Alan Wake Review
Alan Wake box art
System: X360 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Remedy Entertainment 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 18, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Remedy Entertainment did go ahead and include three different levels of difficulty to challenge such gamers, and there are a lot of hidden goodies (coffee thermoses, tin can pyramids, radios, weapons stashes, TV monitors, etc.) to find, challenging Achievements to unlock, even new manuscript Easter eggs to uncover. However, these nods to the core gamer may not be enough.

Alan Wake screenshot

For starters, only the first two levels of difficulty are unlocked at the outset, so the truly skilled will have to settle for a less demanding experience. What's more, I didn't find the increased difficulty levels to significantly augment the enjoyment I got out of the game. In fact, I would say that things just got a bit more frustrating at certain points rather than more challenging. Moreover, other than the glut of collectibles strewn about the game and the advanced Achievements, the story really only lends itself to one play-through; the extra pages of story likely won't interest an action gamer anyway.

Technically, the game is nearly perfect. The controls are very precise, the environments are astoundingly detailed and lushly rendered, the use of lighting effects is second to none, the musical score perfectly elicits a thrilling ambiance, the sound effects are round and satisfying, and the voice work is quite proficient at conveying the tension and portraying the characters. ?this is a beautiful, extremely well put together title.

The only glaring issue I found, technically speaking, is the often god-awful facial animations. All it takes is a few minutes with the game to realize just how bad it can be. Actually, the lip-syncing and expressions tend to improve as the game goes on, but in a game this gorgeous and realistic, it is a real problem for maintaining complete immersion. As a result, Alan Wake isn't quite as believable as he should be, and his best friend (and agent) Barry is one of the most fake, plastic-looking gaming characters of this generation. This is really too bad because he is actually quite likeable, with a lot of well-written comedic dialogue.

Alan Wake is an exceptional thriller that was a pleasure to play. That said, if you're a gamer that exclusively values action, you may find the combat to be too repetitive for your liking. However, if you're a gamer looking for a thoroughly engaging narrative that's well supported by some heated gunplay and the occasional light puzzle, Alan Wake is exactly what the doctor ordered.

By Jonathan Marx
CCC Editor / News Director

The use of lighting is phenomenal. The setting of Bright Falls is masterfully realized. Other than the conspicuously unrealistic facial animations, this is one gorgeous game.
Other than often stubborn interactive objects, this game is a breeze to control. The developers did a great job of communicating tension through the controls without making things frustrating.
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is perfectly terrifying, and the voice work is almost always spot-on.
Play Value
This is a great story to playthrough, but probably only once - maybe twice. There are a lot of satisfying collectibles and Achievements, but multiple difficulties don't add very much. This aspect is what keeps the game's overall score down.
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

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.

  • Screenshots / Images
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