Monday, December 10, 2012

Alan Wake Game Review

Alan Wake is a third person shooter advertised as a psychological action thriller that was released to consoles in 2010. The game was developed by Remedy games out of Finland and penned by Sam Lake, the man behind one of my favorite video games of all time Max Payne. The story follows a bestselling thriller novelist as he attempts to unravel the mystery of his wife’s disappearance in the small town of Bright Falls, Washington. The story is episodic much like playing a television series, with each episode standing out as distinctly its own yet still contributing to the bigger story. Throughout the game Wake finds pieces of a novel he has no memory of writing the plot of which intertwines with the story that he himself is following. The town and surrounding woods are inhabited by a dark entity that corrupts humans and animals, turning them into servants of darkness. I honestly enjoyed this game immensely. I find myself being in the rare camp of people that genuinely enjoy cut scenes if done right and the episodic nature of the game meant that there were plenty of stunning cinematics that engaged me further in the story. The art direction was gorgeous as remedy built its own engine from the ground up, an endeavor that took around four years, to create a breathtaking in-game landscape that idealizes the natural beauty of the pacific northwestern state of Washington. The environment feels very natural and organic with mammoth ancient forests that feel heavy to walk through and scenic vistas overlooking mountainsides into fir and evergreen lined gorges. The gameplay was pretty fluid for the most part. The lighting was astonishing and the sound editing added to the discourses of the story seamlessly. The idea of using light to fight darkness comes into play throughout the game as Wake must use flashlights and other various light sources to burn off the darkness from attackers before disposing them with firearms. The game uses this idea of light as a weapon stylishly by implementing different light sources for different effects, hand flares create a sort of bubble of protection and flare guns completely obliterate any enemy in its path of travel. What I also like was that the game uses its medium as an homage to famous and cult works of film and television. Some of these influences include Twin Peaks, Hitchcock, Stephen King novels, and the Twilight Zone. The icing on the cake for me was the in game soundtrack with songs playing in between episodes and occasionally during gameplay through radios placed throughout the town. These songs range from the psychedelic rock of The Black Angels, the bluesy creepy crooning of Nick Cave’s “Up Jumped the Devil”, to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity, and the rockabilly delights of Roy Orbison. I would definitely save this game for a replay in the future and highly recommend it to the gamer that loves story driven games.

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