I love Alan Wake. The game's creepy atmosphere, engaging gameplay and awesome visuals hooked me, but what impressed me most was the carefully crafted story. It's a story that you can take seriously--at least at first. Check out our Alan Wake review for more.
In Episode Four, though, there's a piece of product placement that's so jarring, so nonsensical, and so downright bad, it's the fictional equivalent of a game-killing glitch. Check it out below the cut... (Spoiler warning, of course.)
Keep in mind, at this point in the story, we're unsure if the insane asylum which Wake is escaping from exists in real life and is haunted, or is some twisted figment of his imagination. Either way, why would there be a commercial on TV? The electricity is being controlled by the swirling darkness outside. Does the evil force want Wake to buy a Mustang? For that matter, why would Alan stand there and watch?
This is way different and way worse than a billboard in the background or a TV commercial in the "real" world -- those can be justified within the fictional universe. To add insult to injury, you even get an achievement for sitting though Verizon's pitch. The argument about whether games are Art is ridiculous in the face of this kind of evidence -- it's obvious games are commerce.
I like to think the character of Emerson, a video game designer driven mad by the pressures of his industry, is a sly response to the money-over-art mindset that put this commercial in the game. Check out Emerson in the video below: