It may not be another Duke Nukem Forever or Chinese Democracy, but it does seem like we’ve been waiting for Alan Wake — the action game from Max Payne developers Remedy Entertainment — for a very long time. Though after seeing a demo of the game at Microsoft’s press conference, and then getting to play the same demo later that day, we’re thinking it may have been worth the wait. Er, will be when the game is finally released on the 360 (we hope) next Spring.
At its core, Alan Wake seems to be a third-person, gun-loving, survival horror game in the vein of Silent Hill (only less atmospheric), Resident Evil (only less B-movie), or Alone In The Dark (only less sucky). Playing as the titular character, you embark on a quest to find your wife after she goes missing while you’re on vacation in a small Northwestern town. The problem is that there’s a supernatural force at work, one that’s oddly just like the one you’ve written about in your most recent, but still unpublished book.
Or — SPOILER ALERT — so you think. One of the phrases that the Remedy guys kept saying was “You think.” As in, “you think inanimate objects are possessed by the dark force, and you have to use light to burn it out of them.” This whole supernatural thing might just be in your head, and your wife might’ve just run off with some guy. And therein lies one of the central mysteries of the game.
What we do know is that, as we explored a wooded area full of cabins, we were attacked by flying objects and weird people, all of whom had to be cleansed of the dark force. Luckily, we have a flashlight that, when you hold the left trigger, gets brighter for a while, driving out the darkness. Though while this un-possessed objects, un-possessed people will still try to kill you, so you still have to shoot them with such weapons as a shotgun, a pistol, or a flare gun. Thankfully, the Remedy guys seem to have played some Doom 3, and you can hold both your flashlight and a gun at the same time.
But here’s the kicker: not only do you have to find ammo, but batteries as well, since your flashlight burns through them like a Wiimote. We’re guessing this game won’t be sponsored by Duracell.
Thankfully, you can use other light sources to drive away the darkness. Or at least keep it from attacking you. You can use a car’s headlights, a fire, even small generators you crank up to power some outdoor lighting.
Oh, and even if you do get smacked by something before you can enlighten it — say like a car flipping at you — you recover your health at a decent clip anyway. It seems this is a game more interested in scaring you and freaking you out than in frustrating you. You know, by making you play the same section over and over and over.
How this will or won’t make the game challenging remains to be seen. But considering how long we’ve waited so far, having to wait until Spring 2010 seems like a breeze.