It's been compared favorably to Heavy Rain, the "interactive drama" released in February by Quantic Dream. But Alan Wake review scores say this third-person suspense game, out this week on the Microsoft Xbox 360, is in a league of its own. So what makes Alan Wake so great? For one, the game, which churned in development purgatory for more than five years, is reportedly one of the smartest – and most enjoyable – titles ever created.
First, the details: Alan Wake is being billed as a suspense-horror-thriller hybrid. The eponymous protagonist is a mystery writer, who journeys with his wife to the town of Bright Falls, in an effort to shake a long-standing case of writer's block. Wake's wife disappears, and poor Alan throws himself desperately down the rabbit hole in an effort to get her back. In the meantime, Wake has the sneaking suspicion that some of his books are coming to life.
"It doesn't look like it at first, but Alan Wake is an incredibly scary game, setting its stage with familiar, ordinary locations like a cabin in the woods or the local diner and twisting them into something malicious," writes Susan Arendt of The Escapist. Arendt praises the mood of Alan Wake, which she says is full of "gorgeous mountain scenery, quirky characters" and plenty of dark basements and remote country outposts.
But a pretty game is nothing without a gripping script – and it is here that reviewers say Alan Wake really delivers.
"Alan Wake is one of the most engaging protagonists we've come across in a video game in some time, even if he is also the sort of person most of us would cross the street to avoid," notes the Telegraph's Nick Cowen writes. "To put it bluntly Wake is a deeply flawed individual – selfish, immature and prone to violent outbursts – and it soon becomes clear that many of his problems are of his own making."
Equally strong is the gameplay, which has Wake using a large arsenal of weapons to ward off "large pieces of machinery and automobiles that get tossed around like toys, and even massive construction vehicles that burst from their resting places to flatten you," according to the folks at IGN.com. Wake's primary weapon is a flashlight – key for holding back the contagious darkness spreading through Bright Falls.
The game, created by Remedy, the studio behind the Max Payne franchise, is blessed with a "simple interplay that's helped along with some smooth animations and weighty sounds that give firearms and collisions a powerful feel," IGN.com writes.
Over at Destructoid, Jim Sterling isn't totally sold on the gameplay – he says it can get a little clunky when it comes to running and jumping. Still, Sterling concludes that Alan Wake is a "superb experience" – a "must-have Xbox 360 title that provides a freshness and dynamism that horror games have been achingly lacking for the past several years."
Over to you guys. Who's played Alan Wake? Who wants to play Alan Wake?