ALAN WAKE REVIEW
A game that keeps you A.Wake at night.
Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Jul 6, 2010 14:22 (Jul 6, 2010 14:22)
Written by: Alex
The return of Remedy:
Five years in the making, Remedy’s latest game has finally made it to shelves. Their last game, Max Payne 2, released seven years ago and turned noir pulp fiction in to one of the most entertaining and stylish games of its day.
Since the announcement of their new IP I have been eager to see their new title, "Alan Wake". A title that promised to offer the same treatment to horror suspense (a genre I adore) that Max Payne gave to noir detectives.
With five years since the ideas initial inception I confess Alan Wake caused me some concern. Most of the worry was directed at the constant questions of if the game would ever appear on shelves, while the more optimistic side simply worried that their vision may have been diluted, or contain retain outdated artefacts, from the protracted development process.
While some outdated features do make the final game, I need not have worried because the game is here and as offers the most important horror gaming experiences this generation.
Alan Wake does not buy into cheap frights. There are no zombies hiding behind you in a closet, no unwelcome surprise any where in the games six episodes. Instead Remedy focused their efforts on creating a world and narrative that scare.
As the horror genre tries to make its way towards action a heavier action focus, something in the tension of the experience has been lost. Characters like Chris Redfield have felt wholly too capable and well equipped to deal with the hostile situations they find themselves in. Tension vanishes from scenes because you know the fight is inevitable, and when it happens you always have the tools to win.
What Alan Wake manages to do is empower the player to fight and win, while keeping them scared. Yes, there is always a chance of death, but when played conservatively, Alan always prevail. Yet despite this empowerment the world remains frightening.
Here it comes:
It maybe the way Alan Wake foreshadows action that keeps the tension high. The most immediate example of this is when foes attack. In situations where the player may be unaware of an opponents approach the camera pans back to show their perspective to the player character (Alan). I find this particularly effective as a method of indicating to the player an attack because it feels so precise and yet leaves room for error in judging the direction, causing me no small amount of anxiety every time the camera begins to zoom out.
Though the moment-to-moment foreshadowing Alan Wake manages to add to the immediate action, but it is the further reaching elements that really build the tension of the story. Through out the game Alan Wake discovers pages of a manuscript he has written, but the pages are not simply a piece of fiction within the fiction, they are descriptions of what is happening around Alan.
These pages offer insight into characters, and on occasion will even directly foretell what is to come. Logic would dictate that knowing future events in the story would lessen their impact, but somehow the anticipation builds fear. Always knowing an attack was coming, and the troubles it would bring, had me perpetually on the edge of my seat; never sure if the next corner would hide a foretold assault detailed on the pages had me jumping at every noise. I became unable to relax until the release of actually surviving the attack, but by then often I had already acquired another page, and another warning.