Pros: Great graphics; Excellent use of environmental sounds; Intriguing Story; Excellent DLC and Spin-Off
Cons: Movement is not always as fluid as it could be; Difficulty level is somewhat uneven; Just what does Alan do with all those Thermos bottles?
Imagine if you will a town nestled in the mountains. Twisting roads lead to scenic resorts, a popular lake, and a quaint small-town community. Picture if you will a man, a writer whose horror suspense books have sold millions of copies who is haunted by his own inner demons. You have now entered Bright Falls. Or is it the world of Night Springs?
If those opening remarks were reminiscent of the popular 60's TV Series The Twilight Zone, it is no coincidence. The story of Alan Wake takes its inspiration strongly from that legendary series and breathes its own strange world around it. The crux of the plot is somewhat straight-forward. Alan Wake is a famous horror suspense writer who has a severe case of writer's block and goes to the sleep town of Bright Falls with his wife Alice hoping that a change of scenery may spark some inspiration. They rent a cabin which happens to be on a small peninsula of the town's lake. As night falls strange sounds occur and while checking out its source Alice disappears. The already high-strung writer is distraught and goes on a mission to find his wife only to face the spectral monstrosities that descend upon Bright Falls as the evening approaches.
Presentation & Gameplay
The story itself is presented like a serial television series, with each episode including "Recaps" of previous episodes and "Previews" of the next episode. This does a good job of embracing the player into the mindset of a a psychological horror thriller. When the sun goes down over Bright Falls, the resident's turn into specters whose motivations seem to have one main purpose: Kill Alan Wake. As Alan explores the town his initial defense is only a pistol and a flashlight. You see, these specters, known as "The Taken", are really, really afraid of ... the light. Bright lights from Alan's flashlight can repel them, and if illuminated long enough by a strong enough light, can be obliterated completely. The player can carry a limited number of weapons, flashlights, batteries, and ammunition, and depending upon the initial difficulty level selected the availability of these items varies from secret stashes just about everywhere, to very limited supplies which makes the player acutely aware of resource management.
Combat is relatively straight forward as Alan can attack with his flashlight to weaken The Taken, then use a firearm to finish them off. The brighter the flashlight, the more damage The Taken endure. The game is populated with spotlights, and flash bang grenades which can take out mobs of oncoming Taken.
Throughout his quest to find Alice, Alan encounters manuscript pages that he supposedly had written, but these foretell or recap actual events in his life. As the pages become more desperate and precautionary, Alan himself starts to unravel from the stress and begins to blur the lines between his fiction and the real world. He also collects Thermos bottles that are scattered throughout the area. There's no particular point of doing this, other than getting an achievement for finding them all.
To add a bit of comic relief, Alan's literary agent, Barry, is constantly in touch with Alan. He sort of behaves like a chubby Woody Allen, and may be the key to Alan's sanity.
The story of Alan Wake is dense, with many layers and hidden meanings. Its an existential story who's ending has pleased as many as its confounded. But as with most adventures, the excitement is in the journey, not usually the destination.
There are two excellent DLC add-ons that provide additional chapters that preface and extend the original story. The amount of actual story or clarity that they give to the main narrative is negligible, but they provide an additional chance to dip your toes into the strange world of Alan Wake's mind.
Sequel and Remedy Follow-up
Alan Wake was created by Remedy Studios, the group responsible for the first two Max Payne games and was generally well received by players. A sequel was highly anticipated, but a completely new story Alan Wake's American Nightmare was released on XBox Live Arcade. This game focuses less on story and more on the action and combat elements of the game.
At E3 in 2013 during the announcement of Microsoft's new console, the Xbox One, speculation was high that Remedy would be rolling out Alan Wake 2 as one of the launch titles. Audiences were surprised to see that Remedy was working on a completely new IP, Quantum Break. Little was known about this game early on, but more has been revealed by Remedy over this time. Quantum Break will continue to exploit the episodic nature of all of Remedy's titles, and also involves a television show embedded in the story. The difference being that the Television show is filmed with real actors and decisions the player makes in the virtual reality portion of the game will have an effect on the live action sequences of the story.
While Remedy or Microsoft has made no official announcements, Remedy has stated publicly that they have interest in continuing the franchise and considers Alan Wake to be "Season 1" of a multi-season show. Rumors have also indicated that Quantum Break may take in the mythos of the Alan Wake series with subtle references tying the two games together.