May 20, 2010
It's been a long time since anyone could say it, but a new Remedy game is finally out on store shelves. You may have already seen our review, but whether it's a videogame, an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, or a random post about someone's mom weighing them underwater, people are bound to express different viewpoints. Can Remedy's mix of action, suspense, X-Files, leather elbow patches, and irritating product placement be enough to win over the entire IGN office?
Despite my being afraid of the dark (thanks for letting me watch "Poltergeist" when I was eight, mom and dad), I love horror games. They let me fight that fear without ever really confronting it. Sure, I can tell myself I'd be going all Rambo on the Taken with a flare gun, but I know it's far more likely I would have just sat down in the forest, peed myself, and waited to die. I'm a realist. Alan Wake also knows that real horror comes not from blood and guts, but the fear of what is just out of sight. Fear exists at the edges. And as somebody that lives in the Pacific Northwest, I can tell you that our forests have plenty of places for things that go bump in the night to hide… and wait. Alan Wake captures that dread perfectly.
I am not sure exactly how Alan Wake will end right now. I am three episodes in. Sometimes I think Wake is insane and will wake up in a padded room because the FBI found Mrs. Wake stuffed in a steamer trunk in the attic. Other times I take what's happening on-screen literally and believe that Wake really is trapped in a nightmare come to life. That's how good the narrative is – and how expertly it's being told. I appreciate that Alan Wake doesn't put a lot between me and the story, too. The manuscript collecting works in service to the narrative. (The coffee thermos collection could be lost, though.) And I like that there aren't 49 weapons and items to manage. I have a few guns, some flares, and batteries. That's it. Without having to constantly wonder if I have the best weapon or all of Collectible Type 7, I can easily enjoy the narrative.
I can see the light... IT BURNS!
There is great debate over the proper length of a game. I understand that Alan Wake can be finished in between eight to ten hours. That, to me, is completely appropriate for Alan Wake. I enjoy almost everything about Alan Wake right now – the freaky shadows melting out of the forest, watching the cheesy TV episodes, hunting loose manuscript pages to find out what's coming ("And then he heard the chainsaw" was an awesome moment.) – but I know it will wear out its welcome. Length does not always equal depth, you know. (TWSS!) I suspect that if Remedy went for 15-20 hours, I'd be sick of hunting the Taken and the narrative would have been pulled so thin it would have only one side. I feel the same way about God of War and Assassin's Creed. These games knew when to stop. The best games do.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go order some Energizer batteries on my Verizon mobile phone.
OH NOES! A POSSESSED COMBINE HARVESTER! HOW EVER WILL I BEAT IT?!
Oh yeah! *shine shine shine - poof*Stephen Ng:
Alan Wake is sure pretty and has excellent presentation (much like Heavy Rain). What it lacks are more reliable, more in-depth action and interaction elements, not to mention the obnoxious search for story-related secrets. Do you want to know the full story of Bright Falls and its inhabitants? Then tough it out against infinite enemies (or over-powered enemies) with a limited pool of supplies, and tough cookies if you can't get it.
Luckily, the game's designers seem to recognize this, and let you save your collected extras even after you die and restart from a checkpoint. For me, there's something about Alan Wake that makes it seem far too elementary for a shooter, and too simple for a 3D platform/puzzler -- "puzzles" are easier than the ones in Resident Evil (this is not a compliment) and it's far easier to dodge and flee encounters to the next safe-zone, saving your ammunition and supplies for the encounters you are forced to commit to.
The two-tier defense system for enemies was ripped straight from ObsCure (Mortfilia for you PAL readers), and that game was semi-playable (it did not have a split-screen co-op mode but crammed both players on one screen) because while one player "lit up" an enemy, the other would be able to "rest" his/her torch and add to the carnage. As for shooting, Wake is fairly simple: you can indeed fire from the hip without aiming (R-TRIGGER) for the longest time before you are informed you may half-hold the L-TRIGGER to aim a weapon without focusing your torch (in our defense, our version did not have a printed manual, which may alert you to this; it is certainly not mentioned at all in the game's tutorials except as a loading screen hint).
You'll notice the driving sequences don't get a mention in the review... that's because they're not very exciting.
Had Alan Wake polished up some of its logistics issues (you either are scarce on supplies or flooded with them, as there are infinte ammo boxes for some fights, and not others), and maybe kept its story extras as easily found files (and not out of the way bonuses you have to make long, long hikes for), it'd give KCET/Konami a true run for its money as a Silent Hill killer; for most, it'll be a solid rental, and an interesting weekend experience.
Watch the latest trailer.Anthony Gallegos:
Alan Wake is a great game, but the hardcore survival horror nerd in me wishes there was just a little bit more resource scarcity. I know not everyone will agree with me, but the tension is considerably lessened when you have an abundance of weaponry to take on your enemies. With very few exceptions, I found that I could always fight anything I came across, making Alan feel more like a badass warrior of the light then a guy who is just a writer dealing with extraordinary circumstances. I guess there's something to be said about games that make you run as much as they make you fight.
But even when the game was rather easy (I was playing on Normal), I still enjoyed the hell out of it. The storytelling is great, the dialogue and voice acting generally good, and the visual effects that are done with the lighting are some of the best ever on a console. The episodic way that the story is told is also really cool, but I agree with some of my friends that the episodes could have been better broken up, as they currently feel just a little too long. After so many years of development it's great to see developer Remedy deliver the product they did, and I for one can't wait to see what sort of DLC they make in the future.