Alan Wake has been coming a long time. First announced five years ago, I thought it had fallen into oblivion but got word last month that it was imminent on Xbox 360. So has it been worth the wait? By and large, yes. Alan Wake is the titular character, a writer getting away to the Pacific north-west of the US with his wife. He’s been suffering writer’s block and believes the break will do them well. Bright Falls is the destination, a sleepy town set amongst the mountains and inhabited by folks who generally haven’t left the place. After picking up the keys to their cabin, things take a turn for the worse when Alan’s wife, Alice, goes missing in the dark. Darkness is everywhere in this game as Alan struggles to figure out what’s going on, all the while being attacked by zombie-esque dark infested residents (the Taken).
Alan tackles a number of missions in each episode, combating the Taken with a variety of light emitting objects (primarily a flashlight) and guns. By and large it works quite well with ammo and re-supplies fairly abundant across each mission. In a weird touch, there are thermos flasks of coffee to collect which don’t do anything for you. Presumably if you collect them all, there’s a reward but it feels tacked on. Like no other game I’ve played before Alan Wake really engages a cinematic experience with swooping cut scenes and music. It’s clear that the developers have had a lot of time to polish and I particularly enjoyed the end of the first episode. One thing that did grate on the nerves throughout was Alan explaining pop culture references (one scene in particular) and the fact that Stephen King is name checked at least a few times.
The story unfolds via pages of a manuscript Alan has written but can’t remember. He picks them up along the way and they hint towards coming events, in some cases accidentally spoiling the surprise. The environment throughout the game is superb. You really get a sense of a forested mountain landscape and it assists in keeping the spooky vibe going. The main problem with a linear structure means that you don’t get to go off the beaten track much and when you find an ammo stash you can almost guarantee the Taken are to be found nearby. In the latter half of the game things can get a little bit samey but there’s an enjoyable weekend’s worth of play here.