Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Game Review: Alan Wake-Xbox 360
Alan Wake has had a bumpy ride during the course of its development, one that began way back around the release of the Xbox 360 and one time there was even talk of it ever surfacing at all. It’s also seen developers, Remedy, (of Max Payne fame), come under a lot of pressure from the gaming community and critics alike as all waited patiently for the game to be released. So here we are, some five years later, and finally Alan Wake has reached retailers' shelves albeit as a leaner, more familiar survival horror as supposed to the pseudo-free roaming adventure originally planned. It would be easy to decry Alan Wake for its step back into the tried and tested waters of earlier game mechanics given its length of time under development, but to do so would be an unfair critique of a video game that delivers on many levels whilst surprising on others.
Much like a TV series the game is broken up into episodes and on completion of each the player is rewarded with an enjoyable closing piece of music with the following episode beginning with a TV style re-cap of previous events. Adding to this sense of acting out a TV serial is Alan’s ever present narration as the tale unfolds. Hints as to what may lie around the next corner or within the dark confines of an abandoned farmhouse are never too far away. While it’s often considered more appropriate in a horror-cum-thriller to conceal your viewers from what’s coming next, hearing the words “It was then I heard the Chainsaw” just as you stumble blindly into that afore mentioned farmhouse, is surprisingly unnerving. It’s an interesting approach toward a genre that invariably relies on the player being completely unaware of what lies in wait within their immediate environment; using the unknown to trigger the biggest scares and induce moments of panic. Alan Wake, however, tells you what’s coming next and as a result is genuinely more frightening than many other titles in the genre and for that it should be applauded. What’s particularly clever is how Remedy has managed to remind the player that they are just part of an interactive story whilst simultaneously never really detaching them from the experience. When Alan is terrified, amused or even exasperated by the events unfolding before him you share that journey, experiencing your own set of mixed emotions as the darkness-as it becomes known-threatens to consume you at every turn.
It’s has been a long time coming but Alan Wake has certainly been worth the wait. Atmosphere, beautiful visuals and a compelling story rarely come together in a video game quite as well as seen here. Once you begin Alan’s nightmarish journey it’s hard to let go; just remember when you go to bed at night to leave the landing light on as you never know what may lurk in the darkness.