So here’s the thing; One thing you can’t say about Alan Wake is the fact it’s pacing is like watching a snail race. Alan Wake in essence as per the front cover is a Psychological Action Thriller game. It borrowed heavily from Twin Peaks while armed with all the works of Stephen King.
Today I’m the star of the show, Alan Wake. A ‘writer’ with personal problems while being tormented by evil in small town ‘Merica. This all sound like that one book Stephen King had been writing over and over again. I’m not a fan, per se…. But maybe this is why Silent Hill always had a little place in my heart because at least they had a street named after Dean Koontz. As for Mr. King, he’s practically named dropped from the beginning of the video game till nearly the end. Like Mr. King had some vested interest in the development.
Opening scene starts off with a nightmare sequence. Ya’know, Silent Hill Homecoming style. This time we’re running through a forest and avoiding some specter trying to kill us while also be guided by some omnipotent voice giving me combat tutorial till Alan wakes up. Oh, so that’s where the game title came from!? He sees his wife looming over him and this is the moment observation one is kicked down with my combat boots. Something has to be said about the human face and posture of characters. The faces on all these people look like something out of a Michael Jackson botch job while having better lip syncing than a Sailor Moon dub.
Anyway, Alan and his wife thing are on holiday in a forest waterfront town. The intro keeps going till wifey tries to convince Alan to actually do his job and write a book for once. Alan runs away like a little bitch and finds out his wife is missing due to some evil force. Now it’s up to Alan to come to the rescue and learn the dark secrets of the town. This is achieved by running around a forest for hours at a time stacking up on batteries for your flashlight and bullets for your gun. While doing this, Alan likes to narrate his own life which is always redundant.
While most games would place a dead body bloodlet and expect you to be afraid. Alan would walk into the same room and narrate, “Suddenly I walked into the living room and saw my best friend dead and dripping with blood.” Meanwhile the game will take the video camera and fling it to said body to show the awkward smile on its face as if to say, ‘didn’t expect that part, did ya?’ In fact, this game has a huge issue with testing my attention span. Presented in an episode like style, i.e. The Walking Dead. Every chapter begins with ‘the story so far.’ As if to say I’m supposed to pace this out. Um, Alan Wake, I have literally two weeks to deal with you… Thus far you’re acting like a Newfoundland in a one room apartment. Anyway, there’s no real way to save between chapters. I’m guessing to try selling the point the game is supposed to be played in moderation doesn’t work well. Apparently it’s just easier to push out these subtle hints… The Walking Dead style…. As if to imply your attention span is supposed to be short enough to notice your desperation to watch your cat spill a cup of milk off a table grabbing the attention in your living space and not the video game at all. If this is really happening, then you have bigger problems in life my friend.
Next on the chopping block is when combat is gong down. Camera zooms in slow motion style while the game says, ‘Hey, that’s a monster! Oooh, Monster! Remember that moment I mentioned this is a thriller game? That’s your thriller!’ Thanks, because I wouldn’t want this game to get scary all of a sudden. The enigma here is the atmosphere was enough to do the job. Low mist binding around trees, distant light shining through the distance, trees everywhere, flickering shadows making a bush look like an axe murderer one moment and then Whiney the Pooh the next. The game is clearly aware it does spooky forest really fucking well. Thus every so often we’re contrived to be running around a forest. Like an episode of Murder She Wrote nothing ever happens till Mrs. Fletcher and some book she’s writing is in town. Thus conveniently you literally have to have those two elements in the beginning of an episode before an actual murder and mystery is a-foot. Meanwhile, the forest bits is the ACTION part in this Psychological Action Thriller. This meant the game was literally padded with hours dedicated to being in a forest. (Tangent) Combat is bogged down at this point with walking around with a light and a gun. You shine light on specters till they’re weak and then head shoot. This means you can stun them by looking at them. Eventually I had a shot gun but mainly used the starting pistol and loaded up on ammo. The basis of the combat was practically taken right out of Resident Evil 5 where grenades were used for the hail marry moments.
I’ll say there was a moment when items were being possessed and flying around the house trying to kill me till Alan had to say, ‘Inanimate objects coming to life, that’s something Steven King wrote about!’
Allow me to end with the all important story…. The dirty bits I was really here for. One of the side quest is collecting pages from a book Alan is supposed to be writing. Which by the way spoiled a lot of plot twists and events into the future. I’ll say it was consistent and kept with the theme as I went along. Thus, I’ll let it go, however why couldn’t Alan make more informed decisions based on the articles he’s read prior to?
Example A: Accepting the hospitality from a woman whom seemed nice but now talking monotone while wearing a shirt saying ‘I AM POSSESSED’ with cold dark eyes. Why drink her sleeping pill infused tea, Alan? Why?
Example B: When the comic relief character shows up suggesting getting shit faced while inside a house surrounded by evil, Alan agrees to getting shit faced instead of punching said comic relief in the head.
However, there wouldn’t be horror stories if characters didn’t make piss poor choices. Between running to the abandoned camp ground or running to the police station, most characters chose the first rather than the later. It’s all about bad decisions which is what Alan Wake is all about. Bad combat, bad narration. Good atmosphere. Imagine, if you will, sitting in a beautiful garden till an elephant shows up. Looks cool for the first few moments till said elephant is stomping on your beloved marijuana plants. That’s when life gets serious.