The mystery of Alan Wake revealed

For the level of sophistication shown in plot and visuals, the torch/shooting mechanic might feel a little skill-less to some. That’s because the game auto-aims for you. It really is just shine torch, hammer trigger and run round in circles until you’ve defeated all the ‘taken’ in a given area.

What is unique in Alan Wake is the inventiveness of the scenarios you find yourself in and the sense of claustrophobia generated by the darkness and bleakness of the rural locations.

Above: Fighting farm machinery with a floodlight

One section takes place in a logging yard and sees you trapped in a portakabin which is upturned by a crane-driving ‘taken’. In another chapter you’re terrorised by a combine harvester. In one surreal scene Alan has to repel wave after wave of ‘taken’ while stood on a stage made up for a local concert while one of his colleagues tries to restore power to the lighting rig in order to frazzle the light-shy enemies en masse.

Above:An example of howa vehicle can be one of the 'taken'.

Overall, combat sections often feel like frantic fights for survival - especially as any in-game object has the potential to rise up and make mischief of itself, leaving you in bizarre battles with trees and rocks and anything else that the evil spirits decide to chuck at you.

It really depends on what you wanted from Alan Wake - to be honest initially we were slightly disappointed that Remedy had opted for a supernatural angle over the menace of a serial killer or a town full of cannibalistic in-breds, for example.

Above: AlanWake regularly surprises you with stunning imagery

We’re willing to be proved wrong though. What we’ve seen so far is a focused, tightly designed thriller of a game. The human‘taken’ are very much generic gun-fodder, but Remedy’s clever use of a foreboding location, intriguing story and use of flashback and dream sequences, do add up to something which feels distinctly intelligent and adult - and yes, there are genuinely ‘scary’, sinister and sometimes emotional moments.

Alan Wake offers a complete game out of the box. That’s the official line. Microsoft don’t want to scare people off by giving the impression this is a half-finished story. However, there is promise of further ‘episodes’ in the Alan Wake world, to the point where it’s been described as the first ‘TV’ style game in it’s approach to story telling. This is noticeable in the way that each chapter is introduced with a ‘as seen last week’ segment and has a title.

We got cancelled. The writer ran out of gags.

Alan Wake is out on 21 May in the UK and 18 May in the US.

March 12, 2010