An exercise in frustration?
I know that many of you are interested in this game, so let me share my views having just finished half the game (Episode 3 of 6).
Alan Wake is a bestselling author who’s having a writer’s block. His wife takes him to the small, secluded town of Bright Fall in northern Washington. You know the type, up in the mountains, where log cabins are all over the place and everybody knows everybody. Also, there’s “something wrong” with this town. A certain “dark presence” takes over the town folks, making them looking like shadowy monsters. Shit is hitting the fan from all directions, and you’re left in a confused mess as to whether your wife, Alice, is still alive or dead. Also, whether Alan is actually becoming schizophrenic and imagining these things or are all the townsfolk in on this?
The story looks interesting, but nothing great. Like Max Payne, the shooting feels good, and there’s some signature Remedy bullet-time in there which feels rather out of place and doesn’t add to the gameplay. Each of the 6 chapters (or at least the first 3 I’ve played so far) is structured with extreme linearity. There are some very nicely presented cutscenes with great direction, also the game’s gorgeous visuals and extremely pretty lighting system helps a lot. And there are some moments where you will be genuinely scared shitless, but that’s as good as it gets. Your objective for each episode is to reach from point A to B, only to find out something got in your way and now you have to go to point C, then D, then E, then you get the idea.
The story has no proper structure, flashbacks and strange sightings are mixed in with no hint of any coherence as the game moves forward. People do inexplicably stupid things (like that FBI officer who keeps shooting you!) and enemies are limited to you being attacked by a group of possessed people, coupled with environmental damage (“possessed” barrels or boards falling on you) and frackin’ possessed crows! So all you do is take an extremely tedious journey through the forest (or a coal mine or up a mountain), fighting these possessed beings with long ass stretches of you just climbing up and running along, watching the glorious, but ultimately boring scenery. And at the end of all your frustrating hard work, you’re greeted with another weird cutscene of “Surprise bitch! You don’t know WHAT just happened, but that shit was FREAKY, right?? Now start walking in the forest again in search of your dead wife!”
My initial impression based on roughly 5 hours of gameplay is to save your money now. Spend it on maybe Red Dead Redemption or Split/Second or Blur. Pick this up in the bargain bin or ebay a couple of weeks later.