Alan Wake is a game that felt like it was never going to come out. It seemed like a game I was hearing about ever since I bought an Xbox 360. Was the game getting pushed back because they really were tweaking it and making it better – or were there some serious design flaws that they were trying to gloss over?
As a huge fan of horror games (Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Fatal Frame – I love games with a sense of suspense) – this was one I had a lot of hope for. So, was it worth the wait? Let me break it down.
Graphics – 9.0:
The light and particle effects are top-notch. The shadows often feel like they’re alive all around you and the monsters you fight at night feel appropriately cloaked in darkness as you battle them. Animations look decent, if not great during the daytime, story-driven sections. All in all though, for a game that is made to be played in the dark, this game delivers an inky, creepy atmosphere.
Music and sound – 9.0:
Annnnd, speaking of creepy atmosphere, this game delivers on the audio front as well. Overall I thought the voice acting was pretty good. The music was excellent and the sound effects were generally quite good. There were times they lacked subtlety, but overall they were a huge and effective part of the ambiance.
Gameplay – 7.5:
The combat itself is quite good. The use of light as a clever aiming sight was cool, and the weapons feel effective enough. Also dodging was fairly solid. So why the middling score? For one, it sometimes got confusing and a bit annoying to find your way around. On harder levels of difficulty it’s not that hard to run out of ammo and then you’re really hosed (though you can at least restart the level). It’s not always obvious what you should be doing and for a game that feels like you’re being driven to specific points, it would be nice to have a better way of mapping your path.
Intangibles – 7.5:
Tough one here. First off – the game is spooky and fun. So that is key, and it’s the type of game I usually eat up. But I ate it up in like 7 hours or so the first time. And there’s not much to the replay value of it. Sure, you can go through the Nightmare mode and find additional manuscript pages not available otherwise, and these pages are generally very cool – but it doesn’t really feel like *enough* for me. Points though for such a richly realized world and atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed the radio stations and the television shows that had a nice Twilight feel to them. Still, the short duration of the story with no real game+ or online mode really hurts the game’s overall value in my opinion. Also, there’s some language and terror themes that probably make it unsuitable for younger kids.
Overall – 8.25:
This is a game that begs to be rented, or picked up a bit later when you can inevitably find copies of it used and cheap at a Gamestop. With its somewhat limited replay value, I’ve already started to notice copies showing up on the shelf. That said, it’s a very cool game that’s worth a play through if you enjoy this type of horror/survival game. It’s cleverly written and the shooting mechanics work nicely.