Alan Wake Review

Developer:  Remedy Entertainment
Publisher:  Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: May 18, 2010
Platforms:  Xbox 360

It’s about time!  I know it’s been four months since Alan Wake released and I promised a review on it since then.  I understand I’m behind the curve.  But I’m not talking about me.  I’m talking about Alan Wake, Remedy’s latest game that required five years of development time from announcement to release.  Alan Wake is finally here and brings Remedy’s unique form of storytelling to the Xbox 360.  Does this exclusive title age beautifully or wither with time?  Let’s see for ourselves.

Alan Wake revolves around the titular writer who, after a two- year writer’s block, is whisked away by his wife to the beautiful, scenic town of Bright Falls.  There is a smorgasbord of eccentric characters that breathe life into this town.  Alan soon comes to find out that the people aren’t the only cracked eggs in this carton of a town.  Alan’s wife Alice soon goes missing and you spend the entirety of this experience searching for her.

Alan Wake defines itself as a psychological thriller but plays like an Action-Adventure game sprinkled with a hint of platforming.  Traversing through the terrain, while not tank-like, is definitely awkward.  After growing accustomed to the pacing, combat becomes more difficult to master.  You never really feel like the third-person shooting matures which, I think, is a compliment because Wake is a writer, not a soldier. So aiming or accuracy never magically improves over time.  

I don’t know what it is about atmosphere but it is dishearteningly undervalued in the gaming industry.  Remedy’s presentation in this game, while uneven, is striking.  The environments are incredibly crafted and the threads in Wake’s coat are something to behold.  However, not as much care went into the non-playable characters and textures of movable objects within the environment. This detracts from the encompassing experience and reminds you that you are playing a game.

While Alice is a driving component of the game, visually she looks like a 2007 facial model.  All other NPCs suffer the same issue.  Close-quarter textures on many inanimate objects lacked detail and definition of any sort.  It is a saving grace that the audio presentation was superb.  Enemy auditory cues, weapons, and environmental sounds all came through crisp. Audio really shines within the perfectly placed audio logs, radio broadcasts, and television shows.  

Alan Wake feels like a lot of games you already know.  The beleaguered Wake moves frustratingly slow at times and relies on his flashlight to focus and aim.  Also, the audio logs that detail Bright Fall’s history and atmosphere make you think a Little Sister is right around the corner. The sense (and style) of discovery is similar to 2007’s Bioshock. While Alan Wake does a good job of making these various features its own, it’s a futile effort.

Alan Wake is very good game.  It took five years for Remedy Entertainment to completely create the world of Bright Falls.  It is beautiful, inviting, and terrifying.  Alan Wake is not a great game because it lacks novelty.  The Mass Effect, Bioshock, and Uncharted series have already delivered the innovations in storytelling, atmosphere, and graphical fidelity that Alan Wake promised back in 2005.  While Alan Wake is a good game by today’s standards, an earlier release could have propelled it to greatness.  Greatness (or lack thereof) aside, Alan Wake is a must have experience for any Xbox 360 owner.  Alan Wake aged beautifully like a fine, albeit tart, wine.

Score:  4/5 Get it!