Did you ever buy a game that you have been waiting a year or so for and then been severely disappointed? I have, it’s happened a few times to me. That’s why even though I was so badly looking forward to this game, I still felt anxious as I handed over £50 for my Limited Collectors Edition of the new Survival Horror, Action game “Alan Wake” but I have to tell you, I think it is a bargain! This is my review of the first hours of gameplay and no don’t worry, there will be no spoilers… Promise!
First of all I would like to say that the Collectors Edition Packaging is stunning! It’s made up to look like a book that unfolds to reveal the game, a sleeve holding the Soundtrack CD and a bonus disc which holds developer’s commentary and a book called “The Alan Wake Files” which is excellently made and I can’t wait to read it once I’m done with the game’s story mode. This will surely take pride of place with my “Bioshock 2” special edition and all the others I have collected over the years.
If you haven’t watched the prequel videos on the Xbox Marketplace or online yet then you should do before you play this game because they really psyche you up for what’s to come and warn you of the terror you will inevitably face.
What I love to see is games getting right to it. There was only one advert screen saying “Microsoft Games” before the Alan Wake title screen appeared, I love that because I have been waiting so long for this that even those few more seconds would have been hell for me. If you don’t know the rough background plot, I’ll just enlighten you quickly. The game follows Alan Wake, a Writer that has become somewhat washed out over the years and visits a rural community called “Bright Falls” for his holidays to escape it all. During the holiday his wife gets kidnapped (no that isn’t a spoiler, it says it on the back of the game) and he embarks on a terrifying adventure to save her.
Now to the game itself. The graphics are beautiful, the whole Bright Falls area is so stunning and you can tell that these visuals have been obsessed over by the developers for so long because the details and the lighting are all perfect, not even kidding, they are perfect. It’s a game where you can drop your jaw and rotate the camera a bit before you play because it actually is gorgeous. Since lighting and darkness is a big part of this game, is has to be precise obviously, and that’s exactly what it is. Sunlight beaming through the windows and laser thin rays piercing the areas between trees. Moonlight dancing over the water and lighting the way discreetly. It’s excellent, one of the most visually appealing games I’ve seen for some time. I’m not a graphics snob in the slightest but… wow.
The game works as a movie or TV series type of feel. The entire game has Wake narrating or rather reading the novel of his experience over your gameplay. You may think this sounds annoying but no, it’s only at key parts of the story or when you pick up the manuscript pages that are dotted around Bright Falls. This reminds me a lot of another “Remedy” made game, obviously “Max Payne”. The narration, the sounds, the moody character and they even add Easter eggs of Max Payne all over including a monologue read by the voice actor of Payne himself – You will see, it’s so cool!
The controls are easy to handle, there is no difficulty in grasping them. The first sequence – scary as it is – actually eases you right into the controls, it’s an extremely useful tutorial that also works its way into the story without just being a “Press A to jump” kind of thing. The sensitivity starts off on full so you might want to turn it down a few steps but believe me you will need some kind of turning speed during the game – Trust me!
Ok so is it survival horror… YES! Oh god yes, it’s scared me so much so far. The sound cues that pop up on occasions make me put my head through the ceiling. They are loud and sudden, just like they should be. There are screen flashes teamed with screams that do just about the same thing to you so if you scare easy you should buy some adult nappies. It’s not just all jump scares, the feel of the whole gameplay experience makes you feel on edge at all times. The enemies come forth from the darkness when you least suspect it and they come from all directions so you are constantly tense. If you see something or hear something odd, it’s ceiling time again my friend. There are even subtle scares which could be easily missed. Unless my eyes were playing tricks on me I swear I saw a figure walk past a window while I was listening to one of the collectible radio shows. There was no sound cue or focus on it. I just caught a split second glimpse of it before it was gone. Makes me feel like “What other things have I missed?”
The combat is straight forward. You use the flashlight to concentrate light onto the darkness consumed enemies until the dark mist that surrounds them is gone. Then once it’s gone you can shoot them like a normal enemy. There are stronger enemies and also dark flocks of crows which attack you “Hitchcock” style, very intense indeed! If need be you also pack flares to ward off enemies coming from all directions or a flare gun which disintegrates large groups of chaps that would otherwise ruin your face with axes. You are able to dodge attacks with the LB button and if you do it at the right time you are rewarded with a slow-mo cinematic of Wake doing a little dodge away from the axe or sickle that would have originally been in his eye. Your only safe place is the floodlights where no enemy will dare to tread, these will heal you and let you escape from hoards of the darkness.
I am only about 4 hours in but the plot is thickening like crazy, the characters are all deep and everyone has their own story that you learn from the manuscript pages collected during the game. The replay value is sure to be quite substantial due to the collectibles such as the coffee thermos pickups, radio shows and TV programs that keep you learning more about Bright Falls as you progress. Also it seems as though there is a DLC or few on the way because I have a redeem voucher for one that came with the collectors edition… AWESOME!
So that’s my thoughts so far. I have yet to be disappointed by anything, I have encountered no glitches or graphical errors and I am absolutely in love with this game. It is incredible… Seriously!
If you have played it, what do you think? Tell us in the comments. Keep it spoiler free though. Most of us haven’t had the pleasure yet!