Alan Wake DLC Numero Uno

I downloaded the first DLC of Alan Wake with no idea of what to expect. I had foolishly assumed that Alan would find himself in some new town or location, sporting a name just as ironic as Bright Falls. I was mistaken. To be honest, the setting is somewhat curious. While some of the terrain is new, much of it consists of revamped versions of chapters from the main storyline. I understand that developers need time to create new maps, but do they truly believe that gamers aren’t disappointed when they play through “new” content that isn’t actually new? To avoid this problem in the future, maybe they could try not releasing a DLC within a month of the game’s launch. Moving on.

Aside from that little tick, I didn’t really have any problems. The DLC adds a new chapter called The Signal, which sends Alan on his merry way through what appears to be Bright Falls again. I have to admit that I’m not exactly sure if it really was the happy town from the main storyline or whether it was a world created by Alan’s mind. The story was a little dry. This time around, Zane has Alan trying to find the source of a mysterious signal. Along the way, he encounters lots of TVs that narrate the events that you are about to face.

We have seen already that Alan isn’t exactly the sanest character in a video game, but in this chapter it becomes unbelievably apparent. The world is affected by the his mind and it definitely reflects the madness within. The chapter plays like a bad acid trip and you can really see the writer’s sanity crumbling. This alone made the DLC my favorite chapter in the game.

Alan seems to have a lot of control over the world in this The Signal. Like at the end of the previous chapter, he can now use his words to create objects into the world. Often times, you will find words in the environment like “boom!” This clever onomatopoeia creates an explosion that you will surely need to take out the mobs of enemies converging upon you. There is also a fun little section where you are surrounded by “booms” and “enemies” and are being attacked by birds. You have to be careful or you could bring these to life and quickly find yourself overwhelmed.

The Signal gave me another fun hour or so and really got me excited to see where the next chapter takes our brooding writer. Though this chapter didn’t really explain much, I’m hoping the next DLC will reveal some key set piece that will put things in perspective.

The Good: More great Alan Wake gameplay.

The Bad: Still stuck in Bright Falls.  Not a lot of story.

The Verdict: A must download for anyone who enjoyed the main game.

Written by Not Judas

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Alan Wake: The Creep Take

Alan Wake cover

Disclaimer: This game gets extra points from me simply because it has witty character dialogue. I guess I’m just easily amused by lines like, “I think my tongue just took a crap in my mouth.” But I digress…

It’s been speculated that this game was in creation back as early as 2001, and Alan Wake was officially unveiled by its developer, Remedy Entertainment, at 2005’s E3 show. At first Remedy stated on record that this would be a free roam, sandbox-style  adventure much like any of the Grand Theft Auto games, but they scrapped that in favor of focusing on a compelling story with limited amounts of free roaming exploration. In 2006 the developers announced that Alan Wake would be released on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC – until Microsoft teamed with Remedy to make it an Xbox 360 and PC exclusive title. In yet another twist of fate, Microsoft made an announcement in February 2010 that the game would be released solely on Xbox 360, stating that it would be “more compelling that way”. (Umm, okay?)

The story follows fiction writer Alan Wake as he unravels the mystery of the disappearance of his wife Alice while they’re out on vacation in a small town called Bright Falls. As he makes his search Wake must deal with numerous physical blackouts and visions of characters and ideas that spring to life from his most recent novel, which he can’t even remember writing. There are six episodes in the game and each one is reminiscent of a television mini-series, complete with a recap at the beginning of each subsequent episode. Although this may be considered as nothing overly earth shattering, this presentation totally matches what Remedy’s vision must have been – giving the video gaming experience of a novel that’s being presented to the gamer as a television show. Being a fan of such television shows like “The X-Files”, I think this game has the perfect blend of creepy atmosphere and excellent storytelling, and brought me back to the days when that TV show dominated weekly viewer ratings.

Alan Wake exploration

The solid combat in Alan Wake builds upon the stellar storytelling, assuring there aren’t any sluggish moments during the roughly 12-14 hour adventure. Wake has a handy way of dealing with the Taken (the dark, shadowy enemies): shine any kind of a light source on them. For the most part, you sometimes carry these light sources in your left hand, and use that to weaken enemies who stand in your way. By aiming it on them for a few seconds, you destroy the darkness that controls them, making them vulnerable to normal firearms. This gameplay mechanic is not only original, but it also leads to some rather intense moments throughout the course of the game – and builds lots of tension to boot.

When you’re being surrounded by a group of the fiendish Taken, you have to choose one individual at a time to spatter with your darkness draining light, and keeping your aim balanced in the hopes of staving off all other attackers is pretty damn exciting. If enemies get too close to you, you can dive out of the way at the very last second, which triggers a cool looking slow-mo evasion that lets you quickly return fire before they have get the chance to attack Wake a second time. Because there is an abundance of ammunition strewn about and your health slowly regenerates after each battle, you’ll rarely submit to their attacks; but nevertheless, each encounter with the Taken is pretty slick.

Exploring the haunted woods becomes just as important as the game’s combat when making your journey to find Wake’s missing wife. Venturing off of the forest’s paths is the only way for you to find all of Wake’s missing manuscript pages, television programs, and hidden weapon chests (which contain goodies to aid in fending off the Taken). Aside from a standard revolver, you can scoop up a hunting rifle, shotgun, or flare gun, which makes short work of the Taken when they are advancing on you. Throwing a flashbang grenade into a group of enemies results in a neat animation of them melting away into nothing… but for me, that almost always results in a “hell yes!” kind of moment.

Alan Wake flashlight Continue reading

Alan Wake

As a writer, I found that I have a certain familiarity with the mindset and journey of Alan Wake. Whether it is the dark tortured soul struggling with the ominous white void of the blank page or the ability to look good in a tweed jacket, I felt a strong connection with this character. Alan Wake is a famous novelist who hasn’t written in two years. He goes on a getaway with his wife, who is trying to help him relax and start writing again. Everything seems quite pleasant until Mrs. Wake is kidnapped and Alan wakes up with no memory of the past week. From here, the story unfolds like a Steven King novel, pitting you against a mysterious darkness whose source you must investigate and eventually defeat.

The story plays out quite beautifully and is almost seamlessly blended with gameplay. The best feature of the game is that it really feels like you are playing a horror thriller novel. You move through the chapters and are constantly listening to Wake narrate his journey like an audio book. Another narration tool is the manuscript pages you find throughout the world. You learn pretty early on that some of them describe events that haven’t happened yet. When those events do happen, its like you just found the hole for a puzzle piece you’ve been trying to place for hours. It’s quite brilliant. The writing is spot on, with one notable exception (a mock late night talk show that is painful to watch).

Without spoiling anything, I should say the ending was extremely confusing. I played through it a second time and I still am unsure about what a lot of it meant. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the DLC coming at the end of this month.

As you hunt down your wife’s kidnappers, you are attacked by the darkness and the enemies possessed by it. At first, you just take down a few axe wielding lunatics, but later you are dodging flying objects and trying to avoid slightly larger chainsaw wielding lunatics. The unique combat system has a heavy reliance on light, adding to the motif of light vs. dark. Enemies are invulnerable to attack until you have used light to destroy the darkness surrounding them. Sometimes there will be environmental objects like spotlights that help with this, but the majority of the time you are using your trusty flashlight, followed by a few rounds from your pistol. If you get overwhelmed, you can pop out a flare to force enemies back or toss a flashbang grenade to annihilate a group of enemies quickly. The game has all the right enemies to keep up the feeling of horror and you are given all the right tools to survive without getting too comfortable.

Bright Falls gives the game a great small town feel, but also takes away from the experience at times. Though there are some interesting environments scattered throughout, the vast majority of the game involves running through the woods. I can only take so many trees before I want to burn down the forest and punch Smokey the Bear in the face. Why couldn’t they throw in some creepy docks or a slaughterhouse?

Only you can bury the corpses of your enemies!

The environments are quite pretty though. You will look off at gorgeous landscapes and then be harassed by moving shadows later, but no matter what you are looking at, it will look cool…unless you are looking at the character’s faces. The facial modeling and animation is just plain bad. People are ugly and can’t seem to show emotions [insert joke about Keanu Reeves]. Lip-synching in Alan Wake is equally horrible. Eighty percent of the time, it doesn’t match up with the audio.

Having no emotions keeps you from aging.

As with every game I ever play, I need a working online component in order to justify spending fifty bucks on a video game. If it doesn’t have online multiplayer then there is almost no way the two days of enjoyment the game gives me is worth the money. Alan Wake has no online multiplayer, BUT is going on the list of single player games I feel are worth the money, regardless. It’s a very short list that includes games such as Uncharted 2 and Fallout 3, but it does exist. Hopefully Alan Wake 2 will feature multiplayer modes like King of the Well-Lit Hill or Flashlights vs. Darkies (not racist).

I give Alan Wake the nod of approval.

The Good: A strong horror thriller feel. Alan Wake is a writer. Interesting light vs dark dynamic. Fun combat system. Mostly well written story.

The Bad: Poor facial models. Lip synching issues. A couple of poorly acted voiceover lines. Not much Environmental diversity.

The Verdict: Buy. It’s rare for me to recommend the buy on a single player only game, but guess what. I just did it.

Written by NotJudas