Tumbling down the rabbit hole…
We’re not sure what the statute of limitations is on Xbox 360 exclusives making their way onto PC, but waiting almost two years to sample the largely ignored Alan Wake has frankly been a nightmare. Remedy made their name on our platform with Max Payne, so why on Earth would they cast aside the audience that made them what they are today? The answer to that question isn’t important, as the Finnish developer has finally seen reason and their latest creation can now be enjoyed with a mouse and keyboard, improved visuals and all the benefits Steamworks provides. Thank the maker, as anyone who is a fan of interactive storytelling needs to play Alan Wake, it really is as simple as that.
The plot starts off ominously enough with Alan Wake, a once successful novelist struggling from writer’s block, venturing into the small town of Bright Falls with his wife to try and reinvigorate his career. Only soon she mysteriously goes missing and the author is thrust into a landscape ridden with humans driven crazy by dark forces and mysterious figures toying with his perceptions of reality.
In terms of combat, this release certainly shares familiar traits with Remedy’s previous third-person shooter Max Payne, with guns once again taking precedent. only the time-slowing dynamic has been replaced with a torch and the need to burn the darkness away with light before being able to stop enemies in their tracks. Shooting different classes of hicks and avoiding their flying projectiles before ducking into light to recharge your health is fun enough, but a lot of the time it comes across as giving the player something else to do other than walk around linear environments and trigger admittedly impressive cutscenes.
Rather than gameplay serving the story, as is usually the case, Remedy has flipped that paradigm on its head and the result is a six-chaptered campaign which zips along at a fantastic pace. Like with any good thriller, the appeal is not only finding out what happens next to Alan, but also explaining the freaky events which constantly occur around him and the motivations of the supporting cast. For instance why is the cop from the FBI so hell bent on capturing Alan? And who is the lady wearing the black veil?
As with their previous games Remedy shows their knack for producing fantastic environments, which are genuinely enjoyable to explore, thanks to the addition of lore giving transcript pages and the delightfully bizarre TV show ‘Night Springs’ – a respectful rip-off of ‘The Twilight Zone’. There’s also radio shows and interactive signs which help to sell the validity of the small-town setting. All of these components would be enough to warrant exploration of Bright Falls, but curiously there’s also coffee thermoses and other cheeky tie-ins. These inclusions aren’t terrible, but when you couple them with rare video callouts to the mobile phone provider Verizon and the need to constantly use Energizer batteries to fuel your flashlight (a key component of combat), the advertising fuelled collect ‘em all mechanic begins to grate. This minor yet notable complaint doesn’t take away from the brilliance of the core story which regularly toys with the player’s perception of what’s really going on, not only in terms of cutscenes but with gameplay as well.
Incidentally Alan Wake PC also includes both sets of post-release DLC, ‘The Signal’ and ‘The Return’, for free and while neither of these episodes matches the intrigue of the campaign, mainly because they focus on combat, they’re still relatively meaty.
Remedy is known for crafting great yarns and Alan Wake is certainly that. With memorable characters, like the ‘My Cousin Vinny’-inspired agent Barry, and a constantly shifting plot which has its fair share of cliffhangers, this is a game the majority of PC owners will relish. It’s insane that we could’ve missed out on this experience simply because of Microsoft’s platform politics, nevertheless we’re immensely glad Alan Wake has finally arrived.
Tags: Alan Wake
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