The Remedy team has made a long awaited return with their eerie mind altering adventure, Alan Wake. Remedy made their first splash with Death Rally in 1996 and then went on to make Max Payne 1 & 2, which were big hits thanks to the games corrupt gangster plot and hogs of slow-mo action. That was 2003, now they return with a more subjective plot involving a best-selling author and his wife facing some serious evils in Bright Falls.
There’s an ancient secret hidden in Bright Falls, something Alan Wake finds himself caught up in and somehow involved with at the same time. When you first start the game it will take you a couple of minutes to get to grip with what’s happening as when you progress through the game you will drop in and out of realities and certain situations creating a little bit of confusion, this ties in with the plot and ill-nature of this creeping darkness that’s possessing people and keeps you on high alert when you play. The story covers over six episodes and after your first episode each episode after that ends with a cliff-hanger, creating a very exciting series of events one after another.
When you’re given control of Alan You’ll be taken through the basic controls and attacks in the games tutorial section at the beginning of your journey. The camera controls are surprisingly responsive when you begin and can be changed at the options section of the game as predicted but the games 3rd person view point compensates depending on what you’re looking at and the area’s size constrictions by swinging over to the left or right of Alan. This creates a fast and flexible viewpoint that moves with you throughout the game and easily creates a more accessible foundation for many gamers to learn all the other life saving combos and tricks in the game. This automatic compensating can set you up for some creepy view points and is used resourcefully together with the murky environments, this gives certain situations that extra thrilling edge. You’ll also learn about the inhabitants of Bright Falls and how they are now possessed by the dark presence flowing through this isolated town when you’re introduced to the combat system, these puppet like humans are called the Taken.
The Taken can come in multiple forms; humans and in some beast forms like crows and have a different strength each but they all have one defence you can beat with just weapons alone and that’s the darkness that you can see clouding around them. Your first encounter with a Taken is quite a bearish experience as they’re rather gruff and un-civil when they appear to fight you. Taken are shrouded and protected by this darkness making them totally invincible, so how do you kill something that’s invincible and arrogant? You blind them with light is what you do. Remedy have given you a little bit more of a challenge when it comes to combat as it’s staged, you will need to shine your torch on the Taken till the darkness resides then attack with your weapon of choice. This adds that extra punch that makes the combat experience more balanced and exciting; trying to take out multiple Taken gets very interesting later on when the game gathers momentum.
The design of the Bright Falls is well tailored to infuse all the games combat and movement features by shaping and curbing them with objects and buildings, bringing them in and out of play. This blends the environment and gameplay seamlessly together creating a woven mesh of triggered events and interactive moments as you progress and building a really good rhythm into the game – a rhythm you can’t always predict, sometimes leaving you feeling a little intimated by new areas and challenges. This effect carries the games psychological currents and storytelling miles further than other titles of the same nature.
The reason all this comes together so well is Remedy’s vision for the game it keeps everything important or clear just out of reach making you even more curious for answers just like Alan. Alongside this there’s a perfectly timed narrating insight as you explore, which just adds bags more plot and insight without slowing down the gameplay to do so.
There’s also the placement of light sources around Bright Falls, these are sometimes incorporated into objectives or just scattered around, they also double as Safe Havens to regain your health when you’ve taken damage. The different light sources other than your torch creates a good dynamic and direction when you play and when that dynamic is added into missions or is needed to proceed past areas it creates more paths to continue through so you are kept on your toes. Bright Falls is a beautiful place during the more lighter scenarios with acers of pine trees and glistening lakes in the background and can make way for some cinematic scenes to place plot events onto. Bright Falls can turn the other way and can become a dark and dangerous place where this darkness can manifest terribly causing some serious damage when it does destroying houses and creating monstrosities of death to chase you with.
When you’re not being chased by the Taken or experiencing some of the games immense action scenarios you will get to enjoy the slightly contained and ‘off the beaten path’ exploring the game has to offer. There’s a couple of things to look out for like the bright yellow signs and pointers that lead to supply crates, manuscript pages that are apparently written by Alan though he has no knowledge of it about the events unfolding. Batteries for your torch are always a good thing to stock up on as you can change the battery instantly giving you light instead of leaving your torch to recharge, you’ll also start to come across the weapons that are available in the game. There’s the light based weapons to find like the Flare Gun, Flashbang Grenades and upgrades to your torches, and then there are the more conventional weapons like the Revolver, Shotgun and Hunting rifle. The number of weapons in the game will keep you busy searching for ammo for them, pushing you to explore near those dodgy looking trees and creating better combat situations for you when the Taken start to overwhelm.
There’s alot of other defining details to discover along the way like the radio station’s broadcasts, TV broadcasts and interactive moments with NPC’s before they were taken. These are all rewarding enough to keep searching for and help create a better perspective into Alan’s life and the world you’re in. You’ll enjoy looking for these titbits while you play as they open up this warped world so you can understand and enjoy Remedy’s medium of ideas through these little windows and read into events to come and the manuscripts that back-track to explain a few holes in the back-story. The amount of details incorporated into the environment and the plot’s thread like nature is vast and creates something you could pass as real or believable when you’re playing. The different lighting and shadow effects gives visual depth to the light and the shadowed areas and highlights these making them appear to move around environmental objects or over certain things to intensify everything slowly. Because of all these things the game turns out to be a mystery solving masterpiece but it doesn’t leave the game with many playback qualities’s only to collect the plot items you missed the first time, leaving it just below the bar you were expecting.
Altogether you’re looking at a large slice of entertainment thanks to some thrilling action scenes and obstacles that take place throughout your adventure, most of these events look amazing when your environment starts to collapse around you creating a feeling of imminent danger and suspense. There’s the interwoven realities of dark and light to marvel at as they’re also visually portrayed well with the prominent lighting effects and array of environment detail that never ceases to involve you further. All this bundled with a captivating backwards/forwards plot, multiple amounts of insights and incredible emotion portrayal by the lead characters makes for a very enjoyable game on a lot of fronts.