Alan Wake has gorgeous environments, and an inventive "light versus dark" battle mechanic
- Strong story and haunting conclusion, great voice-acting, gorgeous environments, superb soundtrack and nods to pop-culture fixtures
- Character models look dated, game resets player progression at nearly every turn, leans heavily on combat, characters take on typical 'horror movie character' qualities
It isn't perfect, but Remedy's oft-delayed Alan Wake is an enjoyable and tense survival horror title that boasts a gripping plot, gorgeous environments, and an inventive "light versus dark" battle mechanic.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
Once a praised writer and notorious bad boy, Alan Wake retreats to the small pacific northwestern town of Bright Falls, Washington, to escape the big city spotlight and save his failing marriage. But what begins as a restful getaway quickly turns into a twisted nightmare: Wake's wife Alice goes missing and an entire week somehow vanishes in a blink of the writer's eye. A mysterious darkness has also invaded the town, possessing the population and turning them into something monstrous. Wake stumbles upon the scattered pages of a manuscript he authored yet cannot recall writing. The horrific tale woven on the pages springs to life in the darkness of Bright Falls, and sets the stage for the The Twilight Zone and Twin Peaks inspired supernatural thriller that Remedy Entertainment has crafted.
Although it's reminiscent of Remedy's Max Payne and Konami's Silent Hill, Alan Wake utilizes a "light versus dark" mechanic that helps set it apart from similar titles. Possessed townspeople and objects can only be defeated once they have been bathed in an appropriate amount of light. This can make combat an extremely tense experience: Alan Wake features several heart-sinking moments where hordes of possessed townsfolk lunge toward you in the hopes of cutting your adventure short. But rather than just mow them down, you have to strategically expose them to light in order to make them vulnerable. Thankfully you're armed with a variety of flares, flashbangs, and a flashlight to use against the game's monsters, known collectively as "the Taken," and juggling your inventory of traditional and light-emitting weapons is half the challenge. Showing off its proclivity for time manipulation, Remedy also included a Max Payne-like ability to avoid incoming attacks with a bullet-time-style dodge manoeuvre, which allows players to shake off close-quarter and ranged attacks.
Sadly, the majority of the gameplay is hinged on combat, and while this can be exciting, it would have been nice to have a bit more variety. There are a number of puzzles as well, but they mostly revolve around shining light through darkened passages. You can also collect pages of the mysterious manuscript I mentioned earlier, and although this is completely optional, the pages foreshadow events in the game as well as flesh out the story and motivation of the characters involved. Unfortunately, some of the manuscript's pages can only be collected in the game's "Nightmare" difficulty setting -- Alan Wake's "very hard" mode -- that only becomes accessible once the game has been completed. Hidden television sets also broadcast an entertaining series entitled "Night Springs," which is a not-so-subtle homage to classic Twilight Zone episodes. The live-action series, along with local radio broadcasts and historical information signs scattered throughout the town, help add to the overall atmosphere.
The game's licensed soundtrack, which is one of the best I've encountered in a recent videogame, also shines, with songs like David Bowie's "Space Oddity" fitting in nicely with the game's haunting story. There are a number of interesting plot twists that work, and the mystery surrounding the sleepy town of Bright Falls is actually worth seeing through to the end. Sadly, some of the characters fall into typical horror movie tropes and exhibit inconsistent behavior, but the overall story is still beautifully told, imparting a genuine sense of suspense.
That same level of excellence isn't consistently found throughout Alan Wake, however. There are several design decisions that feel dated and gimmicky. For instance, there is no sense of continuity or progression in Alan Wake. At the beginning of each level, which are broken up as though they were episodes of a television series, every weapon and gadget you've previously collected disappear. It's a design decision that's far too punitive and there's little contextual reasoning to support it. The heads-up display is cumbersome, displaying every objective in plain white text, and really cuts into the beauty of the surrounding environment. You have the ability to drive vehicles, and while it works well enough, it's really just a cheap way to progress the story along; the same can be said for the day portions of the game where you interact with the townspeople of Bright Falls who have yet to fall victim to the mysterious darkness plaguing the town. I also noticed an inconsistency in the character models. The title character looks detailed and refined, but the rest of the cast look positively dated in comparison. They exhibit awkward animations, which is made even stranger when you take into account the town's picturesque environments.
But despite these small issues, Alan Wake still manages to weave an impressive story with a satisfying conclusion that also leaves the door open for the "premium DLC content" Remedy has promised. It isn't perfect, but Alan Wake is a superb mystery that has plenty to offer. Gamers willing to put up with the minor inconsistencies will be rewarded with a rich narrative that's definitely worth experiencing.
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Samsung portable 1TB T3 drive
Epson WorkForce ET-4550
Epson EcoTank Expression ET-2500
Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive
Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop
Everki ContemPRO Roll Top Laptop Backpack
Linksys AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit router
UE Boom 2 Bluetooth speaker
Belkin MIXIT Metallic Lightning to USB Cable
Logitech G403 Prodigy mouse
Lexar® Portable SSD
Huawei Mate 9
Epson WorkForce DS-360W
Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive
Google Daydream VR headset
Acer Swift 7
3SIXT Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
Dell XPS 13 laptop
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Dell Inspiron 5000 series 2-in-1
Blade 28 backpack by Arc’teryx
HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450
Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive
Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch
Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards
HP Pavilion x360 13”
Surface Pro 4
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Star Wars Death Star Bluetooth levitating rotating speaker review
- 2 Finally! LG OLED TV 2016 range review
- 3 Fetch TV Mighty review: Better than Foxtel
- 4 Fetch TV Mini review: Make your TV a smart TV
- 5 Panasonic Viera DX900U UHD 4K smart TV review
Latest News Articles
- You can download Nintendo's Fire Emblem Heroes for iOS and Android today
- Nintendo's Fire Emblem Heroes looks sharp, but will it survive the freemium transition?
- Nintendo's bringing Super Mario Run to Android in March, but Fire Emblem's coming first
- The Switch is a mix of Nintendo's past consoles
- Dead Rising 4 impressions: 'Tis the season to BBQ zombies with your flaming sword
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- Horizon Zero Dawn review
- How to quit Pokemon Go (or to start enjoying it again)
- Japan's pop culture, anime-friendly, J-Pop shrine, Kanda Myojin
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- FTFull Stack DeveloperQLD
- TPBI Commercial AnalystVIC
- CCBusiness Analyst - AgileQLD
- FTJava Developer - Fixed Term ContractQLD
- CCNetwork EngineerNSW
- FTJunior Software Developer - SASACT
- CCIT Procurement OfficerNSW
- FTSenior Software Engineer x 2 - Adelaide Based (PV, NV2 or NV1 required)Other
- CCBPM DeveloperVIC
- FTHead of ApplicationsVIC
- CCSenior Storage System Engineer -NetApp & TSMNSW
- FTDatabase DeveloperACT
- CCWPF .NET EngineerNSW
- TPTest AnalystQLD
- TPPerformance Test Analyst - Perth BasedQLD
- CCFirewall EngineerNSW
- CCServiceNOW DeveloperNSW
- FTChief Architect - Public SectorACT
- TPAnalyst Workplace SupportVIC
- FTHR Payroll ConsultantQLD
- FTSenior Network AdministratorNSW
- FTJunior ITIL Service AnalystVIC
- CCCrystal Reports DeveloperSA
- CCTelecommunication Operations SpecialistTAS
- CCSystems Engineer (Infra)NSW