Alan Wake Reader Review
A while ago I was very intrigued by the premise of this game. Various preview articles suggested an intelligent attempt at a dark atmospheric thriller. Of course time passed and various titles cropped up that did an excellent job in that niche. Quite why this game took so long to develop is beyond me. I can only assume that Remedy didn't have that many people working on the game and it therefore took longer to make, because there isn't anything particularly earth shattering going on in the game when you finally get to play it.
The game opens brightly enough with a suitably cinematic introduction. You get your first introduction to the rather dated facial textures and the significantly better realised outdoor environments. Most levels tend to start off with some scene setting during the daytime and the main bulk of the game then takes place at night. This pattern pretty much repeats itself for the entirety of the game.
The main action sequences are normally quite well signposted, perhaps even 'telegraphed' . Scary music , mist and flickering lighting? - "suppose I better get my guns and torch ready then." In fact the game likes to hold your hand throughout, guiding you from one area to the next with luminescent manuscript pages or overhead lights. Just in case you are too stupid to read these cues they also provide you with a direction pointer. They really don't want you getting lost.
The level design seemed quite uninspiring in general. Regular patterns were quickly established. A branching road?" Better check the short side for collectables first before heading on my way". The whole collectable objects mechanic was a bit incongruous with the serious tone of the story. I can see why they did it. They needed to force you to spend more time exploring the environments so that you could experience more of the peril. Without the need to look for the collectables it would be far too easy to just run from one waypoint to the next without taking part in the combat. You can't help thinking that there must be a more eloquent solution than that though. They could at least have thought of something better to collect than bloody thermos flasks!
I didn't think the whole light/dark mechanic was very well used. In essence it simply boiled down to having two weapons. One to take away the shielding and the other to finish off the enemy. The combat on the whole was pretty uninspiring and rarely challenging on the default normal difficulty. There seemed to be quite a generous auto-aim and it rarely seemed to matter where you were shooting your enemy. Perhaps this game would be more enjoyable on the higher difficulty settings?
I found the story itself very underwhelming and felt no affinity with any of the protagonists. The game actually got very irritating in parts with overly long episodes sending you from place to place for excessive periods.
On the positive side the game probably has the most realistic use of light in an outdoor setting that I have seen. Some of the more sedate sections outside during the day were quite interesting and certainly eye catching. The game is very polished and I enjoyed the TV serial style recaps at the beginning of the episode and the end of episode songs. The Roy Orbison track was particularly atmospheric. The TV shows and radio broadcasts were a welcome inclusion, but of course have already been implemented on games such as 'the darkness' and 'GTA4'.
There really isn't that much to recommend about Alan Wake. It is a fairly middling action adventure with a hokum storyline, rather antiquated combat and last generation level design.