After years of development, much hype and several delays, psychological thriller Alan Wake has arrived, and it delivers.
In the game, you play a famous writer, à la Stephen King, who has taken a vacation with his wife to a peaceful little village in Washington state. Almost immediately, this fairy tale vacation is interrupted by "the darkness" that has taken over the village, kidnapped Wake's wife and is on a path to destroy Wake.
If there could be only a single word to describe this game, it would easily be atmosphere. Developer Remedy Entertainment did an amazing job creating a scary, tense and realistic atmosphere for this game. From the first minute, it feels as if you are playing a television series — a very creepy, supernatural television series.
That's not surprising considering the developers at Remedy have said that much of the feeling from the game was derived from the shows Lost and Twin Peaks. For example, the entire game is delivered in episodes. Each has an ending song, and the next episode always starts with, "Previously on Alan Wake ..." Combine these elements with an extremely suspenseful and dark story line, and you have an atmosphere unmatched by many other games.
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Alan Wake nails the story, delivery and atmosphere, but it unfortunately falls flat in several other areas. The game starts so strongly that it is a bit of a shame that it falls into a large rut starting at the end of the second episode and fully through the third episode.
The main gameplay element of Alan Wake is to shine a flashlight on possessed enemies and then shoot them a few times. There are a few puzzles to solve and some random secrets to locate, but the game revolves around two things: flashlight, shoot. This is fine for a little while, but after several hours, it becomes tiresome.
The other elements of the game, including finding secrets and solving puzzles, seem to put the game at odds with itself. Alan's search for his wife is time-sensitive, yet he is constantly stopping to find little trinkets, pages from a book and more. These little things might add extra gameplay, but they pull the player out of the story. This ultimately hurts the story line, which was the only thing that kept me playing when I definitely did not feel like shining a flashlight on any more enemies.
At the end of the day, I almost wish the game would play itself, so I could sit back and watch. It starts strong but quickly fades into stale repetition, with only the creepy and awesome atmosphere keeping it going.