Genre: Third-Person Shooter, Action-Adventure, Horror(?)
Original Release: May 14, 2010
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PC (Steam, Epic Games Store)
Played on: PC (Steam)
When Alan Wake first came out, my brother-in-law let me borrow it after trying it out for a bit. I definitely liked it right off the bat, but I didn’t remember a lot of it after finishing it. Luckily, Steam offered the game for a dollar the day before the music licenses expired and it was taken off of the store, though only for a brief time. I just checked and, at the time of writing, it’s available again for $14.99 on Steam, and while I refuse to download the Epic Games Store launcher (it’s a matter of ethics for me and I disagree with their business practices, I’ll leave it at that) I know for a fact that it’s also available there, though I don’t know the price.
Anyway, Alan Wake is an interesting blend of third-person shooter, story-driven, and a small amount of horror. The game is spooky, but it foregoes visceral or psychological horror for more of an atmospheric approach, with most segments taking place at night and playing host to a number of enemies that as far as I can tell are scripted to come after you after a set amount of time passes without you making your way into a safe haven. I don’t know how to dive into a game’s code, so it’s possible I could be wrong, but I digress.
Perhaps ironically, the story of Alan Wake puts you into Alan’s shoes, beginning with a dream sequence that both acts as a tutorial and sets the tone of the game. Alan, a prolific writer, finds himself in a nightmarish landscape, pursued by some sort of dark force for a time, before a shapeless light begins to speak to him and explain how to protect himself and fight back against this force. The light guides Alan, stating “I will give you your dream back now” after teaching him what he needs to know and leaving him with perhaps one of my favorite weapons in a video game: the flare gun.
Combat in the game revolves around dispelling the protective darkness around enemies (The Taken) through use of a light source, be it a flashlight, a flare, or even some industrial lighting you can occasionally find lying around. Once the shield is dispelled, you can fire at the Taken until they fall, generally between three or six shots from the revolver (or two or three shots from the shotgun) depending on the size of said Taken. There are also flashbangs that will instantly kill most smaller enemies and remove the shields of larger ones, depending on their proximity to the explosion, as well as environmental traps like downed electrical wires. Resource management isn’t typically an issue, as you’ll frequently come across supply caches with batteries and ammo. In fact, these caches may be a little too frequent. I almost always had a full stock of revolver ammo, to the point where I would fire a few shots just to be able to pick everything up since I hate leaving things behind in games.
Another interesting part of Alan Wake is the number of collectibles scattered around. The main game has both coffee thermoses and manuscript pages. As far as I’m aware, the thermoses don’t unlock anything, but they made for a great running gag that Alan had a really nasty caffeine addiction. The manuscript pages, meanwhile, will provide a little bit of background on some characters, or tell you about upcoming events in the game, like the arrival of a government agent or a conversation between two characters. It’s interesting and they’re definitely easy enough to find (they have a faint glow around them out in the wild), so it’s worth your time to look for them.
If I had to distill Alan Wake down to a few sentences, I’d say it’s interesting. The voice acting is good, the environments and models are really well-done for the time (seriously, how far have we come in only 9 years?), and it’s got an interesting premise that makes up for any jank you might come across. For example, I managed to die during the tutorial because Alan doesn’t immediately stop running when you let go of the controller. Instead, he slides a foot or two afterward, which led to my falling to my death on multiple occasions. My viewers and I joked that Alan fell victim to his Heelys if you remember those. Gameplay doesn’t evolve too much over the course of the story, but it’s the story and atmosphere that makes up for that. If you’re interested, I’d encourage you to pick it up, especially now that Remedy got the rights back and it’s available on both Steam and the Epic Store. Even if it may not be your type of game outright, I’d argue that for all of its flaws, it has one hell of a banger toward the middle of the game that makes up for any problems, and it’s one of the most badass sequences as well: