X10 Report: Alan WakeBy Andrew Pfister - Posted Feb 17, 2010
What’s the status?
Alan Wake is the six-years-in-the-making adventure game from Remedy Entertainment, the guys who you might remember did the Max Payne games. The last time I saw Alan Wake was the new footage that emerged from last year’s E3...and before that, it was at X06 in Barcelona (four years ago!)
I’ve been working under the impression that Alan Wake was going to be a slower, methodical game of investigation and examining environments (a la Alone in the Dark or Silent Hill). But based on what they showed us at X10 last week, that’s not entirely the case...
What did we see?
My playable demo began at the beginning of the game, with Alan regaining consciousness and discovering that he was just in a rather wicked car accident in the forested, moonlit mountains. His beloved Alice is nowhere to be found and he doesn’t seem to have a recollection of how he got to this point. He spots a gas station down in the distance, but of course, getting there won’t happen on a straight line. The atmospheric moonlight and fog effects were laid on thick, in an-almost exaggerated manner for effect, and it evoked fond memories of my favorite X-Files episode (the one in the Pacific Northwest where the killer bugs came out after sunset). Between the dark outdoor environments and excellent audio, Remedy has definitely succeeded in creating that spooky vibe.
As I (as Alan) made my way through the linear, pre-destined path through the forest and vacant logging facility, I started to get a taste of what Alan Wake really is: a 3D action game in the vein of modern Resident Evil. Or to put it bluntly, I was shooting and reloading guns much more often than I thought I would be. And not just reloading cartridges, but also battery flashlights. The flashlight works in tandem with your firearms, in that the "Taken" (your possessed-by-something foes) are extremely sensitive to light. After sufficient exposure to your high beam, they’ll be stunned and ready to absorb your gunfire.
Light comes into play in other clever ways: you’ll use it to create temporary "safe" zones (part of the demo included a stand-off on an abandoned music stage, with you hopping from spotlight to spotlight while fending off an angry horde of Taken), and weapons like the flare gun and flashbang grenade are more useful than they would be in other games, thanks to their light-generating properties. At one point, you’ll even be tasked with using a spotlight as a powerful beam weapon.
Quite a bit of mystery is being set up early in the game. Helpful yellow scribblings are found in the environment - visible only when a flashlight shines upon them - and point you to supply caches or give vague warnings of doom (long lost cousins from Rapture, perhaps?). Alan will find pages of his manuscript-in-progress lying about, and his words - that he doesn’t remember writing - will prophecy what’s about to come. I also heard a brief radio snippet from the local airwaves that revealed some truly Art Bell "Coast to Coast" stuff is going down.
It’s easy to be skeptical after six years of prolonged and mostly-quiet development, and I still have reservations about the episodic structure and Alan-as-narrator presentation, but everything else about the game is right up my alley. This one is just asking for a dark room, loud speakers, and a cool, unnerving breeze through the window.