In 2010, Remedy Entertainment developed while Microsoft Studios published Alan Wake, a rare exclusive for the Xbox 360. This mystery-thriller would develop a cult following while reaching commercial and critical success. Would the darkness find me in this Alan Wake review or would the light shine through?
Alan Wake Plot:
Alan Wake stars… you guessed it, Alan Wake! He’s a very successful writer, but he’s recently gone through a tough stretch of writer’s block that has lasted over two years. With a push from his agent, Barry, and his wife, Alice, Alan travels to a small town in Washington to try and spark his creativity again.
Along with suffering from writer’s block, Alan has recently begun to suffer from nightmares about shadowy figures and needs to fight them off with the power of light. After arriving in the tiny town, Alan goes to pick up the keys to a cabin where he encounters a strange woman dressed in all black that gives him the keys. The cabin is located on an island on Cauldron Lake, a giant crater that was created by a volcano.
As Alan and Alice settle in the cabin, she informs him that she wants Alan to see a psychologist who specializes in helping break through mental blocks so Alan can continue his work. Now, to me, that sounds a bit greedy from Alice. I’m sure she is coming from a good place, but I can see how Alan might take it the wrong way. He does and explodes on Alice as it starts a big fight. One thing, I enjoyed during my Alan Wake review, is how “real” Alan is. He’s not a perfect person or even likable at times. He comes off as a dick, and there are moments where he acts like one. The fight between Alice and Alan felt like a real relationship.
Alan leaves Alice as he tries to cool off, but she is deeply afraid of the dark. He hears her screams from the cabin while he is on a hike, and returns to see her being abducted by a force and dragged into the lake. Alan jumps into the lake to try and retrieve Alice but blacks out in the process.
Fast-forward a week, and Alan comes back to reality in a car on the side of the road. He has no memory of the past week besides remembering that Alice was dragged into the lake. Alan begins to explore his surroundings which are often wooded areas filled with dark shadowy figures of men. Just like in his dream he uses the light from a flashlight to defeat them.
While exploring, Alan begins to find pages of a manuscript that he apparently wrote. The descriptions and stories in the manuscript give a hint at what’s to come as they often come true. Alan turns to the police and informs them that his wife has been kidnapped but they tell him there’s no cabin or island on Cauldron Lake because it was sunk years ago in a volcanic eruption. Confused, but still determined Alan comes into communication with a man who claims he is behind the kidnapping of Alice and gets Alan to meet him. It turns out the man was a pawn of the old woman who gave Alan the keys to the cabin. The woman sends a massive black tornado at Alan who sucks him up. He wakes up in a psychiatric ward under the care of the psychologist that Alice wanted him to see in the first place.
Dr. Hartman claims that Alan is suffering from mental breakdowns and that everything he has been seeing is just his imagination. At this point, Barry, Alan’s agent comes to town and breaks Alan out of the ward. Dr. Hartman reveals he knows about the island on Cauldron Lake and that his intentions aren’t good. The care clinic comes under attack from shadowy figures as Alan and Barry fight their way through the horde escaping Dr. Hartman and the shadowy figures.
Barry and Alan investigate Cauldron Lake and discover from the townsfolk that a Dark Presence is trapped there. This presence can influence people throughout the town and turns them into shadowy figures who are shells of themselves. The presence tries to find ways to escape and discovered that writings around the lake become a reality which is why it wants Alan to write it free with his manuscript.
Alan and Barry are arrested but once the shadowy figures come, the police believe them, setting Alan and Barry free to help fight the figures. One cop, named Sarah, helps Alan and Barry find a woman who knows about the presence and how to defeat it. Alan travels to Cauldron Lake where he is transported to an alternate reality where Alice is held. He defeats the dark presence by finishing the story where Alice is freed but to balance the story, Alan is trapped in an alternate reality.
This concludes my Alan Wake review section on plot, but I thoroughly enjoyed most of it. As a writer myself, the lines blurred for Alan and myself on whether he was being demonized by self-doubt about his skills or whether it was really shadowy figures creeping in on him.
Alan Wake Gameplay:
My Alan Wake review wasn’t too difficult to finish. You’ll play as Alan throughout the entirety of the game in a third-person view. While some may be frightened by the shadowy figures, I wouldn’t count the game in the horror genre but there were some suspenseful moments along with some creepy environments like abandoned cabins, or dark woods.
The combat is easy to grasp. To hurt any enemy, you’ll need to first “stun” them with the light. Keeping the flashlight beam on them as they weaken is the only way to kill them with bullets from your gun. Once they are weakened, they will stay that way until you kill them. Firing your gun at unweakened shadows is useless.
Immediately, the voice acting stuck out. I was blown away by the quality of it and it made me believe I was playing an interactive drama. It’s some of the best voice actings I’ve come across in gaming. The characters are the stars in this game and you’ll have a love/hate relationship with Alan. Barry, on the other hand, I thought was going to be a stereotypical annoying partner but he turns out to be quite funny. On the flip side, there were some frame-rate issues with my Alan Wake review. I was playing on my Xbox One with an Xbox 360 disc. Sometimes combat was slowed down while other issues included smoothing objects. On occasion, a truck or plant looked undetailed and in basic form.
Speaking of trucks, there are times when you’ll drive a vehicle. I don’t think this was necessary and didn’t add much to the gameplay. You can use the headlight to kill the shadow figures but other than that, it was clunky controls. There are also a lot of secrets to uncover in Alan Wake. Some are found by following hidden arrows revealed by light, while others are the manuscript pages or water bottles which acted as collectible items.
My favorite part of the game was when Alan and Barry travel to an old farm that was home to old rockstars. A horde of shadow figures makes their way to the farm and Alan puts on a rock show with all the lights, fireworks, and flares. It was a bit of ridiculous gameplay that was needed to break up the somewhat series tone of the game. Alan and Barry also get very drunk at the farm which was quite hilarious.
The presentation throughout Alan Wake was excellent with a great soundtrack. There are chapters in Alan Wake and each time you completed one it was like finishing a chapter in a book that left you on a cliffhanger. It made me want to keep playing my Alan Wake review.
Weapons include a pistol, shotgun, rifle, flare gun, grenades, and various flashlights. It was a good rotation of weapons, but I rarely needed to switch to my shotgun or flaregun to defeat shadow figures. I’m good with a gun so maybe others who need more help might find the higher-powered weapons better suited.
The end of Alan Wake was a bit of a disappointment. As you enter the other dimension, you’ll finally fight the “end boss” which turns out to be a giant dark tornado. It felt a bit lame and was pretty easy. You evaporate it with the light to reach the dark presence.
I had heard about Alan Wake and all the hype about it as an original Xbox 360 exclusive. Funny enough, it came to the PS4 in a remaster, but the version I played was the original Xbox 360 version, and I’m glad I played it. After so many years of hearing about how great Alan Wake was, I was able to complete my Alan Wake review.
Alan Wake Review Score:
There was a lot of hype around Alan Wake and I can see why for the most part it was warranted. The voice acting is superb, and the battle mechanics of weakening your opponents with light before shooting them was unique. While the plot was predictable, it was still an enjoyable one to playthrough. Alan Wake walks a fine line between thriller and horror and blurs the lines between reality and dreams.
Alan Wake scores an 8.5 out of 10.
What would you write in your Alan Wake review? Did you or do you plan on picking up the remastered version? What other games have this type of quality voice acting? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Alan Wake, I’d love to read them.