Alan Wake Game Review (and some score as well)

Alan Wake reviewed by

“It’s amazing what a little bit of hype, a few commercials, and word-of-mouth can do for a game. I remember the debut trailer for Alan Wake back at E3 2005 and then it was completely off my radar…until about a week ago. I remember seeing the promotional display at my local GameStop. It caught my eye but that was about it. I mentioned it to a friend behind the cash wrap and he said it was getting some good reviews early on. Most games do so I thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until later that night while I was browsing the CheapAssGamer forums (which I frequent often) that I saw all of the hype from my fellow peers.

“OMG this” and “OMG that”. People were talking about everything from the graphics to the story and it was all positive. Considering Silent Hill: Homecoming left a bad taste in my mouth, my interest in a potentially GOOD story-driven horror/survival game was extremely high. Fast forward a few days and I bit the bullet, twice actually. I ordered Alan Wake on only to see Amazon put the game up for the same price the next morning, though with my Prime shipping, I would have it in two days instead of a week. Walmart, by some chance happening, arrived the day of release. I couldn’t believe it. And that’s where this review begins…

The game is broken up into episodes, six to be exact. Episode 1 is a great introduction to the game; the mechanics, combat, characters, it’s all there. The player is treated to some great cinematics early on, you can tell Remedy took their time (about five years) with this. The atmosphere is especially well done, providing a great sense of uncertainty while not relying (too heavily) on cheap scares. Without giving anything away, do NOT skip the ending of each chapter. This game has a GREAT soundtrack. Props to Petri Alanko, the soundtrack composer, for providing some of the best music in a game since Fallout 3. At the heart of all of this is the story. While a bit clichéd (though what game isn’t these days), Alan Wake is paced perfectly, minus a slight hiccup in the form of episode 3 which feels like it dragged on a bit too long.

I would like to make a special note that the AI in Alan Wake is some of the best I’ve seen. Unlike most games where enemies come at you one at a time, Alan Wake proves that AI can actually be smart (no pun intended). The player will often be attacked by 3-4 enemies at once, from all sides, with 4 or 5 more enemies coming out of the shadows a short distance away. This can make things quite frantic, but it is extremely fun and rewarding at the same time. Assassin’s Creed, I hope you’re paying attention…

Graphically, Alan Wake is very hit or miss. Some scenes look great, others, not so much. Remedy definitely nailed the atmosphere though; a perfect blend of darkness with just the right touch of light here-and-there. The inky mists that start to form before enemies take on their full shapes is excellent. There are a few graphical glitches, such as the occasional texture pop-in, but nothing major. I noticed a lot of jagged edges and blurry textures on the characters throughout the game. It wasn’t all that distracting but it was noticeable. Overall, the game looks good and you’ll likely be too busy taking in the scenery to nitpick.

When it comes to bringing the characters to life, the voice-acting is great…for the most part. There are a few characters that lack emotion, but the main characters do a pretty damn good job. I would have liked to of seen some better lip syncing but beggars can’t be choosers as they say. It’s something I’m sure they will improve with the inevitable sequel. The sound effects are equally good, though I did come across a small glitch where the sound cut out during a scene (lasted about 2-3 minutes). Nothing to worry about and if anything, the silence made the game even creepier since there were enemies all around.

Overall, I really enjoyed Alan Wake. I did experience a few moments of frustration, but they were [mostly] my own doing more than anything else. I must admit that every time I came across a TV, no matter what was going on around me or outside, I HAD to watch each and every episode of ‘Night Springs’. Fans of The Twilight Zone will instantly recognize the similarities between the two. Each episode lasts a good two and a half to three minutes and are scattered throughout the game. Definitely well worth a moment of your time.

When all is said and done though, I can’t help but feel slightly cheated out of my $60. The game, while fun, is a bit on the short side. I sped through the game on Normal difficulty in about 6-7 hours. That included some minor exploration every now-and-then. You could probably beat this in 5-6 hours if you don’t explore at all. With that in mind, if this is how ‘episodic’ content is going to be done, I approve. I would have preferred one more episode (roughly another hour or 2), but I’m extremely happy that Remedy didn’t tack on a half-assed multiplayer like many games have done in the past (or vice versa with the singleplayer). If you want to experience a good story, some great gameplay, and some excellent atmosphere, definitely pick this up. If you’re still not quite sure, wait for this to drop to around about $40. I will note that anyone who picked the game up at launch will see a code inside the game case, redeemable for DLC slated to be released sometime ‘this summer’. So perhaps that is the extra episode I was hoping for. We’ll find out in a couple of months.

  • Gameplay: The combination of flashlights, flares, and guns are a treat to play with. Practice definitely pays off but you don’t need first-person shooter precision to do well. Actual intelligent AI pays huge dividends when it comes to combat.
  • Graphics: The game looks good, though you will notice the occasional hiccup every once-in-a-while. The backdrops are amazing and some scenes will leave you just standing there starring. There are some moments where the framerate drops and textures get a little…not-so-pretty, but those happen infrequently and shouldn’t distract most people.
  • Sound: Hands-down some of the best atmosphere you will hear in a game. The voice-acting is good, though a few of the characters could have done better.
  • Multiplayer: There is none, though with three difficulties to play through, and plenty of extras to try and obtain, you should get a good 10-15 hours out of the game should you choose to find everything.

Final Score: 8.7 out of 10.”

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