Alan Wake has kept us waiting for some time. Originally slated as an Xbox 360 launch title back in 2005, Wake’s journey into the darkness surrounding Bright Falls has been a long one, but one that’s finally about to see the light of day. Over the last five years the game has morphed from being an open world game to a tightly linear story – a change that is probably necessary for a survival horror, where the pacing and atmosphere has to be set tight like a movie script if it’s going to work well.
And work well it does. Sure it’s clunky in areas, and the facial animation gives you the creeps in for the wrong reasons, but other than that, Alan Wake is a good solid game, and one which is surprisingly original.Â
The use of dark and light in survival horrors is nothing new, nor is the torch in the role of essential equipment and biggest handicap exactly something new. The originality comes into play with how the torch is used. In pervious games it’s been used to illuminate you foe and allow you to briefly see them, but in Alan Wake it becomes your most powerful tool. When you get attacked by the wraith like dark beings, it’s your torch that will become your first line of defense and attack, as you need to strip their dark protection away if your hand gun is going to be of any use. As with any torch however, batteries run out fast, and take time to recharge. You can of course swap them for new ones, but there are precious few of those.
The use of light isn’t limited to your torch, at certain points along the linear story you will find safe havens – powerful street lights that illuminate a small area, giving you a chance to heal and compose yourself. Other areas offer the chance to crank up a generator and turn on some floodlights.
Bright Falls is a picturesque place to visit, with some stunning vistas, but you’ll not have much time to enjoy the view as darkness has a habit of falling and sending shivers down your spine as you make your way through the many different levels, from the lush – but very spooky – redwood forests, through to, well, that would be telling. Suffice to say the locations are varied and there’s plenty to discover and just enough dark ones to keep you on your toes.
Graphically, Wake’s gameplay is stunning, especially when the dark forces are gathering and Alan’s world starts the shimmer and fray, with shadows swirling around like a drug trip gone wrong, the balance of dark and light creates an eery world that has you seeing non existent boogie men in the shadows.
The episodic nature of the game gives it a nice feel, but in essence does nothing more than make you realise it might be time to go to bed when the episode comes to it’s typical cliffhanger ending, as this game really does drag you into it’s world, allowing you to rapidly loose track of time as you frantically search for clues as to what is going on at Bright Falls.
As far as atmospheric thrillers go, Alan Wake has the crown. Not quite as scary as anticipated, but an enjoyable, engrossing game that will hook it’s teeth into you with ease.
Reviewed on: XBox 360
Available on: XBox 360