Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Xbox 360 - Alan Wake

Alan Wake by Remedy

Starting with this review, I will give the overall score right up front.
This game is a 4/10. Why? This is one game I really wanted to like, but.... Let's get started.


You play as Alan Wake, a novelist. In this game, however, instead of writing a novel, Alan Wake becomes part of his own novel and must unravel the pieces before it's too late and everything is lost.

The game begins with Alan Wake and wife taking a vacation to a quaint cabin in the woods (cliche). It soon becomes apparent that there's something not quite right about the whole deal. When he visits the person to obtain the keys, he has a strange encounter that starts the whole deal of what follows.

Alan's wife disappears into the lake (along with the cabin, that supposedly hadn't existed in the lake since the 70s) and Alan must find a way to free her.

The story has a reasonably Stephen King like feel, but is marred by the unnecessarily repetitive game play. This is one game I was hoping would marry gameplay and story better than most, but unfortunately, it didn't.


This game is a standard third person shooter. It's not particularly inspired, but it does become both repetitive and annoying. It's repetitive because each level is nearly identical: running around in the woods trying to avoid the 'Taken' (spirits that manifest to kill you) and you must seek the next street light (that makes them go away). It's annoying because of the way the game spawns the 'Taken' to kill you (i.e., intentionally out of the camera and usually behind you). Unfortunately, each and every level is basically the same. There are a few exceptions to this when you have to avoid possessed objects instead of people, but even that becomes repetitive.

The weapons are mostly standard including a pistol and shotgun. Because the 'Taken' avoid light and seek darkness, you also have light weapons including a flashlight, flares and flashbang grenades. Unfortunately, the flashlight only removes the Taken invincibility and lets you finally kill them. You can temporarily increase the brightness of the flashlight to make it work faster (at the cost of using up the battery). The battery recharges, but very slowly.

At some points in the game, you get access to other light sources like search lights and construction lights, but these really do no better than your own flashlight. In reality, it's far simpler to run to the next street light checkpoint. And yes, the street lamps are generally checkpoints. So, it's actually far more beneficial to keep moving than to stop and try to defeat the Taken in each encounter.


The enemies you encounter include the Taken. These are dark spirits that manifest and try to kill you by throwing hatchets, chopping you or hitting you. They are primo at ganging up on you and, worse, the game loves to make them appear inches behind you out of the sight of the camera. For this reason alone, I am downrating this game. Using the lack of camera sight to throw enemies at you is a no-no. Never ever do this. If, as a game designer, you think this is some kind of challenge, it isn't. It's an unfair tactic to the gamer. If you want to design this kind of enemy, then offer a HUD where you can see them as a dot around you. So, you may not be able to see them standing just out of the camera, you can at least see them on the HUD.


The controls are pretty standard. There was nothing horribly wrong with the way the controls are mapped or how they work.


The game is broken down into distinct episodes or chapters, but this really wasn't necessary. So, you play for a short time and that segment ends (like a TV show). The next episode starts up and recaps what you did previously (like a TV show). You then move into the game play segment again.

The ending was a bit on the cliche side, but left you hanging enough that they can create an Alan Wake 2. It didn't really end as I expected it to, but the ending didn't really end either.


This game tried to be unique, but really ended up as a mediocre third person shooter. It's reasonably bug free, but it's still not perfect. It was also reasonably short as I was able to get through it in about a day of play.

  • Sound: 8/10 (eerie at times, but not that cinematic)
  • Graphics: 8/10 (not bad, but shaders could have been better)
  • Gameplay: 4/10 (boring and repetitive)
  • Story: 4/10 (episodic format was not necessary, ending weak)
  • Bugginess: N/A
  • Controls: 8/10 (average, nothing new)
  • Bang-to-buck: 1/10 (no replay value)
  • Play Value: $10 (story is really better than gameplay, not by much)
  • Overall: 4/10 (could have used more work).

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