Step into the reality that is â€˜Alan Wakeâ€™
The first few moments of â€˜Alan Wakeâ€™ are truly unforgettable. From the first opening scenes of this tense psychological action thriller I am shivering with anticipation. Alan Wake sucks you into itâ€™s tantalizing storyline and bounces you between flashbacks of the past and present day. Alan Wake is a best selling thriller writer who is travelling to a place called â€˜Bright Fallsâ€™. Bright Falls is in the Cascade Mountain Range, situated in the Pacific North West, and is stunningly picturesque and filled with national parks. Itâ€™s a place of tranquility and peace, until Alan arrives and his reality becomes a nightmare.
Alan Wake has been successful in his writing but, due to writerâ€™s block, depression and drink dependency, he has been unable to concentrate or have the incentive to write another successful title. His success has made him into a minor celebrity and when provoked he tends to lash out at people. Youâ€™ll see this happen whenever he interacts with new people.
Alan Wake has suffered from a rare condition that makes him overly sensitive to light. This causes Alan to be blinded by bright lights and suffer migraines. Alan is married to Alice and they have been happily married but she has raised concerns over Alanâ€™s mental state. She brings him to â€˜Bright Fallsâ€™ in an attempt to recapture his inspiration and passion for writing again. She hopes to get him help from the local doctor, Dr Emil Hartman, who has helped artists in his clinic before and Alice feels this is the only way to help Alan on his road to recovery.
The beginning of the game is a mixture of anticipation and confusion. As the player you are thrown into chaos watching Alan Wake driving down the highway in the dead of night, only for him to crash into a hitchhiker. Could this be the same hitchhiker that he had written about in his book? Alan slams on his brakes and struggles to make sense of the situation. He exits the car only to find that the body has vanished. Still shocked and stunned from the crash he staggers to stay on his feet. Alan embarks on an adventure to find out the truth. Armed with just an energizer flashlight, Alan makes his way down the dark and winding roads, only to be pursued by a dark presence. A voice in the darkness offers him answers.
The story changes again and itâ€™s beautiful and sunny. Alan and his wife Alice are happy driving to Bright Falls. The next moment sees Alan at the wheel of the car, dazed and confused. Alice thinks he must have dozed off in the car and had one of his nightmares again. They are seated in their car and their vehicle is parked on board a ferry boat. Alanâ€™s cell phone starts ringing and we hear Barry, his agent, talking on the other end. The game switches back and forth from present day to the past so be aware of that.
Alan spends the majority of his time sprinting through desolate forests in order to reach his destination. You feel constantly paranoid and scared of your surroundings. Itâ€™s dark and he’s not heavily armed to begin with. The light offers salvation for Alan from the shade. The shade is always following him and trying to destroy him. Finding a light offers Alan a safe haven in which to recover. Most of the time Alan is interacting with objects, and having dead and sometimes meaningless conversations with the town folk of Bright Falls. Youâ€™ll bump into a selection of the strange and bizarre personalities within this eerie town. Protecting yourself and keeping yourself moving is the name of the game, because too much time spent in the darkness just leads to trouble. There are plenty of emergency boxes that are scattered throughout the vast wilderness. Most of them contain ammunition which is essential for getting you from one place to the next. Keeping your flashlight powered up with batteries can be a bit frustrating at times, especially if you’re being attacked from all sides. I found that my flashlight needed a constant flow of battery power to get me through the harder levels. The are four different types of flashlights are used to light the way.
Thereâ€™s a nice selection of weaponry to help Alan and this ranges from your common pistol which holds up to six bullets and is pretty quick firing to pump action shotguns. The shotguns inflict an impressive amount of damage compared to the pistol, but then needs reloading more often. The flare gun is very powerful and can be used to seriously damage multiple enemies and is essential for dealing with ravens. If you think that Alanâ€™s only danger is the â€˜takenâ€™ that is forever intruding on his presence, then you would be wrong. Alan must evade dark tornadoes, dark matter and simple things like bear traps that are set around the forest.
I like the fact that you can also drive vehicles within the game. Itâ€™s pretty easy to accelerate, steer and skid around the rocky highways of Bright Falls. Using your high beam and hood just like a flashlight and gun you can destroy enemies and run them down, of which I found amusing and highly entertaining at the same time. Combat can be difficult at times, especially if they are hurling knives at your head.Â You spend a great deal of time trying to dodge your way out of a situation. Enemies must be destroyed by exposing them to a light source, your torch, until they flash. Then they can be harmed by bullets. Ammunition is scarce within this game, so wasting it by trying to shoot your assailants before they have “flashed” is something that the player has to avoid. Timing is essential in this game, so it may take a little while to get used to it.
There are various collectibles to gather and 106 manuscript pages to be found. This gives you insight into some of the characters you are interacting with and upcoming situation’s you may be facing. Roaming through the wilderness, exploring lodges and motels, you can investigate to your hearts content. Some buildings will holding nothing of value, where others will be the source of valuable information. I liked the fact that when visiting these eerie buildings, some had a radio or television on, which made the atmosphere very spooky. Listen to every media device you encounter because you gain some insight into Bright Falls and your current situation and you can unlock music tracks.
The control system was relatively easy. Using the left trigger I could boost the beam of light from my torch to accelerate the removal of their dark protection, while with the right trigger I could fire my pistol to finish them off once vulnerable. Itâ€™s a mixture of using your flashlight in your left hand while wielding your pistol in your right. The aiming is easy and with a simple bullet or two youâ€™ll master it. The left buffer allows you to sprint and dodge, even though I felt that Alan didnâ€™t run excessively fast, or maybe that was just the fear and tension that was building up inside me. It certainly grabs the audienceâ€™s attention with its thrills and suspense throughout. Alan is able to jump over various obstacles and there is a level of interaction with a selection of buttons and devices.Â Explore everywhere, because there are items hidden all over the place, but be sure the light that is your safe haven is nearby.
Graphically the game is stunning and well polished, beautifully rendered in all its glory. The dark and creepy forests offer the perfect environment for this psychological action thriller. For me personally itÂ ticked all the right boxes. Itâ€™s got a gripping storyline and a whole host of interesting characters to interact with. I loved the combat and the use of weapons that are on offer. To be totally honest, it scared the life out of me at times and Iâ€™m sure people from around my local neighbourhood could hear my unexpected screams of terror. This game makes you jump in all the right places and â€˜gives a new meaning to the word paranoiaâ€™.
The only thing I did find annoying was the fact that Alan seemed to be constantly running from what felt like one forest to the next, so some people might find that a little bit frustrating. The music that accompanies the game was spot on with its atmosphericÂ tone. Fear, anticipation and adrenaline filled my mind. I would panic to get from one light source to the next and was constantly looking over my shoulder in order to avoid the â€˜takenâ€™ that were hot on my trail.
I thought Alan Wake was brilliant. It touches all the right nerves, it encourages players to come out of their comfort zone and explore the wilderness. It provides good gameplay, an entertaining storyline and a nightmare you wish was never over. Hold onto your nerves, prove your skills and get out alive, if you can.