|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Remedy Entertainment|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Adam Dodd
Alan Wake might not have seen the sales it deserved, but that's not stopping developer Remedy from bring us another installment in the "psychological thriller" series. The original game followed horror author Alan Wake, inspired by Stephen King—the game even made several references to the renowned author—who finds himself in a strange and deadly world where his wife has gone missing and a darkness is trying to hunt him down. Alan used light to peel away the shadows, leaving his enemies vulnerable so he could finish them off. All this returns in the downloadable follow-up, Alan Wake's American Nightmare. Be warned, there are spoilers ahead.
American Nightmare takes place two years after the events in the first game. Alan's been missing since he sealed himself in the Dark Place under Cauldron Lake, and, in his absence, the townsfolk have crafted an urban legend based on a doppelganger of the author called Mr. Scratch. The legend feels like it was inspired by those grade-school Bloody Mary stories—if you utter Mr. Scratch's name three times, he'll come into this world and kill you Candyman-style.
Because crazy tales tend to come true in Alan's world, someone eventually tests out the urban legend and accidentally summons Mr. Scratch, who then goes on a murderous spree as he tries to find Wake's wife. It's up to Alan to follow the clues Mr. Scratch leaves him so he can hunt down the psycho before it's too late. The story—more specifically, the way it's told—has been heavily influenced by the themes and narratives in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's work, including From Dusk 'Til Dawn and Pulp Fiction.
Some of the major criticisms about the first game were the enclosed environments and the lack of variety in the weapons and enemies. This game promises to take on many of the issues fans had with Alan Wake and improve them here. This means American Nightmare will be more of an open world-type game, filled with collectibles like manuscript pages, radios, and TVs, all connected by a hub world you return to several times throughout the story. Content-wise, the campaign will be much longer than the average episode in Alan Wake, which normally took 1-2 hours to complete, and the episodic format will also be returning.
In the original game, Alan had to choose from a pretty limited arsenal of weapons that covered the basics, like a handgun, shotgun, and a rifle. More powerful versions of these weapons, like the pump action shotgun, eventually become available to help you with the stronger enemies. This time around, Wake will have all that and more, as he'll be able to equip a nail gun, military rifle, crossbow, and Uzis that he can use to vanquish any shadow-enshrouded townsfolk that come his way.
You'll need all of these new weapons to take out the multiple new enemy types that are being introduced in American Nightmare, including the Birdmen, enemies that are made up of ravens and who can jump great lengths and cause a lot of damage with their vicious talons. Another new enemy is the Splitter, which splits into two Taken when you flash it with light (hence the name). These guys have no shadowy barriers protecting them so it's safe to take them out without using your light. There's also the Grenadier, a ranged enemy that tosses grenades from a distance, and the massive Biker that usually wields large hammers or pickaxes. They're the tanks of the Taken, so it's best to keep your distance if at all possible.
A brand new mode that's being introduced in American Nightmare is "Fight 'Til Dawn," which pits you against waves of progressively stronger enemies as you fight to survive until daybreak. Think of it as Alan Wake's answer to Left 4 Dead's Survival mode or Halo's Firefight. At launch, the game will come packed with five maps for this mode: Trailer Park, Ghost Town, Cemetery, Caves, and Oil Field, but there's a pretty good chance that number will grow with post-release DLC.
Alan Wake's American Nightmare might not take as long to beat as the game that started it all, but there's no denying the sheer amount of content Remedy is packing onto the arcade release. The story is new, as are some of the characters, weapons, enemies, and the intriguing "Fight 'Til Dawn" mode promises something to keep you occupied long after the story is over. Alan Wake 2 might still be a few years off, but this is more than enough to keep fans occupied until we hear more about Wake's next big adventure—one that I can only hope include a cooperative "Fight 'Til Dawn" mode.
CCC Contributing Writer