Alan Wake

Five years in the making is a very long time for any game and is rarely a good omen. Within half  an hour it’s obvious where the five years went. The world of Alan Wake, the town of Bright Falls is incredibly detailed. It’s hard to convey just how much has gone in to it. Less seasoned gamers might not appreciate it because the town, forest, houses, and various other locations are so detailed and yet realistically not crammed with unnecessary objects, that it just feels real. In my many years of playing games I have never seen anything even close to this level of rich, lovingly crafted detail. On my life you will feel like you’ve been transported to the Pacific Northwest of America. Move around the back of a chalet hut and there might be an old oil drum, some rusty cans. There will be electrical cables running out from the house or maybe some plumbing. It’s not an area you need to go to, there’s nothing to do there. Nor is there round the back of the local diner or on a roadside stop with a few parked cars. Out the back of a trailer park or over that hill behind those trees. In the offices of the local Police station, in the kitchen of a house up in the hills there is everything you would ever expect to see. The game isn’t there. There’s no plot point to discover nor is there usually even a collectible item or useful ammo. They are just there because they should be and that is an enormous achievement for gaming because it’s incredibly difficult to do without cheating it with invisible walls and cookie cutter object placement. It’s difficult too because it costs too much and takes too long just for the purpose of providing a bit of atmos. Hence the catastrophic mess of Alan Wake’s development.

There is very little game here. Let’s just say that. Many reviews will put Alan Wake up there in the high 9’s because they are just so glad it’s finally out and doesn’t suck. With the exception of a very few journalists no one has quite had the heart to call a spade a spade, a torch a torch and and average game what it is – average. You have a torch which needs its batteries replaced once every few seconds, when being used against your shadowy enemies. You’ve usually got a pistol and if you’re lucky a hunting rifle or shotgun. Your best weapons are a flare gun and flashbangs which act much like grenades. During the dark hours you’ll make your way towards an objective running from one patch of light to the next which serve as heal stations and checkpoints. They are often as little as 50 feet from one another. In between you’ll usually have to take out a few marauding zombie-like enemies which come in about three flavours of normal, fast and lumbering… and that’s it. That’s Alan Wake for six short episodes.

Okay, okay there’s a story too. It’s not particularly special though. It’s one part Twin Peaks, one part Lost, bits of The X-Files and owes a lot to Stephen King. That sounds awesome, right? Sorry, it’s just a bit pallid in reality. It’s watered down and doesn’t really go anywhere. Alan collects pages of a manuscript as he moves around which often have portent of your next steps but if anything that just reduces any tension. The game certainly isn’t scary in the least and I’m a big girl’s blouse when it comes to anything remotely creepy.

So what’s missing? Loads! There’s loads missing. Had Alan Wake popped up after being announced a few months ago I’d probably just say it was awesome and leave it at that, but it didn’t. We’ve been waiting for this for five looong years. I know it’s unfair not just to judge on the finished product alone but the whole time I played I was dogged by my constant awareness that this brilliant framework had been created over FIVE BASTARD YEARS and then they either stripped the game back because it wasn’t working or dare I say it… ran out of time! When it’s daytime in the game nothing really happens. You wonder around a bit before it becomes night. Even at night in between the action there is a nothingness. It’s as plain as the nose on Alan’s very serious face that there were meant to be puzzles there. There could have been such wonderful puzzles, calling on all those great influences used to create the story and characters. The game reeks of potential gone unfulfilled.

Alan Wake is a perfect example of why we don’t score games at Ready Up. No number, percentage, amount of stars or bananas can convey a reasonable conclusion of what Remedy’s unusual time and budget has produced. This is not the ‘knock it out the park’ work of genius we have built up in our mind during our long wait. The game’s environment though is worth the price of admission alone. The underwhelming gameplay experience casts a very short shadow on the pool of warm light that is the town of Bright Falls.







4 responses to “Alan Wake”

  1. avatar

    “You have a torch which needs its batteries replaced once every few seconds, when being used against your shadowy enemies.” Awesome, a five year re-make of Luigi’s Mansion.

  2. Duncan avatar

    So I was right to stop myself pre-ordering the Special Edition which I couldn’t afford to begin with?

    Awesome. 🙂 [if a bit of a shame]

  3. Martin avatar

    I just had to try this out and so far I have to say I’m loving it. Yes, the game looks absolutely lush, I wish there was a feature to take in game screen grabs. Ok, the gameplay may be a bit shallow but it does feel like an interctive Stephen King novel, not quite of Heavy Rain potential but fun none the less. I’d love a Dean Koontz inspired sequel ! Oh and I picked up the Special edition, a box of beauty.

  4. Paul avatar

    I bought the game when I traded in some other titles, and my friends were raving about the graphics etc.
    I put it in my console, and about 24 hours later (including sleep) I had completed it (only on normal difficulty). Yeah you have manuscript pages, TV’s, radio stations & coffee cansiters to collect but even then it’s still not a huge game.
    Let’s hope the DLC they plan a) doesn’t take 5 years & b) adds some extra levels.

    6 chapters for this kind of game is far too short. As Kirsten said, would have been 5 star if it had more to it and hadn’t taken 5 years.

    Still a good game despite all of this 🙂

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