Alan Wake Review (Survival Horror/Psychological Horror)
Alan Wake, an iconic horror game that has stood at the top as one of the finest in it’s genre. A psychological and survival horror thriller that’ll send shivers right to your core as you play through the nightmarish dream-like landscape that is Alan Wake. This game starts off with what seems like a typical setup to a horror game. Alan and his wife are getting away from the stress and dullness of their jobs to relax in a town that’s in the middle of nowhere. The stores and streets are old looking, there is a classic looking diner, and the people around you are weird from the get-go. It’s obvious that something is clearly going to happen that’ll send your trip plummeting into the earth. Until you meet someone who is clearly the main villain of the show who gives you the key to your cabin on a lake. After this, all that ensues is complete chaos and you will be enveloped into a story that is honestly like nothing else I’ve ever experienced before. I love this game and I will try to do my best to be as objective as possible in this review. However, don’t be surprised if my opinions of this game slip through into the review.
Alan Wake was made by the developers, Remedy Entertainment, in February of 2012. They’ve made countless games (not just horror) and most of them are very good quality. If you’re interested in their projects, I recommend you check them out here. Upon release of this game it received marvelous criticism and good reviews. And, from what I understand is going to be getting a remaster later this year or in 2022 due to a leak from the Epic Games store.
The story in this game is fantastic writing and an ingenious and creative idea. You are the main protagonist Alan Wake, as I mentioned before, and are on a stress relieving holiday from New York City. You are an influential writer who has written countless best selling novels and are experiencing a major writing block. Which has brought you to a town called Bright Falls. This small and mysterious town is a step back in time from what Alan is used to in New York. The people here all know each other, it’s a very wooded area, old fashioned buildings and technology are everywhere, and there are dark secrets that are kept just beneath the surface layer. Being oblivious to the new environment and the only thing you were told to do, you go to the diner where you’re supposed to meet with the person who will be taking care of you. However, you meet a woman shrouded in black who gives you the keys to an old cabin, not realizing that she isn’t who you’re supposed to be meeting. You and your wife go to the cabin on the lake and all seems peaceful until your wife brings out a typewriter. You feel pressured by this and get angry at her, storming outside. Then you hear a scream, you see your wife had fallen into the lake, you dive in to save her and then darkness. You’re suddenly in a car that’s just crashed and the world around you is different. What a phenomenal introduction to a story. It gets even better from there but I would rather readers experience such a thing for themselves.
The game mechanics are also something to marvel at. The best mechanic that this game has is the players ability to use light to their advantage. Whether it be your flashlight, a flare, a street light or even a flash bang; This game definitely makes impeccable use of it. Now, what exactly am I talking about? This game is survival horror and that means obviously you’re surviving enemies and collecting resources (ammo, weapons, etc.). Instead of just going through the game and mowing enemies down with weapons, you instead need to use light to then resident evil style pistol your enemies to death. Each enemy has a barrier around them that can only be broken by shining light on them. Depending on what light source you’re using and the size of your enemy can affect how fast that barrier will go down for you to kill them. For example, a normal flashlight will slowly break a normal enemies barrier while a normal flashlight will very slowly whittle away at a larger enemies barrier. But, if you have the heavy duty flashlight, that normal enemy will be taken down faster and that larger enemy will become normal to take down. It’s a neat system that requires you do more than just aim and shoot. A few more notable mechanics are the safe havens, bosses, and hidden chests. Safe havens are basically street lights or lamps that you can stand under and your game will be saved automatically as well as the enemies around you disappearing. The bosses are very well done because instead of using your gun to fight, most bosses will require you to use your flashlight to make it disappear (you’ll understand the disappearing part when you play the game). And lastly, the chests. The hidden chests in this game are placed pretty well in my opinion. Instead of finding them by looking in every nook and cranny, it wants you to instead follow yellow paint that can only be seen by using your flashlight. The chests are usually stocked with useful items that will make your life just a bit easier.
However, with all good things there is also a little bad. Some of the things I thought that were annoying or off putting about the game was definitely the controls, voice acting for Alan Wake himself, and driving. Let’s start with the controls. When walking in this game and feels like at times your keyboard is stuck. You’ll move forwards or backwards and you’ll let off of the button but keep walking for a second more. When running you’ll feel like you should be going faster when that’s just the running speed or you’ll be exhausted from running and not even realize it. There’s also the matter of third person, normally in a game you’re playing from the right side third person view. However, in this game it puts you on the left which takes quite a while to get used to, I only realized as I’m sure a lot of people did that you could change this by pressing tab, two thirds of the way through the game. Next, I want to talk about the voice acting. The narrator is obviously Alan Wake who is played by voice actor/actor Matthew Porretta. Matthew sounds like he’s telling a story which in the game is exactly what the narrator, Alan Wake, is doing. However, when Alan Wake is not being a narrator and just a character in the game itself and interacting with the people around him; Alan Wake still sounds like a narrator instead of a character, it threw me off whenever it happened in the game (except for a few scenes that Matthew does extremely well for some reason) but overall it shouldn’t hinder your enjoyment. And finally we come to the driving. I don’t know why but it felt unnecessary to be in the game. Most of the driving parts of the game except for ending felt like it was just there to add extra time or show off a mechanic that could’ve been way better introduced at the end of the game. Obviously it’s just a minor thing but it did feel weird just getting in a car and driving down long roads with nothing happening.
Content after this is about the story for special episodes 1 and 2 which are after you complete the game. If you would like to avoid this section, please scroll down to the page break after this section.
Special episode 1 is called “The Signal” and it follows Alan Wake after he is stuck inside the Dark Place. Alan wakes up to a nightmare version of the diner that you see in the beginning of the game and traces his footsteps until he gets to the bathroom that you were about to open up in the main game until the “caretaker” stopped him. In there Alan finds Zane transmitting a message through the mirror telling Alan to find his way to him so he can help him be set free from the Dark Place. This episode is mainly about Alan finding his way to Zane and what kind of landscape that Alan has found himself in. The main game mechanics are still being used except this time it introduces a new one with the flashlight. If you played you know this, but lighting up words from your manuscript will make the object/item/effect appear in front of you. It’s a very nice mechanic and can be really helpful fighting off enemies and also just replenishing ammo. It’s a fun way to spice up the game. This DLC however focused more on the gameplay rather than the story so you don’t learn too much, but you learn enough to keep you interested for the next special episode. Special episode 2 is called “The Writer” and here you learn that you’re fighting yourself to get out of the nightmare that you’re in. The Alan that you’re playing as is the good Alan, the no regrets Alan with a strong spirit. And the one you’re fighting is simply afraid. It’s a nice twist that keeps you on the edge of your seat as you climb your way through level after level of puzzles, fighting, and action sequences to finally be set free with the help of Zane. It’s an incredible DLC that leaves people who wanted more after the main game, satisfied.
Alan Wake is an incredibly well written and well made horror game that stands up top with some of the best games ever made. I guarantee that you’ll most likely leave this game satisfied and happy that you experienced it. And I want to point out one last thing, the reason why I didn’t point out what was scary about the game was because I felt like it was scary the whole way through. I can’t pinpoint it to just one thing that made the game horror. It had jump scares, tension build up to scares, creepy and well made enemies, scared for exploring and not exploring, and there is just a general uneasiness that settles in from the beginning to the end. I would give this game a solid 9/10 and I recommend it for everyone who is a fan of horror and people who don’t play horror at all.
Link to the game on Steam: