The lights are on
The fog grows dense. The wind picks up. The night gets darker. Lights flicker. You know a large number of enemies are coming, but the tension and anticipation grows nevertheless. These events in and of themselves make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, and the sound effects that accompany them are pitch-perfect. Even cutscenes during the safe daylight keep the player on edge, and once it turns to night, you better get to the next safe daylight cutscene before you can get to sleep. This is one of the few games where you do not want to be given a bunch of weapons/lights, because it brings on the dread of more enemies arising from nowhere in the middle of the woods, and the outcome is anything but certain. Alan Wake is able to accomplish two key components of a quality survival/horror game: a perfect environment and perfect audio. The small town of Bright Falls (not exactly aptly named) provides an innocent, small town setting for a hellish evil to exist. Sounds play a large part in building suspense, and the near-screeching sound made when the darkness is being extracted from the taken couldn't be more effective. The storyline is well-developed, and an interesting concept of a novel inside a video game is executed fairly well, with a large manuscript acting as a collectible set. The characters are realistic (though Barry seems a bit out there) and likable, and the mind of Alan adds as much to the mystery/suspense aspect as anything else.
The game isn't perfect, however. Alan is too ideally courageous in trying to save his wife. He drinks and acts rude to her, but then flips a switch when she is gone. Also, the ending is incomprehensible, to a degree beyond "letting the gamer interpret it how he/she wants." Despite these flaws, smooth gameplay and especially a great environment make Alan Wake an experience to be had by every gamer.
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