is experiencing writers block and is visiting Bright Falls with his wife to take a vacation. At one point Alan even gets angry with his wife when she tries to push him back towards his writing. After this particular argument, Alan storms out of their cabin while cursing at his wife. His frustration drives him away from her, even though he knows she is afraid of the dark. But not only did Alan lose his temper, he lost his wife – as she is heard screaming in the distance while being taken away. When Alan’s wife is taken, the story of Bright Falls begins, using spectacular graphics and episodic storytelling.

Alan Wake has the feel of a sci-fi, thriller plus horror TV series, such as X-files. There are a lot of cut scenes and plenty of dialogue between characters. Remedy uses this episodic storytelling method to draw the gamer into the story. This game is much more than just button pressing, bad guy killing action. For those familiar with the TV series LOST, it will almost have that same since of urgency to get to the next episode. Those unfamiliar with LOST, just know that once you are into the game you will want to find out what happens in the next episode. One thing I specifically enjoyed was the use of flashbacks.

The introduction – which acts as the tutorial – take place during one of Alan’s dreams. In the dream he is driving a car and runs over a hitch hiker. Alan gets out of the car and is then greeted by the “dead” man he just ran over. After running to safety at a near by lighthouse, Alan watches in horror as an innocent bystander is killed by the dead hitch hiker using an axe. The development and production of the story in Alan Wake is fantastic, the actual material in the story however will be hard for most to endure.

The production of Alan Wake as a video game (apart from the genre type) is astonishing in several areas. One of those areas is in the darkness of night in Bright Falls. Alan will start the search for his wife using a flashlight and soon discovery that the light is his biggest ally in the fight for his life. The darkness of night in Alan Wake is so spectacular it almost feels eerie when walking through the woods. It is obvious this was a clear focus of the Remedy development team, as they want the gamer to experience the horror of the story. There are lighting effects and slow motion presentations that are the best on the Xbox 360 to date. Some of the other characters look second rate, but that is partly because the main character, Alan Wake, looks so much better than everyone else in the game. Although the daytime graphics are not as crisp as the graphics at night and the characters could have looked better, I found myself at certain times simply gazing at the screen admiring the overall graphical presentation. The graphics are overshadowed however, by the constant images of horror, blood and violence.

Another area Alan Wake shines is the soundtrack. I am a firm believer that music can make or break a video game or movie. And the development staff at Remedy must agree. The sounds in the game, ranging from forest noises to rifle shots, are extraordinarily realistic. I noticed some variation in the sound volume – such as the hand gun being extremely loud to hardly being able to hear Alan talk to himself – but these are minor issues. The screams and sound effects of the evil beings are nerve racking at times due to their realistic rendering. These sound effects can be disturbing, as you will hear people asked to be spared, and then see and hear them be murdered.

The control mechanics will take most gamers a few moments to adjust. The left and right analog sticks are used to walk and look around the settings. If the control setting is uncomfortable it can be changed. Once walking is mastered, there are plenty of extras to find during your stroll through the forest. Alan will be collecting pages from a novel – which he does not remember writing. Also, gamers will have to collect batteries for their flashlights and ammo for the weapons.

It is interesting that Alan Wake focuses on finding the light and using it as a safe haven, and even a defense mechanism. The light is the only defense against the evil that has surrounded and consumed Bright Falls. Alan uses the light to stun the enemies that he can then destroy them. This is one of the few viewpoints that can be taken from Alan Wake and used as discussion topics. The foul language was more than I anticipated and was unnecessary. Alan Wake is rated T (Teen) for horror, blood, language and violence. Keep in mind that this is not a child’s game. I would much rather it carry a M (Mature) rating. It is definitely for an older audience that can handle the story. There is a real sense of horror at times during the story, and that is not something to take lightly.

Alan Wake sets new standards in video game development regarding storytelling and graphical presentation. However, the content, language and violence will prevent most families from experiencing these new gaming standards. 
- Alan

 

Graphics: 55%
Sound: 60%
Replay/Extras: 68%
Gameplay: 78%
Family Friendly Factor: 49%
System: Xbox 360
Publisher: Remedy
Rating: 'T' for Teen
{Blood, Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence}

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