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Wow, they sound a lot like Poets of the Fall
Courtesy of Remedy Games
Cover image of Alan Wake

Alan Wake is an action game that is written like a psychological thriller. The game was originally developed by Remedy games for the Xbox 360. The story sees Wake fighting monsters of his own creation as the words he has written come to life possessed by the “Dark Presence”.

The Good

In order to defeat the “Taken,” as they’re called, Wake must undo the shadow covering them by damaging their Corneas with a flashlight. The flashlight also serves as your aiming reticles for your weapons. In addition the flashlight can reveal hidden graffiti that reveal secrets or even lead Wake to supplies. The levels of the game feel like real areas that you can explore around and find various items such as the Manuscript pages. The pages reveal lots of lore about the game, or even foreshadowing upcoming events. 

The game is divided into episodes almost like you’re watching a tv show with recaps at the start of each episode. Remedy takes this idea a step further in their next game, Quantum Break, which has an actual tv show that changes based on your actions in the game. The entire game takes place in the fictional town of Bright Falls Washington, a magnet for artists.

The important part of this episodic divide is that resources don’t carry over between episodes so feel free to use all of your items in an episode and not worry about hoarding them. The game even encourages the player to not take every battle as checkpoints are a safe place from the Taken. If you play the game enough you’ll begin to get very happy every time you see a distant light allowing reprieve from the dark. Then Remedy reminds the players that the game is a Psychological Thriller and will start to kill the lights as you get close, or force you to desperately try to start generators as enemies begin to appear all around the second you get close to the generator. 

The name of the band, Old Gods of Asgard (who are portrayed by Poets of the Fall) is a joke about all the band members’ names, since they all have names related to Norse mythology.

The game has a great story. And a lot of in game elements that improve the experience of the player, such as the developers having Wake narrate the entire story. In addition to this the developers chose to spoil certain events through Manuscript pages. One great example of this foreshadowing is a manuscript page very early on in Episode 2 that puts the player on the edge for the whole level with one word, chainsaw. You almost beat the entire level before the enemy appears, right when you go to open the fence he busts through it.

The “boss” enemies are absolutely terrifying as they’re very fast, hard to illuminate, and even turn invisible. The boss enemies also still have they’re egos partially intact so they’ll begin to say random phrases from their life. This is especially terrifying in the first episode as you make your way through a forest and one starts to talk about the hotdogs at a local restaurant, letting the player know that he is close and could strike at any time.

The game also has a ton of detail, for instance you meet two old rockers at the start of episode one who then actually play songs for the game. The name of the band, Old Gods of Asgard (who are portrayed by Poets of the Fall) is a joke about all the band members’ names, since they all have names related to Norse mythology. Here’s the Spotify link for the album for the game.

The game also got remastered for the previous and newest generation of consoles. The game feels a lot better on the PS5 than the 360. It’s not just the improved speeds and qualities, but the traits of the console. The adaptive triggers make the game feel great, since each trigger pull has different resistance. Plus when you pull the left trigger it will have a soft lock halfway making it easier to just level the weapon, rather than increase your flashlight intensity. In addition to these the haptic feedback is just a little more immersive. From the simple rumbles of shooting and walking, to the intense heartbeat when you get hurt, it just feels amazing.

One of the most interesting things is that Remedy recognized that fact that the book would lend itself well to being a novel, and actually had a novelisation of the game made. There are some differences between the two, but overall the novel is fairly similar. It’s definitely an enjoyable read for anyone who likes thriller books, or even if you just like the game.

The Bad

Despite everything the game does well, they’re are still plenty of issues. Dodging is fickle for anything that isn’t a perfect dodge, so you’ll still get hit even if it seems like you dodged. The game loves to make enemies appear behind you, from the enemies spawning in initially or when reinforcements trickle in. The first couple of times it’s cool, but after the fifth or sixth time it becomes annoying. A large chunk of the game is in a forest so they should do more of enemies stepping out from bushes and behind trees, rather than just appearing right behind you (or in front of you). 

What’s hard are the possessed objects. Random objects will sometimes animate and launch toward you at high speed. Now one is easy to deal with since you’ll usually have time to cause them to disintegrate. Multiple possessed objects are where issues arise. The physics engine doesn’t necessarily like these high speed collisions, and will launch objects in the direct opposite direction with a lot of force,which can and will harm Wake.

This is a specific jab at episode 3. Why is it so long? This episode could easily be split in two and feel a lot better playing if you like to take a break between episodes like I do. The storytelling is great, they add in a new weapon, and even flips the game on its head by taking away your flashlight. There are so many cool ideas in this episode, but it is way longer than it has any right to be. It’s not even like there isn’t a perfect stopping point. There is when you stop at an abandoned coal mine. They could’ve just cut the episode there. 

Alan Wake is the perfect mix between storytelling and gameplay. The player still feels powerful, but the game sharply reminds that this is a thriller, not an action game. For rating I’m gonna say it’s a solid flash—BANG, ow my ears.

About the Contributor
Matt Allen
Matt Allen, Reporter