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The mystery of Alan Wake revealed

Alan Wake has been in development for over six years. To give you an idea of how long ago this is, in 2004 GTA: San Andreas had only just come out. The 360 and PS3 were still apples in their respective R&D departments' eyes. The PSP was only in its infancy. MySpace was  bigger than Facebook. Twitter didn't exist. Lady Gaga was a nobody.


Se 1 Ep 1: Why has it taken so bloody long?


So when you ask Remedy what they've been doing all this time, they've got a lot of stock excuses stored up to justify the thousands of man and woman hours expended on the project; they are a small team (less than 50 people for most of the project), they built all the game technology themselves from scratch and, most pertinently: they've needed the time to 'polish' the game to near perfection (polish that only the Remedy themselves will ever truly appreciate, surely).


Above: In case you hadn't clicked yet, Alan spends a lot of time with a torch 

All valid points, but we have suspicions that there are other underlying factors at play which have been tactically scrubbed from the development diary as part of the publicity merry-go-round. Like the fact that Alan Wake morphed from a 'open-world' game to a linear story-based enterprise, suggesting a significant change in gameplay during the creative process. It's also conceivable that other Remedy commitments may have interfered (ie. Max Payne). And at some point Microsoft decided it wanted Remedy to make this an episodic game with DLC - surely this would have added some more months to the schedule.

Fact is, when a game takes this long to break cover, it becomes a talking point - and also raises the level of expectation and anticipation when the thing finally comes out.

BTW: We would have accepted a straight, "Because that's how long it takes to make a game like this with a small team, you nosey bastard" as an honest answer...


Se 1 Ep 2: Why is he called Alan?


This is one part of the mystery we will NEVER KNOW.


Above: He is called Alan


Se 1 Ep 3: What's with the torch?


While Master Chief has a Plasma Rifle, Sergeant Ramirez an RPD and Chris Redfield a Broken Butterfly, Alan Wake, a troubled writer on vacation, sports a battery-powered torch as his instrument of death. The simple explanation for this is that his enemies in the game, the 'taken' - possessed humans, animals and other heavy objects, like combine harvesters - are strongly inconvenienced by light. A bit like vampires.


Above: Come on Alan, get that torch shone 

Playing the opening chapter doesn't reveal why, but in this training level posing as a nightmare sequence, you will marvel at the devastating effect of shining a flashlight into one of the 'taken's' eyes - they disintegrate, lose their dark powers and allow you to finish them off with a regular hand-gun. Yes, you're still allowed a firearm to 'make sure'. Remedy has come up with a handy catchphrase in case you're still unclear what the torch is for: "fight, with light". Simple.


Se 1 Ep 4: What sort of game is this?


Our first mental comparison was to a more cerebral, subtle, Resident Evil. Whether you think the plot is a bit hokey or not, you have to admire Remedy for having ambition with their storytelling. The lead character is a regular author, not a super-hero and his motivation is at first truly human - his wife goes missing on the first day of their vacation in an isolated lakeside town called Bright Falls. The story then concerns his efforts to find out where she’s gone and whether he’s losing his mind or he really is living out the story of a book a can't remember writing.

But, it is mostly about walking around at night torching and shooting zombie-like characters in forests. You can’t hide from that.

Alan’s life is split between two themed game styles. There’s the daytime, which he spends gathering information, talking to the Bright Falls residents and moping about in diners, and the night time when he heads off into the woods, switches on his torch and points it at stuff.


Above: Alan is assisted by friends druring some combat sequences 

From the players point of view this gives balance; the small-town location is as eerie as can be managed in a videogame and helps to build atmosphere and develop the plot, while the action and combat focused night segments are when you get a chance to cut loose with all manner of light sources and guns. While your torch is your primary weapon, more powerful flashbangs, floodlights and flare guns become available later, as the ‘taken’ become ever more threatening and plentiful.


Above: Go on, have some flare. You don't like that do you? 

Resource management quickly becomes important - your torch needs batteries and your gun ammunition - use them with reckless abandon and you’ll soon find yourself up shit creek. Upgrades are provided as you progress in the guise of longer-life lithium batteries and more powerful shotguns. These are scattered throughout the buildings you encounter.

More over the page including video footage...

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5 comments

  • oryandymackie - March 14, 2010 12:40 p.m.

    This looks like a quality game, however, no matter how hard I try, I can't take the 'deep, emotional' plot seriously. It's not just you, Alan, it's any game which tries to take itself seriously (which is why I dislike Heavy Rain and love Saints Row 2). Anyway, I'll play this if it's a horror. It better be a horror.
  • k1w1bug - March 13, 2010 11:43 a.m.

    Hope this does live up to expectations, 6 years is long time to build hype for a game, so I'm trying not to get to excited just in case it bombs. Hope Remedy can prove they used the time to good advantge!
  • philipshaw - March 13, 2010 10:42 a.m.

    Looks above average for a game they have been working on for 4 years
  • WrathLord03 - March 12, 2010 11:15 p.m.

    I like the 'Stephen King'-esque story they're taking here. He often wrote books about authors in small country towns, and his subtle way of writing was brilliantly effective. Hope this title turns out to be terryfying and for that guy above me who said the enemies weren't memorable, running from a combine harvester sounds awesome! Even the Transformers don't have a combine harvester!
  • crumbdunky - March 12, 2010 3:04 p.m.

    IDK if I can reward Remedy with a purchase after what they did to the PC gamers(seriously, taking five years to lead someone on before shafting them with the weakest excuse ever-that console gaming is in some way more "intimate" than sitting alone, headphones on, sound up, lights off, in the wee small hours on your rig could ever possibly be-for doing so!)but seeing as AW was THE game I first bought my launch 360 in order to play i'm still interested in the game. I tjhink it's looks goo, not as great as it once looked like it might be, but still damn good and I'll feel like i'm missing out if my morals dictate a no play situation. the one thing hardly anyone has picked up on but ALWAYS stuck out like a sore thumb to me is the character animations for Alan himself. He looks like he's walking with a stick up his bum and that torch wielding arm is also WAY too stiff and robotic. Maybe it's just me and maybe it'll be fine at release in any case-I just think it's odd no one else seems bothered by it when I'm the lest observant gamer on the earth! Sad to hear the "taken" aren't more memorable foes and the light as weapon thing isn't as interesting as they could have made it after seeing similar a fair few times before but I suppose the length of development has left us all a little picky about the details in the game(my mate is convinced they kept a lot dark to save on processing power for instance!)and now we'll just have to see the reviews and finished product to judge. shame all those stories(like the one about the sandbox version having every house in the game available to explore and all individually interior designed and so on)about what the game would contain have dwindled with the dawning that the game's a lot more linear than first pitched but I still think what's left s a very intriguing and ood looking title. I jusyt hope I can find a way of justifying playing the damn thing. i've already missed out so many times because of this kind of thing this generation(wouldn;'t get a PS3 while Sony were being tools, haven't bought MW2 because of the various bad behaviours of Acti/IW, haven't bought Forza3 because of Greenawalt and T10's mad antics and, recently, felt Zipper were too arrogant for me to actually buy MAG even though I loved the betas and my rental time with the game! I'm becoming a right grumpy old gamers rights activist! I realise I'm not changing the world either and it does seem fruitless at times but, in these cases, I just felt buying the game would feel like condoning actions that, in everyday life, I would never put up with or think OK in any way. Don't like the way it divides our community either(see the fanboy comments over the T10 stuff for example-which as a fan of previous Forzas actually pi55ed me right off)and even though people tell me i'm being too sensitive I think some things are more important than me playing every game I would desire. Oh well, maybe if they'd had a better reason for it than "intimacy" I could just about squeeze this one in! Seriously, though, console gaming on the living room couch with all the distractions is more intimate than PC gaming alone at your desk/rig? I CANNOT be the only one thinking that was a load of bollox, can I? Surely it's more to do with how much they can sell the DLC for on Live, no? whatever, still one of the most interesting and high quality games coming o any platform this year and a possible gem in the 360 crown.

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