The lights are on
Back in 2010, Remedy released their long-in-development game Alan Wake. It was met with very positive reviews, but still ended up with slightly disappointing sales figures. There are many factors causing the lack of sales, but the biggest one was most likely Rockstar’s critical and commercial hit, Red Dead Redemption, hitting on the same day.
Despite its commercial failings, Alan Wake managed to find an audience. Most of the people who bought the game really liked it, myself included. We all fell in love with the characters, the story, and the dark atmosphere. When we finished the story, we wanted, nay, needed more. We had to see what was going to happen to Alan and his friends.
Two downloadable expansions to the main game later, we have Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, a stand-alone downloadable game. While it’s disappointing that we most likely won’t be getting a big-budget retail sequel anytime soon, American Nightmare still manages to satisfy and water down any cravings the fans will have.
The story is everything you’d want it to be. It’s interesting, it keeps you guessing, and it pulls you right along for the entire game. I couldn’t even begin to explain to non-fans what the story is, and I wouldn’t dare spoil it for fans. Just know that it’s fantastic.
The main focus of the story is Alan’s doppelganger Mr. Scratch, and he absolutely steals the show. There’s not a moment where Mr. Scratch is on screen and you aren’t simultaneously laughing your head off and fearing for your life. He’s a lot like the Joker, only less cunning and plenty more insane. Throughout the game, you see him talking about knives, how he’s going to ruin Alan’s life, and you see him murder about three different people. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
Mr. Scratch and Alan’s dialogue is definitely top notch, but they wouldn’t be anywhere near as good without the astonishing voice work. Matthew Porretta does an amazing job with the two roles he’s given. The returning characters are just as good. The new characters… Not so much.
The voice acting for the side is downright grating, and lacks any real emotion or effort. In fact, it may be some of the worst voice acting I’ve heard in a current-gen game.
Other things lacking in emotion are the facial animations. This problem plagued the original Alan Wake, and has only been worsened by the downgrade to downloadable game standards. Not only that, but Alan has a really weird head twitch whenever he talks to someone. I’m not even sure if that’s a glitch or if it was intentional; hopefully the former.
The biggest plus American Nightmare has over the original game is the gameplay. The controls, gunplay and flashlight mechanics are now polished to a T, and work extremely well. So well in fact, that Remedy added an Arcade style survival mode to the game just to show it off.
The new weapons are also a nice change of pace, taking the original games standard pistols and shotguns and adding a few, crazier items to the mix. Haven’t you always wanted to shoot possessed vehicles and evil spiders with a nail gun?
In the end, I cannot recommend American Nightmare enough to the fans of Alan Wake. While it may not be everything you’ve hoped for since the last DLC, it’ll certainly tide you over until the next announcement. For those who haven’t played the first one however, I guarantee you will have no idea what’s going on if you just jump into American Nightmare. With that said, do yourself a favor and go buy Alan Wake right now. It’s only $20 for a new copy at Gamestop and $30 on Steam, so you have nearly no excuse.