We have had to wait a while for Remedy's next masterpiece and fortunately it was well worth the wait. Alan Wake is a fantastic title and does a great job of making you want more once you have beat the game. The basic premise of Alan Wake is that he is a famous author however he is suffering from writer's block and has been for the past couple of years. His wife Alice thinks a change of scenery will help the situation and so they pack and head up to Bright Falls. Once they get there and get settled in it doesn't take long before things start going very, very wrong. All of a sudden a story that Alan doesn't remember writing is starting to come true and he has to figure out what is happening while trying to stay alive in the process. One thing that you will immediately notice is how amazing this title looks, graphically speaking. The vistas can be breathtaking at times and the whole backdrop of the game is stunning. The game play is the perfect complement to this scenery as it completely immerses you into what is going on and you are always peeking around the next corner to see what you will encounter next.
As you have seen from the various trailers that have been released two of your main weapons in the game are your flashlight and a gun. The majority of this game takes place at night which helps with the eerie atmosphere that Remedy was trying to set up. Your flashlight is vital and without learning how to properly use it you won't survive. The whole light vs. dark mechanic has been done in other games, however, it has never been done this well, in my opinion. To defeat your enemies (aptly named the Taken), you need to do more than just fire your weapon in their direction. You need to use your flashlight and your gun in tandem in order to take them down. You need to shine your flashlight on your enemy until they are weakened enough by the light where they become susceptible to bullets and then you need to quickly disperse of them. Your flashlight also functions as your reticule in the game so wherever you are pointing your flashlight is where Alan is going to shoot the gun. It was a fantastic concept by Remedy and one that helps heighten the tension. Of course you are rarely just fighting one enemy so you have to continuously scan the environment for others that are closing in on you. The enemy AI is fairly intelligent in this game and they will attempt to flank you if you give them the chance. There were times where I would end up spinning in a circle for a moment to try and see where the next Taken was coming from. There are no melee attacks in the game but you are able to dodge attacks and if you push the dodge button at just the right moment you will get a brief cinematic moment where the enemy is swinging at you and you just barely avoid the ax he is swinging at your head. If you have your flashlight positioned correctly during this brief cinematic it can help weaken them even when you are on the defensive.
There are different types of enemies in the game so you are going to need to quickly decide your strategy in how you will disperse with them. There are your standard Taken and then there are Taken that are more powerful and will take a lot more before they become susceptible to your bullets. You'll have to decide whether you want to take out the weaker enemies first while trying to avoid the attacks of the powerful Taken or whether you want to try and take out the big guy first. It adds a layer of tension when you don't immediately know the type of enemy that you are dealing with. Your flashlight also has two different settings, kind of a low beam and high beam, so to speak. The high setting will weaken the Taken quicker, however, it will also drain the batteries in your flashlight a lot quicker. You are then presented with the choice of whether you want to wait for your batteries to slowly recharge or swap them out for new batteries. You need to be careful how you balance this because you don't want to run out of batteries but at the same time if your health is really low you need to take out your enemy before he can take you out.
If you search around the environment you will come across upgrades that can really help you out. You will start out with a standard flashlight and then later on you might find a heavy duty flashlight that has more power, for example. You will also find upgrades for your weaponry where you might have a normal shotgun but then you come across a hunting rifle that packs more of a punch. Exploring your environment is key and that is how you keep you keep your ammo supplies up. As I said earlier there is no melee attack in the game so you want to avoid running out of ammunition at all costs. Either that or become really good at dodging attacks until you can get to the next checkpoint. The checkpoint system in this game is pretty well done and is pretty frequent so you won't be sent to far back if you get killed. The checkpoints are pretty visible too as they are usually a street lamp or something that is shining a nice bright light on the ground. Standing in this light is a "safe haven" where enemies won't attack you and if your health is low it will quickly regenerate. Your health will regenerate no matter where you are, however, if you are in a dark forest it regenerates pretty slowly. These checkpoints will frequently offer ammo or other supplies as well so be sure to pay attention to your surroundings so you don't leave without being properly equipped. With that being said the Taken are not your only enemies. The darkness itself has a tangible presence and is trying to take you out. There are times where you are walking through an area and all of a sudden a truck might come to life as if it was possessed and it will try to take you out. You will have trash barrels and wheelbarrows flying towards your head and coming out of nowhere. It helps to add a lot of tension to the game when you are walking through the environment and you don't know where the next attack is coming from. Just because you don't see any Taken in the area doesn't mean you are safe.
The presentation of Alan Wake was done really well by Remedy and it goes a long way in setting the overall mood and tone of the game. Alan Wake is split up into episodes much like a television show. When you get to the end of an episode you usually have some type of revelation or there is some type of "hero" moment and then the Alan Wake logo appears on the screen and a song starts playing transitioning you between episodes. You can skip the song if you so choose, however, I would always listen to them because it helped keep the mood of the game where Remedy wanted it. Then once that is over, and at the beginning of the next episode, you get a brief recap of some of the key moments that have happened in previous episodes just like if you were watching a television show such as 24 or Heroes. It worked really well in the game and if you are someone that stopped playing after you beat an episode it would help you immediately jump back into things when you returned. There are also televisions that you will find as you progress through the game and if you turn them on you will get to watch an episode of "Night Springs" which is kind of like the Twilight Zone. As I mentioned above you are experiencing a story that Alan doesn't remember writing so from that aspect the game is also presented as a book as well. As you go through the game you will find manuscript pages strewn around the environment that you will want to collect. By picking these up and reading them it will give you insight into what the story is actually about and it will also have a bit of foreshadowing about what you might encounter in the future. It's a fascinating idea that Remedy had and the way that they interwove the story that you wrote with the story that you are experiencing was brilliant. As I have continually mentioned your flashlight is basically your lifeline in the game and it can also help you find hidden items. There are parts of the environment that have things written on them that are only visible if you have the light shone directly on them. It might be something as simple as an arrow pointing you in the direction of a hidden chest or it might be some message warning you about an impending danger.
Alan Wake is an absolutely fantastic title and it was definitely worth the long wait. The way that Remedy has woven the story together is fantastic. The environment is stunning both in terms of visuals as well as sounds. The soundtrack is amazing and the overall presentation of the world itself helps keep you immersed in what is happening. You never know what is going to happen next as you explore a dark forest or an abandoned building. There is also the option of watching cinematics again once you have initially viewed them as well as listening to the soundtrack whenever that you want. Personally speaking I always love it when a studio goes the extra mile like that. You will want to go through this title at least a couple of times so that you can get the full story and truly understand everything that is taking place. Remedy has a fantastic new series on their hands and I can't wait for Alan Wake's next novel.
You can find walkthrough for Alan Wake here.