Skip to main content

Alan Wake

The big sleep.

Alan himself is no fun at all. Physically he's a bit of a weed. He jumps like there are eight-year-old girls either side of him turning a rope, can't climb over anything more than waist-high and moves at an irritatingly slow pace. He can sprint, but only for a few seconds before he is reduced to a wheezing, shuffling mess. This is no good in the aforementioned legging-it situations and highly irritating when there's a pack of axe-wielding homicidal maniacs right behind you.

Personality-wise, Alan takes himself very seriously. He has one tone of voice and no sense of humour. He also suffers from some kind of narrative Tourette's, which forces him to comment on what's happening almost constantly. On seeing a flock of birds a short distance away Alan will remark, "Birds." You wonder if he goes through life like this, and walks down the street going, "Bus, tree, postman, Tesco Metro..."

When he's not busy telling you what's going on Alan likes to hammer home the pop culture references, just in case you didn't get them. At one point we see him backed up against a wall while an enemy hacks through a wooden door with an axe. "Like Nicholson in The Shining." Thanks Alan.

Exposition also takes place via the manuscript pages Alan finds littered about wherever he goes. To read them you have to press the back button to pause the game, which doesn't do much for the pacing. The pages describe what's been happening to Alan or, in many cases, hint at what's about to happen. The problem is this often ruins the dramatic tension. Having read a sentence about hearing the sudden roar of a chainsaw, it's neither surprising nor scary when a chainsaw-wielding enemy looms out of the darkness 60 seconds later.

Ellie's new favourite hobby: singing "Aaaalan, the hoodied man" to the tune of Clannad's Robin Hood theme. Try it.

That's not to say there are no chills and thrills in Alan Wake. Environments are suitably spooky and there are a fair few moments that make you jump. But as the game progresses the environments start to look awfully similar, and the scary bits become predictable. For example, it's a pretty safe bet you're about to encounter a huge horde of enemies when you find a large pile of batteries and an unlimited supply of revolver ammo, so there's no sense of shock or terror when you do.

A familiar pattern emerges within a few hours. Your mission is always to get from point A to point B, defeating enemies, picking up ammo, collecting manuscript pages and kick-starting generators along the way. Alan's lack of jumping and climbing skills means there's little in the way of exploration to be done and levels are generally linear. There is only a handful puzzles, and all of them are of the "find out how to get over there so you can make the red switch go green" variety.