Monday, 9 August 2010

Alan Wake

Microsoft's psychological thriller is finally completed in what can only be described as one of the strangest games to be released on the Xbox 360.

It has taken over 5 years for this game to be completed. Think about what you have spent the last 5 years doing - think about what you were doing in the Summer of 2005 and that was when this game was started. Unfortunately, it just isn't really worth the wait.

The initial concept is great, a renowned writer visits a small town and suddenly gets caught up in a nightmare scenario where his wife is missing and the little island they were staying on has suddenly vanished. There's a lot of nods here to TV series' such as Twin Peaks, The Twilight Zone and more, but the overall experience isn't quite as satisfying.

The game is divided into 6 chapters which play like episodes ('Previously on Alan Wake...') but each one is essentially the same thing over and over again. You start with nothing, pick up some ammo, a flashlight, then get more and more ammo as you walk in a linear fashion towards the next light. Enemies come at you and sometimes objects fly at you, but essentially it's the same thing again and again. It's also way too easy - this takes away any concept of 'survival horror' and instead you just end up throwing all your firepower at everything because it is very rare that you will find yourself short handed when you need it. To kill enemies is somewhat original, but essentially you shine a torch on an enemy until it's weak enough to shoot it and move on. That's it.

There's about 3 or 4 different types of human-like enemies (some move fast, others are slow and a lot stronger, some have chainsaws) but really, you will be hard pressed to be in a situation you can't get out of. Baring in mind a flare, which are dotted frequently around, is the same as an old-school 'invincibility potion', because they won't come near you and you can wait for your health to revitalise, it almost feels like you're cheating. It's a shame because it could be quite freaky and scary seeing as it's all about staying in the light, but it feels like a washed out Silent Hill. I was very rarely freaked out and at no point was I in a situation I felt like I couldn't handle leaving any tension at the door.

Saying that, the graphics look great and the scenarios kept me entertained enough. The length of the game was probably about 9 hours or so but there's more DLC to be had in the near future (one of which is already released). Why can't they have released this in the main game? Why should I pay out even more? Anyway, I don't want to give away the plot, but let's just say ... it's confusing.

The main pull of this game was that it was an adult interactive thriller as such, but released as the same time as Heavy Rain, there was no way this was going to push any boundaries like the PS3 hit did. Instead, Alan Wake continues a tried and tested formula and concentrates more on plot. But even after completing the game, I still have no idea what really happened. After some online research I was relieved to find others didn't either and there are a number of theories about it all swimming across the Internet which I did enjoy reading. But in order to keep the audience consistently entertained, the plot should maybe have been more grounded or the gameplay more experimental. The mix of quite boring, formulaic gameplay with such a weird story jarred with me and I was left feeling somewhat cheated.

A lot of hype went into this game, the online mini-series prequel looked promising and the trailers looked incredible, but really this was let down by the fact that rather than being cool it instead was quite boring. I hate to say it because I did enjoy playing it and glad I completed it, but I feel it could have been so much more. It's just not Heavy Rain. Sales figures also show that it didn't quite do as well as Microsoft wanted, and as you can probably see in any electronics shop, it's come down significantly in price. A little tip as well here, don't call a game Alan Wake - it was never going to fly off the shelves with a titles like that. Why not just 'Wake'? That sounds better at least - or 'Bright Falls' like where it's set and the mini-series?

I would like to think that given so much money and time thrown at it, that a team of creatives could do better and even though it looked good and the story, though confusing, was somewhat enjoyable in it's post-post-postmodern way, it's just let down by repetitive gameplay. A lesson for all I think.

Rating: 7/10

No comments:

Post a Comment