Alan Wake Preview
Alan Wake box art
System: X360, PC (on hold) Review Rating Legend
Dev: Remedy Games 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Microsoft 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: May 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Pending 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Deadly Writer's Block
by Jonathan Marx

January 5, 2010 - Alan Wake has been in development for nearly five years now. Typically, games with such a long development cycle fail make it to market let alone find success with gamers. However, from what we've seen of the game so far (just a few months before release), this psychological action-thriller from boutique developer Remedy Entertainment (Max Payne) will undoubtedly dash any fears industry pundits might have once had. This game exudes quality - from visuals and storytelling to heart-pounding action and spot-on pacing, a deep level of care and craftsmanship is evident throughout.

Alan Wake screenshot

Alan Wake will take place in the all-American, fictional backwater of Bright Falls, Washington. This quaint logging village is where Alice and Alan Wake have decided to holiday in order to get Alan back on task. Alan is an author, but he's suffering from a serious case of writer's block. Though the town seems like the ideal place to get his creative juices flowing again, Alice soon goes missing, and Alan discovers that the town of Bright Falls has been inundated with a supernatural threat known as the Dark Presence. This Dark Presence not only has taken over the locals, but the environment, as well as inanimate and mundane objects come alive, terrorizing Alan and harrying his search for his wife. Worst of all, these paranormal antagonists seem to be torn directly from the pages of Wake's next bestseller; one he can't remember writing.

These apparitions and poltergeists will thwart your every move unless you can limn them with a light source first, which is the only way you'll then be able damage your foes with conventional weapons. Luckily, Wake will have access to a number of different flashlights, flares, and lighting infrastructure to keep the threat at bay, as well as a host of standard firearms for finishing them off. Consequently, players will relentlessly have to seek out clever ways to light the environment in order to maintain Alan's safety, allowing him to blast the evil away. This will lead to many intense puzzle-solving moments and act as a great narrative tool for the developers to add suspense to the formula.

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Bringing thrills and chills to the game in a smart way is of the utmost importance to Remedy. They've enlisted the talents of Sam Lake to create a story that draws inspiration from such great works and masters as The Shining and Twin Peaks', Stephen King and David Lynch, respectively. The developers are careful to point out that the game is a psychological action-thriller not survival horror, although moments of helplessness will be integral to the experience. The biggest difference between thrillers and works of horror in the devs' purview is that thrillers tend to be more cerebral. Rather than using gratuitous amounts of blood and demonic abominations, Alan Wake will use measured pacing, weighty ambience, and loads of cliffhangers to bring thrill-seekers a more compelling experience. In fact, players will regularly question whether the protagonist is even lucid - perhaps the threat is merely a delusion? Maybe Wake is actually the source of evil?

Alan Wake screenshot

Best of all, Remedy has broken up the game into sections of story-appropriate day and night cycles as well as suspense-filled episodes that will keep you playing long past your bedtime. For the most part, players will be making their way through intense night portions when the evil is at its most powerful. However, the town of Bright Falls and the characters within the village really come to life during the day, giving players a deeper sense of setting and purpose. Day sections serve as a bit of a respite from the frightful force of night segments, but they will also be filled with moments of their own intensity. The developers have hinted that Alan Wake will be tracked by a single-minded FBI agent convinced of Wake's culpability, and that dark corners, even during the day, can house the Dark Presence, keeping players ever on their toes.

The setting, like the eerie, humid, pine-laden, moss-draped landscapes of classic television series such as The X-Files, is the perfect environment for communicating the heady terror conveyed by the plot. From what we've seen so far, the graphics, aural complements, and voice acting are all stellar. Expect Alan Wake to suck you in and never dip in terms of immersion.

Alan Wake screenshot

Alan Wake is being published by Microsoft Game Studios, so PS3 owners will not get to experience this title on their console of choice. Disappointingly, the Windows PC version of the game has been put on an indefinite hold, so it's difficult to say if it will ever hit your desktop. Of course, if the game finds commercial success, which it likely will, expect a port of the game to PC to be given high priority. Alan Wake is finally set for release in May 2010 after five long years of development.

By Jonathan Marx
CCC Editor / News Director


Game Features:

  • Intense psychological thriller: Alan Wake delivers a deeply psychological and finely crafted plot that raises the bar for storytelling in video games. The riveting story of Alan Wake is propelled by a movie-like atmosphere, compelling situations, memorable characters, and real-time pacing. Remedy has a record of creating and developing games with unique cinematic presentation and exceptionally high production values.
  • Light as a combat element: As Wake journeys deeper into the mystery of Bright Falls, the shadows close in around him. When darkness descends, light becomes his only ally as he fights his way to daybreak. This poses a severe problem for Alan Wake since his enemies seemingly gain strength from the shadows, and before long, light itself becomes his greatest ally. Players must skillfully combine their use of light with more conventional weapons to stand a chance.
  • Realistic, interactive environment: Set in the town of Bright Falls, the hyper-detailed environments of the Pacific Northwest play an important role, as even the change in daylight and weather will profoundly affect the characters and enemies in Alan Wake. The game's advanced rendering engine provides amazingly realistic environments that bring this world to detailed life-from the lush forest of evergreen trees to the quaint small-town buildings and streets. The world of Alan Wake is alive and real.
  • Episodic narrative: The mission-based structure of Alan Wake creates an episodic narrative similar to a deeply structured dramatic television series, such as Twin Peaks and X-Files. As the episodes progress, gameplay evolves to introduce new elements and characters, escalating the level of threat and action in the game.


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