We need more games like Alan Wake – a horror experience that scares you, but not in the ways we often see. While it contains many trappings that horror genres are known for, like well-placed jump scares or ax-wielding criminals lurking behind the scenes and unsightly supernatural threat, what really terrorizes is the words and thoughts of protagonist Alan Wake.
Alan is an author lost in his stories. The player must decide what’s truthful and fiction. You will find many words that foreshadow horrible fates and show Alan’s descent into the abyss. This 11-year-old game feels timeless thanks to its compelling narrative, even though it has some rust.
Alan’s story is intense right from the beginning. His nightmare leads him to a lighthouse, and it becomes his life. It draws heavily on the work of Stephen King as well as David Lynch. Twin Peaks and is open to interpretation. My understanding of what happens is likely radically different from yours – making it a hell of a game to discuss.
The entire story unfolds in the small Washington port town of Bright Falls – a place Alan and his beloved wife Alice travel to try to help Alan find his writing pulse again. Alan is the focus of attention in this small city. There are many stands of Alan holding his new book, scattered all over the city. This visual clue is a sign that things may not be as they seem. The narrative is kept in an engrossing and tense state throughout the entire journey by this feeling that you can’t trust your eyes, or Alan’s actions. A scene in which Alan jumps into a lake shows the dramatic changes that the narrative makes. He wakes up in his car with blood running down his forehead. Is this a dream? Is this a dream or a nightmare? Through most of this dark story, thoughts like these are a constant reminder.
Remedy Entertainment’s production was great in its day. It still looks amazing today. But, the remastering efforts don’t completely hide the Xbox 360’s roots. Subtle touches to the character and world models have been done in order to give it a more realistic feel. It makes dark woods look more frightening thanks to the crisp 4K resolution. This also shines light on certain aged characteristics, such as facial animations not always matching a character’s emotions or Alan’s movements that are too exaggerated and mechanical. It looks old-fashioned, but it’s not bad. The game has an unsettling (but believable) feel that is in keeping with the dark story.
Although Alan is a bit squirrelly and jumpy, it’s easy to manage him. The intensity of using a flashlight’s beam on an animal to get rid of darkness is surprising considering the speed at which the battery runs out. It was a challenge to keep the beam at the target’s location long enough for it to stun and render them susceptible to being shot. An evasive move that is well-designed adds strategy and helps Alan separate from his enemies.
Sometimes, it is frustrating to not have visibility in times of conflict. I didn’t know there was a third or more enemy until they attacked me. Alan is healthy enough to take back control of the situation. But he doesn’t just fight humans and living beings. He is being beaten down by angry farm machinery and barrows. These are comical, unintentionally funny and add to the fun of the game. The tractor is dangerous!
While I enjoyed reading the plot points of manuscripts and watching Night Springs live action episodes, I do not understand why you need 100 coffee thermoses. It is only to reinforce the idea of “awake”! In a game where story is the most important thing, it’s an odd collectible. Note to those who play the game: To fully appreciate everything, you must read each manuscript.
After the credits roll on this excellent story – give yourself a few days before jumping into the DLC. Talk to your friends about Alan’s fate. The Signal is the short DLC chapter where Remedy turns the story on its head. The Writer is the last act of this game and provides closure to some story lines.
Remedy offers a reason to go back and play it again with two tracks of dev-team commentary. These commentary tracks can be turned on and off at your convenience. Sam Lake, the director and writer of the game, has added a new track that features reflections from his audience.
Control is Remedy’s latest video game. It sets the stage for an Alan Wake 2 sequel. After reliving the classic game, it would be shame not to get it. Remedy’s storytelling skills are evident in this game.