I can’t believe it’s been 8 years since Alan Wake came out. Man I feel old! I remember picking up my ultimate collector’s edition which looked like a huge hardback book. It was pretty awesome. Me and my best buddy played Alan Wake for the whole weekend, experiencing an epic story infused with classic horror elements and delivered enthralling combat crafted by the same guys who created Max Payne. These ideas in a video game would get anyone excited right?
Although we originally had to wait quite some time before Alan Wake came to light (pun) as the game was in production Hell for over 5 years. It was even originally meant to be a PS3 exclusive. For years I was gearing up for the distant cousin of Max Payne to arrive and back in 2008 I kind of gave up hope until late 2009 brought good news to everyone that Sam Lake and Remedy had finally finished the game. So with over 5 long years in development, was Alan Wake the game we hoped for? While many praised it (myself included) a majority of people let off a gigantic “meh” at the end.
I mean the game was great; it was entertaining and had some interesting dynamics with using light for the purpose of combat and survival. But really after 5 years and what we got as a final product, many people weren’t too happy. I would say the biggest problems were that many of the ideas had been done already, even the aspect of using light to fight off enemies in such games as ….. Alone in the Dark (2008), oh sweet Jesus no.
Also for a game that was in a period of development lasting over 5 years, Alan Wake could’ve been much more. Originally it was meant to be a Twin Peaks inspired open world game, what could’ve been a highly refined version of Deadly Premonition. It was a pretty awesome concept as Alan Wake would have to deal with natural disasters, waring spirits and the forces of darkness all within an area inspired by Silent Hill. Everything sounded pretty awesome and what we got was more linear and straightforward in the end.
Stumbling in the Dark
Some of the major complaints were related to the game’s repetitive nature. There’s plenty of combat, action, and exploration but when you look at the game as a whole there’s plenty of ideas being reused over and over again. The locations are just scrapings pf scary forests, abandoned warehouses and the great outdoors in the middle of the night. There was very little to break up the repetitive combat and what we got most of the time were dim-witted puzzles or just fighting a possessed vehicle for the umpteen time! It’s no surprise as all the enemies rely on the same factor, they’re covered in darkness to which you shine a light and when it’s gone, you shoot them.
For the first third, it’s entertaining, after 8-10 hours of it, it does become a little tedious.
Don’t get me wrong, I still like the game a great deal. The pacing and structure of the campaign were very engaging, with each level starting in the daytime and the remainder being set on a night when all the shit hits the fan. Alan would have to trek through heavily dense forests, engulfed by darkness and fight off hordes of shadowy madmen with flare guns, flash grenades, and reliable firearms. While the combat does become a little tedious towards the end, there are still some fantastic ideas and these worked well early in the game.
What We Loved and What We Lost
There were even a couple of epic set pieces which played extremely well to these lighting mechanics. Including a segment where Alan would fight hordes of enemies using fireworks and stage lights on a disused concert stage. There was a compelling story, an interesting self-aware tone that was inspired by the likes of Stephen King and Dean Coons.
It’s a shame we didn’t get the open world horror game the developers had originality hoped for. But Alan Wake 2 was another story altogether. When the expansions came out, Remedy brought in new ideas and mechanics which strengthen the core gameplay. These elements would make their way into Alan Wake 2, which would’ve been an awesome sequel. Just check out the demo below and see for yourself. It looked amazing! (courtesy of Polygon):
Left in the Dark?
Then 5 years later we got Quantum Break and I lost all hope for the developer. Sam Lake on behalf of Remedy stated that Alan Wake 2 is not coming any time soon. I believe this could be the best thing to do but also I’m extremely sad by saying this. Max Payne in all respect didn’t need a sequel; it was fine as a single game. Alan Wake American Nightmare pretty much wrapped everything up so a sequel might’ve felt a little forced. I hope Quantum Break 2 is not on the cards but that was left with a somewhat open ending…. But again so was Alan Wake originally.
Alan Wake did have some flaws with repetition and pretty lame lateral elements. Yet its intensity, atmosphere, story and dynamic combat really made up for these short comings. It’s a captivating with some great story telling, classic horror elements and gameplay mechanics which were highly refined and enjoyable. I also recommend trying the DLC chapters too, as they’re far better than what we got from Remedy afterwards.