Alan Wake

Moby ID: 46408
Xbox 360 Specs
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Description official descriptions

Alan Wake is an intense cinematic action game with strong survival horror elements, told in successive episodes. The player controls the actions of the eponymous Alan Wake, a popular detective writer who tries to escape the pressure of creative expectations in a fictional town called Bright Falls. Pretty soon, however, Alan's wife disappears and he will be facing weird happenings forcing him to pick up a weapon and a flashlight. While Alan tries to uncover the mystery he just got pulled into, the story is told in six episodes, each ending with a title screen and starting with a recap of the recent happenings - just like a TV episode.

The key element in the game is light. During the game's daylight passages Alan explores and discovers Bright Falls with its town life and woods, including an in-game radio station and different TV channels. The game's dramatic and action-oriented elements start at nightfall. People and animals in the game turn into the most harmful beings at night. They are engulfed by a darkness that transforms them. Called Taken, they are extremely vulnerable when exposed to light and that is how to fight them. Alan's main tools for survival are a gun and a flashlight. Throughout the game, both tools vary and Alan will find better weapons and stronger flashlights. Flashlights require batteries and these can be drained, especially when he focuses the light into a stronger beam to remove the dark influence surrounding people and creatures quicker. Enemies can only be shot after the veil of darkness surrounding them has been removed with light.

In-game Alan is controlled from a third-person perspective and although he carries a gun the game does not use cross-hairs. The main focus in combat is the use of light and therefore Alan points at enemies with his flashlight while the game provides aim assistance at the very target. He can pick up additional ammo and batteries and there are also a few puzzle elements where he needs to interact with the environment to restore electricity for instance. Healing is done automatically by not taking damage for a while and there are also locations with lots of light where the creatures cannot enter, called safe-havens. Their health is restored even more quickly. Many of the story elements are told in different, scattered pieces from a general timeline. The player will for instance return to an apartment prior to the departure to learn more about his wife's phobia of the dark. Much of the time is spent exploring and there are also a few driving sequences. Other parts of the story are gathered through pages of a book's manuscript Alan has yet to write. These are stored and often provide more information about past and upcoming events. There are also many cinematic, scripted events and conversations with the townspeople. Similar camera angles are provided when shooting or dodging, with slowed-down time for cinematic effect.

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Credits (Xbox 360 version)

570 People (328 developers, 242 thanks) · View all

Story
Concept Design
Lead Programmer
Art Director
Lead Game Designer
Lead Level Design and Environments
Lead Technical Artist
Additional Game Design
Original Concept
Executive Producer
Producer
Director of Development
Animation, Audio and Cinematics Producer
Associate Level Producer
External Services Coordination
Screenplay
Technology Programming
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 85% (based on 51 ratings)

Players

Average score: 4.2 out of 5 (based on 41 ratings with 3 reviews)

I continued to narrate to myself, hoping the player would pick up on my hints.

The Good
What the hell is going on? This is some trend that’s going on with the games I’ve been picking up. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Heavy Rain, Deadly Premonition, and now Alan Wake. All four of them are story driven thrillers, three of them have a horror tilt, three of them include FBI Agents in various roles, two of them are inspired by Twin Peaks, and another two make heavy use of a flashlight. That’s just for starters, I could tell you more links between them, but I’m afraid I might end up in some sort of paranoid thriller myself. To be fair, each game I mentioned has a completely different approach to storytelling and gameplay. Now I get to see how Alan Wake stacks up to the others.

The game takes its name from the main character, Alan Wake. Alan is a famous writer who arrives at the small town of Bright Falls, in the hope of overcoming his severe writer’s block. It doesn’t take long before things get weird and his wife disappears. Now, Alan must battle the physical manifestation of darkness, find his wife, and get to the bottom of the strange happenings in town and the strange manuscript pages he finds scattered throughout his path. The game is very centered on its plot, which twists and turns. It’s told in equal parts through the manuscript pages, Alan’s narration, and character dialogue. Interestingly, while the plot is completely different, a number of allusions are made to Twin Peaks. In fact, along with Deadly Premonition, I’ve seen the log lady carry a pot and now a lantern. Where will she turn up next?

Alan Wake has a survival horror feel to it, but it’s hard to call it that since it constantly overloads you with equipment and it isn’t really horrifying or even creepy. Each level typically gives you a destination to reach, which you must do while being pursued by the dark presence. The dark presence is a force that can possess anything it wants but is weak to light. It makes for a pretty cool foe. It’s constantly trying to stop you by throwing inanimate objects at you or by blocking your path. Townsfolk unfortunate enough to fall victim to it must first have the darkness in them weakened by your flashlight before they can be killed by conventional firearms. It’s a fairly neat little gimmick, and some of the events are fairly thrilling.

The environments are certainly pretty. I found it interesting that you can usually see your destination off in the distance. It really gives the game a sense of scale, even though all the environments are boxed into linear corridors. It also helps that the draw distance is pretty far out and I didn’t really notice any pop-in. Indoor environments are equally well designed and, for the most part, believable. The lighting effects are also pretty neat. Beams of light are shown very brightly against the duller colours of the background, perhaps to better represent the strange war between light and dark that the game centers on.

For me, the biggest standout of the game was its soundtrack. While Alan Wake does employ the usual generic movie-style theme soundtrack, it also includes a number of licensed songs sprinkled throughout. Sometimes you hear them on juke boxes or radios, but one always plays at the close of a chapter. It’s not just the quality of the songs, but how well they fit the game’s theme and context. It was especially fitting to have David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” playing over the end credits.

The Bad
Throughout the game, you often come across pages of a manuscript that Wake insists he didn’t write. Some of them are hidden , others are right in your path. Every time you pick one up, you can read it to learn about the events of the game. Some of the things you read about have already happened, others are occurring to other characters off screen, and some of them tell you what is going to happen later in the story. The fact that the game spoils itself for you isn’t my problem though. My problem is how they only succeed in breaking up gameplay. Considering Wake finds himself running from stuff all the time, it seems strange to me that he should stop to look for pages from a manuscript. I had to laugh at myself when, at one point in the game, I walked into the room where a character was lying on the floor, dying, and my first instinct was to search the area for pages before advancing the story. I’ll admit, this is mostly my problem, I don’t have to find them, but it’s hard to resist.

Speaking of totally arbitrary collectable objects, manuscript pages aren’t the only trinkets you find scattered around the game world. There are also an anomalous number of thermoses filled with coffee throughout Bright Falls’ forests. What purpose do they serve? I wasn’t very clear on that myself, so I looked in the instruction manual to find out, only to find that they aren’t even mentioned. So I looked it up online. As it turns out, the only purpose these thermoses serve is as a goal to unlock Xbox Live Achievements. That’s right; they don’t unlock alternate costumes, concept art, or even trailers, the only reward you receive are two paltry achievements. Now, I don’t hate achievements, they offer fun additional goals for you to try, but including an in-game item that serves only that purpose is bullshit especially since it breaks the game’s flow to seek them out.

Useless pickups aren’t exactly a huge issue for a game to have, no matter how much they get under my skin. Still, Alan Wake suffers from even worse issues, the biggest one being its dull, repetitive gameplay. In the first chapter, you find yourself running down roads, through a forest, and in derelict buildings. Get used to this, because it’s all the game is. From beginning to end, you run through the same repetitive environments, fight the same handful of enemies, and pick up the same useless items. Cutscenes and dialogue break up the action somewhat, and every once and a while the game gives you a driving sequence, but the rest of the time you’re simply travelling from point A to point B. It’s not all bad. The combat is decent fun, to an extent, and the oppressive dark presence following you everywhere does make for some thrilling situations, but it isn’t enough.

Dull gameplay can be made up for by a compelling plot, but unfortunately I didn’t find Alan Wake’s tale to be all that interesting. It’s incredibly far-fetched without even attempting to make it believable, most of the characters are completely two-dimensional, and it moves at a snail’s pace. Really, there’s only enough plot to fill out about an hour but it’s stretched way out to accommodate the game’s length. Then to top it off, the game’s conclusion is unsatisfying and left open. They couldn’t have said “wait for the sequel or maybe the DLC” any more obviously. It isn’t bad, it’s par for video games at the very least, it just isn’t good enough. At its worst, it seems poorly written and sloppy and even at its best, it doesn’t make up for dull gameplay and the more I think about it, the more plot holes I discover.

Overall, the control is a little spotty. On numerous occasions I was frustrated by Alan ignoring my command to reload. On a few occasions, I found myself mashing the button to no avail, because he was, I don’t know, in the middle of a stopping animation or something. Speaking of frustrating, enemies seem to be specifically programmed to cheap-shot you. I’d swear that they constantly move to hit you in the back when you aren’t looking. Realistic, perhaps, but it’s really maddening. To make matters worse, the environments are extremely cluttered and I found myself getting stuck in a lot of places that Alan should be able to scootch through. This is only made worse by the extreme light/dark contrast and the fact that you’re almost constantly running from enemies.

I feel I should mention that I hit a glitch right at the end of the game that nearly prevented me from continuing. I somehow found a way to climb over a barricade that I was supposed to destroy, and as a result failed to trigger the next event. I don’t understand why something like this would happen, since I was even able to activate the next checkpoint before I noticed something was wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more glitches such as this, since there were many places I was able to squeeze into that I shouldn’t have been.

The Bottom Line
I have a lot of negative things to say about Alan Wake, but I’m probably being too hard on the game. I could tell you about the product placement and how it appears as though a plane jettisoned its cargo of Energizer batteries over the town or how Alan won’t shut the hell up, but that’s just nit-picking. As annoying as its problems are, none of them are deal breakers. It has high production values, but its design just isn’t quite what it should be. It might still be worth your time to check out; you might even enjoy it more than I did. Overall, I think Alan Wake is OKAY, but I’d definitely recommend Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Heavy Rain, or Deadly Premonition over this if it’s a story-driven thriller you’re craving.

Xbox 360 · by Adzuken (836) · 2010

Top-class storytelling wrapping up a very fine game

The Good
What kind of game is Alan Wake actually? One might be really confused as the game’s very game play has changed throughout the many years of development. Is it a story-driven adventure with an open world scenario or just another survival horror game with a rather linear world to play in? The answer is to be found somewhere in between. Now is this good or bad news? I think this has to be answered by the individual gamer. To me, this game is a revelation in terms of storytelling and I haven’t had as much fun with other games in a very long time.

The developer Remedy itself names Stephen King as well as TV franchises Lost and Twin Peaks as its main source of inspiration and influence. These are big names to mention and a game has to do pretty good to cope with this level of entertainment. In my opinion Alan Wake is even worth being mentioned along with these big names.

I am not going to spoil any of the plot – and it is really hard not to because the real beauty of this game is its plot and narrative nature with all the twists and turns. But what makes the game so unique in terms of storytelling? First of all, it introduces its main characters pretty well, putting the player right into the picture. Not only personal information and background is revealed, we also get a pretty good impression about the feelings and mood of the main characters. Alan Wake is a famous and successful writer – a writer in the middle of a two-year crisis of not being able to write anything at all. He is trying to recover from that crisis by taking some time alone with his wife Alice. The serene and idyllic town of Bright Falls seems to be the perfect place to do so. Needless to say, the nightmare will start right after their arrival.

Besides the nice and tellingly introduction of the characters, the actual performance of the same is perfectly executed. Voice acting and motion capture animations bring the characters alive, building this lovely atmosphere of Alan Wake. At this point, only a few minutes after starting the game you do already feel connected to the game. As in Max Payne before, Remedy uses the character of Alan Wake to comment on events of the game while playing it. What might be annoying to some is a great idea to others. Alan talks about his feelings, what he should do now or what he is seeing right in the distance and so on. Surely it helps to build the tension that defines that game but I found it to be helpful as well. There is no need for a mission log or anything (although there is one in the menu) because I am always in the middle of things, a clear picture of what I will have to do next. Besides, I most appreciated the talking when I was resuming from a saved game to get back into the story.

The game is divided into six episodes. Each episode comes with a title screen at the end and a “previously on Alan Wake” wrap-up trailer at the beginning. We all know these from our favorite TV show. And if a game’s story isn’t strong enough it would simply be silly to implement narrative elements like this. And this is exactly why this is perfect for Alan Wake – the episode implementation is its icing on the top! Throughout the game, Alan will also find single manuscript pages that are both mysterious and part of the storytelling. These collectibles will allow you to have either a glimpse of what is going to happen in the not so distant future (mostly within the same level) or will wrap up things that just happened.

The story is a strong element of the game but worthless if the game play drops all its tension. Fortunately this is not the case. To get back to my first paragraph – and the question what kind of game Alan Wake is: It is a story-driven (horror) adventure that puts you in the middle of a struggle for survival. But that doesn’t mean that you will be playing a second Resident Evil franchise with a better story. It does have its own feel of game play – it is unique. And to be honest – it was my biggest fear that it feels like an ordinary game with just a bit of nice ideas here and there.

The basic element of the game play is the use of light. In general you can say that light keeps you alive and safe. You just have to make sure you don’t run out of batteries and power sources. Most of the time Alan carries a flashlight allowing him not only to light up his path through the night but also to fight the “Taken”. Let’s keep things simple and say that the Taken are the only type of enemy in the game, pursuing Alan in all dark places while shaping in different forms. Alan can remove the Darkness from the Taken by pointing the flashlight at them. Without the Darkness, enemies become vulnerable to the kind of weapons Alan will find throughout the game. On one hand it is a pretty standard and yet small arsenal (like a Revolver, Shotgun, Hunting Rifle) and on the other hand you will have a signal pistol and flares that just highlight the game’s focus on lighting effects.

Alan is not an ex-marine or mercenary or whatever cliché usually fits on a main character facing hundreds of opponents. So the game does manage to get you an idea of what it might be like to shoot at someone for the first time. Alan is confused and frightened after shooting his first enemy and I like the idea of the main character reflecting about his own actions. Well, no worries, he does get used to it sooner than this might sound. You will find Alan aiming for the Taken with the flashlight to beat the darkness and then killing what’s left of the opponent using the various weapons. It took me a couple of moments to get used to that kind of aiming, though. No crosshair, just the beam of your flashlight. While this is a bit strange at first, it turns out to be pretty cool to look at and even better to handle and control. The controls are pretty standard in a good way. The gamepad is not overloaded with features and you will barely find yourself pushing the wrong button by accident.

The flash light and weapons effects are really gorgeous to look at as the lighting engine works perfectly well. But even more importantly it amplifies the dramatic aspect of the game. I can’t recall how many times I felt myself pushed by waves and waves of stress and even fear by trying to escape from a horde of Taken because I ran out of bullets. At moments like this the game is able to frighten me while playing it. This didn’t happen to me in a long time, I do remember that F.E.A.R. caused the same effect. So you might want to keep that in mind if you are looking for a game offering scary moments like this.

The overall graphic is very good, but has a few issues when it comes to texture quality. You will find some texture to turn out pretty blurry here and there. You will find two or three scenes in the game where the engine stutters for a moment but that does not have any influence on the overall experience.

The Bad
As I have mentioned before, in terms of graphic quality Alan Wake is very good, let’s say 9 out of 10. What makes me wonder is the texture quality at times. The 360 might have its limitations in that particular topic but that can’t be the excuse when you look at other top-notch titles and how they manage to implement high-res/crisp-clear textures.

As great as the story and the game’s narration may be, it seems to be obvious at a certain point that the level design will have to follow a narrow track. You will find every single level and episode to be designed extremely linear. A few levels can even be described as tubular, leaving little room for exploration and definitely no room for alternative paths. There are many collectibles in forms of the already mentioned manuscript pages or the thermos jugs. Both are combined with achievements and to get all of them can really be painful. This, however, won’t bother you if you are not that into achievements (as I am).

The Bottom Line
Alan Wake is perfectly directed and features a very decent horror story that is simply fun to watch and play. Although it has a very strong game-play with very nice settings and environments, I couldn’t wait to see the next in-game cut scene to know and uncover more of this twisted and highly thrilling plot. While the graphics in general are good but not extraordinary, the most important part – the lighting – is exceptionally well done. I think in this particular part Remedy indeed sets the bar a bit higher. The lighting is not only beautiful to look at – it is actually emphasizing the whole experience. You will love to play through this masterpiece! However, make sure to keep a light on…

Xbox 360 · by Hammerlore (703) · 2010

A Masterpiece

The Good
The Story and the Gameplay

The Bad
The epilogue is divide in 2 dlcs

The Bottom Line
One of the best videogames of the generation XBOX 360-PS3

Xbox 360 · by Filippo · 2023

Discussion

Subject By Date
Pre-order or early purchase bonus content? MAT (240794) Jun 3, 2019
Live-action cutscenes? Rola (8485) Sep 13, 2014
First impressions... MasterMegid (723) May 19, 2010

Trivia

PC version

In February 2010 Microsoft announced that the game would become an Xbox 360 exclusive. Initially it had been announced as a PC title as well. Oskari Häkkinen, head of franchise at development studio Remedy Entertainment, clarified that the company of about 50 people could only devote its resources to work on a single platform. He left the option of a later PC version open, stating that it would require a "sit down" with Microsoft to see where the title went. Remedy has a long history in PC development and Alan Wake would be its first game not to appear on the platform. In December 2011 it was revealed there would be a PC release after all. It was eventually released in February 2012.

References: Max Payne

  • Note that some of Alan Wake's novels have names similar to chapters from Max Payne and Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. These titles include The Things I Want and Late Goodbye among others.
  • During one of the game's flashbacks you see that New York city is having a very harsh blizzard. The radio plays a warning very much like the one heard in Max Payne.
  • James McCaffrey (voice of Max Payne) makes a vocal cameo at the beginning of Act 2. Alan can pick up two pages of a manuscript in his office for a story written in the style of Max's monologues ("I'd lain here in the snow while the lurid chain of scenes that had led me here kept playing in my head, a rerun of my own private snuff movie, a memory of my corpse...") Instead of Matthew Porretta (voice of Alan Wake) reading these manuscripts, as is usually the case, it's the gravelly voice of Det. Max Payne.
  • This and other Max Payne references serves to suggest that Alan Wake wrote a story similar or identical to Payne's under the title character "Casey Lynch."

References

  • When Wake is being pursued by Agent Nightingale, he calls Wake various famous writers, including: Dan Brown, Bret Easton Ellis, Raymond Chandler, and H. P. Lovecraft.
  • In the game, there is a TV show called Night Springs. Not only is this a clear parody of The Twilight Zone, but it is also the opposite of the name of the town in which the game takes place: Bright Falls.
  • Alan Wake regularly encounters a woman by the name of Cynthia Weaver, for example in the diner at the start of the game. She appears as a weird woman cradling a lamp. Her manners are identical to the "Log-lady" in Twin Peaks, who cradles a log in the exact same manner.
  • The game references Stephen King and his novels such as The Shining.

  • Wake's editor cautions him to not upset the natives or "it'll be Deliverance all over". This is a reference to the 1972 film Deliverance in which vacationers are raped and attacked by locals.

Awards

  • 4Players
    • 2010 – #3 Best Graphics of the Year
    • 2010 – #3 Best Sound Effects of the Year* IGN
    • 2010 - Best Xbox 360 Horror Game (Editors' Choice)

Information also contributed by Big John WV, BurningStickMan, kent c. koopa and MasterMegid

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Hammerlore.

Xbox One added by MAT.

Additional contributors: Sciere, vedder, Patrick Bregger, Kennyannydenny.

Game added May 18, 2010. Last modified March 21, 2024.