Alan Wake [Xbox 360, 2010]

Alan Wake
System: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date:May 18, 2010

Alan Wake labels itself as a “psychological thriller” and it is quite unlike any other game I have played before. The game plays out like a TV show, split up into six episodes. Each episode even has a “previously on Alan Wake” recap at its beginning. You play as Alan Wake, a disgruntled writer who goes on vacation in the Pacific Northwest in order to relieve his writer’s block. When his wife comes up missing, Alan finds similarities to a book that he has been writing, and becomes entangled in a web of madness.

Upon first glance, there is a lot to like about the game. The atmosphere is fantastic, and I really enjoyed how Wake would narrate what was happening on screen. This dialogue made it seem like I was playing out a mystery novel. The story is pretty interesting for the most part, and it is easy to get sucked into the experience. However, the gameplay itself suffers from numerous flaws. For one, the camera is downright terrible! Alan Wake is played from a third person point-of-view, and the camera behind Alan swings rapidly. I couldn’t play the game for long periods of time simply because it started to make me a little sick — this never happens to me while playing video games! Two, Alan is slow as hell and runs out of breath way too quickly when running. This is especially problematic because there are frequent long stretches of the game that require traveling through the woods with nothing going on. Alan gets out of breath after a mere five seconds of running — it’s actually quite ridiculous. Another issue is that there is little interaction with the game’s environment. Alan follows a strictly linear path, rarely communicates with other characters (outside of the storyline) and cannot move things on his own. The gameplay is rather repetitive as well, with little variety in terms of enemies.

Alan Wake certainly has an interesting concept, but it ultimately does not live up to its potential. I continued to play through simply to see what happened next in the story, and because I am a completionist. I am certainly glad this game was made, but hopefully Microsoft corrects the many issues for any possible sequel that is made.