The storyline strong Heavy Rain was released on the PS3 to critical acclaim a few months ago and a few days ago it Microsoft’s turn to release a storyline strong game – Alan Wake, which has been in development since the original Xbox was out. Both Alan Wake and Heavy Rain feature action aplenty with impressive storylines to carry the game through. Heavy Rain had the thriller but Alan Wake is a horror story with enough twists and screams to affect your nightly dreams.
Alan Wake your character is a horror book author who has writers block and decides to go to Bright Falls with his wife Alice to take a break and end his writers block. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned, Alice goes missing and he sets on a frightening tale trying to get her back. The world is twists, full of horrors, the darkness of evil consuming the population of Bright Falls. To remain spoiler free I will not mention the story further, only to say that I found myself questioning the storyline several times because it kept twisting – this is not a negative note, it is saying that I was kept on my toes trying to keep up with the twists in the story and at one point I had myself thinking I got the story all wrong, but it was the story playing with my mind.
Graphically the game has its superb points when the environments look polished with high detail. Unfortunately the game looks bad in places on my big 40″ TV. Sometimes the background appears a lower resolution so while you have Alan Wake looking good, the area in the background looks pixelated and like I say on a big TV this is evident. ON a smaller TV this may not be so noticeable. There is also an element of screen tearing at times when Alan is forced to walk places and follow people, it is no game-breaker but can be a tad annoying at times.
They have included some excellent songs in the game and the sound effects match the spooky atmosphere in the game. There is a big fail with one part of the sound though. When someone is talking as part of the story, sometimes you can hear conversations in the background so it plays two conversations at once and it can be hard to distinguish the two apart. Turn on the subtitles and it is even more of a mess. You end up with two lots of subtitles one above another with no indication as to which subtitle is which. If anyone has the sound turned down or is deaf and relies on subtitles this is very bad because there is no indication which are the storyline conversation words and which are the background conversation words. It is not very well implemented at all and they should have had it so when storyline conversations come up, the background conversations are muted. I would say this is the one thing that ruins the game sometimes and it is very distracting.
So for those obsessed with numbers, with the graphical issues and the sound/subtitles issues I have to mark this game down, I would have expected more from a game in development alledgedly for 10 years and it is a disappointment to have these flaws. However, whilst I would have knocked away 2 points from the score giving an average 8, I think the storyline has enough gusto to carry the game into a 9 score. Because the game is all about the story and you will find yourself gripped from the very beginning and emotionally driven to solve the mystery and find Alice – dead or alive.
Alan Wake is available now on Xbox 360 only. Rated 15 years and over.
Don’t forget also you can download filmed episodes of the Bright Falls series on Xbox live marketplace. They add to the story of Alan Wake and are free to download.