Let me start off by stating that I am NOT a fan of Survival Horror video games. That would explain why I was incredibly disappointed when I came to know that Alan Wake would belong to one of the very few genres in video gaming that I do not like. I first received news of the game from the Twitter feed of one of my favourite bands, Poets of The Fall. The game was being developed by Remedy Entertainment who had previously created the original Max Payne games, and therefore expectations were high from the very beginning.
Every time I read something good about the game, however, I was put off by the genre. I had previously tried a few well-acclaimed Survival Horror games and I never liked them enough to play for more than an hour or two. My desire to play Alan Wake further waned when news was delivered that the game was being made for console and there were no plans for a PC version. As a member of the glorious PC master race, I almost believed I would never be able to play the game even if I wanted to. It was two long years after the release of the Console versions that the game finally came to PC. Even though the console versions had received very positive reviews, the excitement about the game had faded a lot by that time. However, I still decided to give it a try, and I never regretted it.
One for the gamer
The gameplay is, at its core, nothing more than a third-person shooter. But the way it is packaged and delivered, ensures that the gameplay feels unique and addicting. The player controls Alan Wake, the eponymous protagonist, from a third-person perspective and is mainly equipped with a Flashlight and a limited array of firearms. The various enemies encountered are mostly creatures possessed by a darkness which protects them from physical damage. Alan must use his flashlight to destroy the armour of darkness that shields his enemies. Once that protection is gone, the enemy becomes vulnerable to being damaged by guns. It sounds simple. It is simple. And it is brilliantly executed. The best thing about the gameplay, however, is that Alan does not need to win every confrontation. In fact, Alan cannot win every confrontation. There will be times when the best option is to simply run away from a horde of enemies and take shelter under a light where the nightmarish creatures can never get to him. The balance between combat and survival is perfectly maintained throughout the game.
One for the art lovers
Throughout the game there’s a conflict between light and dark and that leaves its indelible impressions on the graphical style of the game. Bringing about this contrast between black and white is something incredibly difficult to achieve, but when a game pulls it off it results in a visual spectacle, and that is exactly what Alan Wake is. As a result of this, the environment is not scary, it’s haunting. The world of Alan Wake is beautiful, but what makes it better is that the beauty is not skin-deep. Light and dark don’t just exist to make the game look good, they are also of tactical significance to the player. Surrounded by too many enemies? Run to the nearby generator, get it running in time and suddenly out of the darkness there is a blast of light. You find yourself bathed in its warm glow and the creatures of darkness are nowhere to be found. You are safe. For the moment.
Alan Wake is a true cinematic masterpiece.
One for the bookworm
I’m a sucker for a good story. Some of my most favourite games have brilliant storylines, and so does Alan Wake. Alan Wake not only has a good plot, the game delivers the story in the fashion of a true storyteller. As you guide the lead character through his story, Alan provides a masterful narration of the events as they occur. The voice-acting is impeccable, and the characters are colourful. The story falls prey to horror movie clichés here and there (most of these are actually intended to be references to classic horror stories and movies), but it never gets predictable. In addition, the story is incredibly well paced. It gives you just enough to time to absorb what is happening, while also making sure that the plot never stagnates. There are very few games which have as good a plot as Alan Wake, and there are absolutely none which tell a story as masterfully as this.
One for the music fan
The music! Oh, the music! The music was one of the areas where I was sure Alan Wake would deliver, and it did not disappoint. The soundtrack is dominated by Poets of The Fall who have contributed four songs, including two as Old Gods of Asgard, the fictional rock band in the game. POTF brilliant; as expected. It came as a pleasant surprise that the other songs in the soundtrack were no less either. They were all incredibly well chosen to fit the ambiance of the game and most of them are musical masterpieces in their own right. The music blends into the game perfectly as you play through it, and quite fittingly it is of significance to the story as well. Rarely, if ever, has such a brilliant soundtrack been compiled for a game.
One for the geeks
The game draws inspiration heavily from the works of Stephen King, the master of horror fiction. There are references to many of King’s renowned works, including The Shining and the game literally begins with Alan, the protagonist quoting Stephen King. There are numerous other references to Pop Culture scattered throughout the game. The episodes of Night Springs the Mini-TV show which can be seen in television sets in various parts of the game pay homage to The Twilight Zone. The forests and environments are bound to remind gamers of the cult classic TV show, Twin Peaks. And this isn’t where the references stop. People have unearthed allusions to everything from Lost to Max Payne, and all of these only make the game that much better.
In conclusion, I’ll say this: You have watched good movies. You have played good games. You have read good stories. And you have heard good music. But never before have you done all of these at once, through a single piece of media. Alan Wake breaks free of the imaginary limitations that most games are confined to. Alan Wake is more than a game. It is a work of art, and it is nothing like anything you have ever experienced before.