The lights are on
Alan Wake, an XBOX exclusive, places the gamer in fictional Bright Falls with protagonist and author, Alan Wake, who awakens with a massive case of writer's block and a slight case of amnesia. Alan Wake is a horror game that follows in the footsteps of Resident Evil and Silent Hill, using atmosphere as one of the many elements to set the stage for what is to come. In Alan Wake, Wake finds himself in a perpetual state of confusion, trying to piece together the missing pieces of a week and a lost wife whose whereabouts are unknown.The game follows a non-linear timeline as it tells the beautifully woven story of Wake's descent into the darkness to discover the truth. Wake spends time in 'reality' as well as the past, finding clues to set the stage of what is really occurring in Bright Falls. Wake and his wife begin their adventure going on vacation, but the vacation is quickly cut short when Wake watches as his wife falls into the lake and then disappears. He wakes up a week later and finds a strange darkness has befallen Bright Falls. Wake battles his way through each episode of the game, finding the darkness having possessed the people of Bright Falls, as well as many of the objects. He is armed with a flashlight to burn the darkness away and finds a plethora of weapons, such as guns and the like, all over the place. There are also emergency boxes and cases of flares and flare guns in places that are often defended by the darkness. As Wake delves further into the convoluted events that have surrounded the city if Bright Falls, he is assisted by pages from his unfinished novel 'Departure' as well as signs all over Bright Falls describing the rich history of the area. In small portions of the game, Wake is also accompanied by his agent Barry as well the sheriff.The graphics and sound for the game are perfect. The near-constant darkness that surrounds every environment is wonderfully rendered, and the light from Wake's flashlight contrasts perfectly with the dark backgrounds. At very intervals, the music of the game is low and quiet, foreboding for enemy attacks or nostalgic, as at the end of episodes. The blending of this with the graphics is done in a way that makes the atmosphere of the game haunting. The voice acting is also well done, each of the characters having very unique ways of communicating. In some ways, it reminded me of the voice acting from inFamous.The game play took some getting used to. At first, I had a difficult time with the aiming mechanism, not truly understanding the nuance of pressure on the LT button for the amount of light being produced from the flashlight. After some practice, it became much easier, almost intuitive, but not quite. The number of villains that descend, at times, is far greater than the mere flashlight can repel, so a combination of flares, or the like, and the flashlight are required. As with Silent Hill, it is a game of conservation of ammo and supplies as much as it is about survival. The story is magnificent. I had my doubts when the game first started, but as I collected more manuscript pages and followed more of the story, I began to understand how complicated and thoughtful the ideas behind the story had been. The story within the story within the story was immense, and yet the game managed it with ease. At no point did the story make more of itself, as some games do, confusing the gamer. The elements were explained away well by the end credits.While I can honestly I enjoyed playing this game, I never once felt terrified. When I played both Silent Hill 2 and Resident Evil 4, I couldn't play either at dark, knowing I'd be terrified, not the case in this one. The story is great, but it is more of a psychological thriller than a horror game. Though Wake himself likens his novel, and the game, to a horror story, it really wasn't. Things jump out at you, but it doesn't stick with you. This is a good game, well made, well designed, but the story ends in a whimper with a simple boss battle and leaves the gamer unsatisfied. I enjoyed playing this game and will probably continue the game with the add-ons and such, but I had expected more given the hype. Overall, it was a game I'm glad I played and if you have an XBOX, is one of those games you shouldn't miss.
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