Alan Wake (2010/2012)
American horror author, Alan Wake has suffered from a two-year case of writer's block. Needing a break, he and his wife, Alice take a small vacation to the Washington town of Bright Falls. Soon into it, things go awry as Alice disappears right after a car accident. As Alan tries to figure out what is going on, he finds himself under attack from strange people and creatures originating from a manuscript he doesn't remember writing.
The First Stitches
This was a game that I happened upon during a very nice Steam sale. The trailers alone were enough to pique my attention and make me dive right in.
Mending the SeamsPlot: Alan Wake is a third person psychological horror game that plays out in a very linear fashion, much like...wait for it...a book. What keeps this entertaining, though, is the fact that there are a lot of strong points to it. A LOT. Right off the bat, there is a very strong storyline. The opening chapters are stirring and more than enough to get you going. I loved the dialogue within the game. When a character speaks, you listen. It's entrancing as our titular hero tears through the twists and turns of Bright Falls trying to unravel the secrets that belie him.
Characters: Another great part of the game is the characters. My favorite (besides Alan himself) would be his agent, Barry, especially during one of the extra episodes. His dialogue makes for some pretty good comic relief. Otherwise, there is some very engaging dialogue and depth to the cast. And for all of you out there who hate escort missions, there are technically a few in the game and for all intents and purposes, they are NOTHING like Ashley. Resident Evil fans know EXACTLY what I'm talking about (NSFW). And while we're speaking on the characters, controlling Alan is quite smooth and responsive. There is even a pretty cool (and non-intrusive) Bullet Time effect when you dodge enemy attacks at the right time, adding to the tension of combat.
Setting/Atmosphere: One of the things Washington is known for is its beautiful forests. You get more than an eyeful as you find yourself in darkened woods and mountains very frequently. Every corner you turn keeps you paranoid, especially during the night. The enemies you deal with help to keep the atmosphere with creepy, psychotic dialogue, demonic voices and a shadowy, wispy forms. To add to the already epic atmosphere , there are some nods and homages to classic horror and psychological thriller titles such as Stephen King's "The Shining" and Twin Peaks. You can also find televisions to interact with that play a Twilight Zone-like show called Night Springs.
Graphics: The graphics of Alan Wake are top notch. Without changing any settings, the game looked simply fantastic. The details put into the lighting and water effects as well as the general scenery were more than astonishing. As you move through the game, it even becomes blurry as violent winds pick up and you get closer to your next fight with the enemies tainted with the Darkness; the Taken. Graphically, the worst of it is actually summed up quite nicely in this article by David Wong of Cracked.com.
|Welcome to Bright Falls.|
Music/Audio: To say the soundtrack to Alan Wake is brilliant is about as much of an understatement as saying "crack is whack"....or "wack". Whatever. Either way, the soundtrack is fucking awesome and is also downloadable when you purchase the game through Steam. The majority is composed by Petri Alanko, but a very welcome contribution was put forth by Finnish rockers, Poets of the Fall who provide not only music under their own name, but also they perform all music credited to The Old Gods of Asgard.
The Binding Stitch
Alan Wake is a game that any horror fan with a PC or XBox 360 should own. For a game so linear, it was actually fun to play through multiple times. Every scene is packed with so much tension it keeps you gripped to your seat, much in the same fashion as a good book or movie. There aren't many things to say bad about the game, except that it feels a bit short due to the battles going by relatively quickly, but realistically, the focus was on tension and atmosphere. Other than that, this is definitely a personal favorite and I would suggest everyone to give it a try.
And now, my Fray, I ask, are you afraid of the dark?