Tech News on G4
'Alan Wake' takes TV to another level
June 4, 2010
By John Powell - G4 Canada
Although the first season of 'Heroes' was darn close, nothing has ever topped 'Twin Peaks' or 'The X-Files' as two of my favourite television shows of all time, that is, if you discount 'Big Brother', 'Survivor' and 'The Amazing Race'.
For fans of flashlights, spooks and offbeat characters, Microsoft Game Studios' 'Alan Wake' incorporates the very best elements of that mystery-horror-sci-fi genre while also mixing in a whole lot of references to the works of both Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft.
There's even a bit of 'Evil Dead' thrown in too. Groovy.
A blend of Fox Mulder and Thad Beaumont, Alan Wake is a best-selling horror author whose wife disappears while they are on vacation in the idyllic Bright Falls. In point of fact, the trip is therapy for Alan who is working his way through a severe case of writers' block. Like Twin Peaks and some of Stephen King's favorite settings in Maine, Bright Falls is not all that it seems. Beneath the tranquil streams and beyond the flourishing forests are dark secrets and even darker monstrosities. Only Alan, his agent Barry and some of the townsfolk are aware of the sinister forces at work behind the scenes. An force of nature of unknown origin known simply as the Dark Presence, has a disturbing hold over some living things in the town and the wilderness outside of it.
'Alan Wake' is the embodiment of good versus evil, light versus dark. The most lethal weapon Alan has at his disposal is light itself. The concept lends itself to a whole new style of gameplay and when all is said and done this year, the use of light in the game will be one of the true gaming innovations of 2010.
Beaming out of flashlights, streetlights, buildings or just plain old sunlight, light not only holds monsters at bay, it also destroys them. Flashlight beams can immobilize creatures while at the same time weakening them, making them susceptible to damage from Alan's second weapon of choice, a trusty old firearm or flare gun. With limited ammo available throughout Bright Falls, sources of light are extremely precious when you have hordes of Taken chasing you with chainsaws, butcher knives and machetes. Streetlights and other sources of light are safe havens which will disintegrate the Taken upon contact.
Piece of advice, sometimes choosing flight over fight is indeed the wiser course of action.
It is bad enough you have to worry about the tangible threats but there are also unseen enemies that are just as deadly. Poltergeists and the Dark Presence itself will hurl cars, oil barrels, machinery or anything they can get their claws on to batter, brain and bash you to bits. Alan is capable of dodging attacks, although trying to side-step a flying bus is next to impossible. Giving Stephen King a respectful nod, tractors and even bulldozers come to life, all without a soundtrack by AC/DC.
For a large portion of 'Alan Wake' you will find yourself drifting through the wilderness outside of town heading to one destination or another, such as an abandoned mine or an old mill, as Taken stalk you. The gameplay is very repetitive. In addition to fending off Taken, there are some puzzles to be deciphered. The tasks are as complex as fixing a generator or using a crane to move some logs to putting on a pot of coffee or watching a television broadcast. The complex tasks are more frustrating than tricky.
'Max Payne' series writer Sam Lake has crafted a grandly suspenseful tale in 'Alan Wake'. Accentuated by authentically cinematic cutscenes which include sweeping dolly shots and fantastic cutaways, the game not only rivals any television series but gives the player/viewer a one-of-a-kind interactive experience. Presented as an episodic television series complete with cliff-hanger endings, recaps framed with the familiar voice-over refrain…"Previously on 'Alan Wake"… the structure makes "beating" each level so much more rewarding and the plot is so well written, it makes up for the rhythmic gameplay that some may find very dull.
'Alan Wake' not only has bridged the gap between television and video gaming, it is one of the best stories ever told and ever played in gaming history.
Rating: 8.5 / 10
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