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Alan Wake

The big sleep.

"It's ready when it's ready." Developers must love being able to say that. It means they're so rich and successful they don't have to worry about trivialities like release dates. The publisher will wait patiently for them to hand over the finished product, and won't dare bang on about seasonal purchasing trends in the meantime.

It suggests they've risen above the situation of most developers, who, on being asked when their game is out, must either lie or reply, "It's ready when the publisher says it's ready / when it's cost so much money we can't afford to buy toilet paper for the office / when the movie's out, even if we haven't finished the final level and none of the cars have wheels."

Remedy Entertainment doesn't fall into that category. Extensive research suggests the studio never used the phrase "when it's ready" exactly, but all the same, it's been five years since Alan Wake was announced, and you can bet development began some time before then. Remedy even had the luxury of nine months just for polishing.

So has it been worth the wait, or should Alan Wake have stayed in bed?

Ask the titular character that question and you'll probably get an answer in the affirmative. Alan is a best-selling thriller author who suffers from writer's block. He decides to take a holiday in a bid to clear his head. And how does Alan choose to get away from it all, do you think? By spending a fortnight in Rio, drinking pina coladas by the pool? Or by visiting a tiny, rainy Pacific Northwest town inhabited by hilarious simpletons and frightening weirdoes, where the only available accommodation is an ancient log cabin in the middle of a haunted lake?

ASBO teen or geography teacher? With his hoodie, tweed jacket and leather elbow patch combo, Alan just loves to confuse.

Alan is accompanied on this jolly holiday by his wife, Alice. She sets the cause of female videogame characters back 10 years by being afraid of the dark and mewling like a kitten with a broken leg whenever the lights are off. Knowing this, Alan should probably have picked a nice hotel rather than a cabin powered by a generator in a shed at the end of the back garden. Needless to say, within about 12 minutes of arriving in the town of Bright Falls, Alice goes missing in mysterious circumstances and Alan embarks on a quest to find her.

Standing in his way is an army of zombie-like enemies known as the Taken. These are people who have been possessed by a dark force and turned into homicidal maniacs. Some have scythes, some throw axes, but all have a nasty habit of appearing out of nowhere and attempting to hack Alan to death.