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Alan Wake

18 May 2010
Alan Wake - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.35 / 5.0
0.5
5.0
 
 
1,174 Ratings / 9 Reviews
#1,597 All-time
#66 for 2010
Alan Wake is a bestselling crime fiction author suffering from a two-year stretch of writer's block. He and his wife Alice travel to the small mountain town of Bright Falls, Washington for a short vacation at the advice of their friend and agent Barry Wheeler. Before arriving, Alan has a nightmare about shadowy figures who try to kill him, when an ethereal figure in a diving suit intervenes in the dream and teaches him how to utilise light to fend off the shadows.
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Combined review for Alan Wake/Alan Wake's American Nightmare (spoilers for both);

On the surface Alan Wake seems like a fairly obvious spin on familiar horror/suspense themes with references to Stephen King, Twin Peaks, The Twilight Zone etc... However, after a while it seems to shift towards a commentary on various other subjects including the creative process, the writer's struggles with creating a compelling narrative within an interactive medium, the survival horror genre, and, eventually, the game's own protracted development process. Then there's (possibly) the occasional dig at Take Two/Rockstar for taking the Max Payne series away from its original creators (Max Payne and Alan Wake share the same writer/development team). Maybe some of these aspects are a bit of stretch on my part, but the game definitely offers enough thematic depth to warrant some of this speculation, so here goes...

Sam Lake/Cauldron Lake/Alan Wake - in the game Cauldron Lake is the site of The Dark Place where Alan Wake's creative visions become reality. The Dark Presence represents something which is attempting to control this reality and reshape it into something else. Cauldron Lake represents real-life writer Sam Lake's head-space and the Dark Presence is the medium of video games which he, as the writer, is struggling to come to terms with in an attempt to tell a compelling story. The Dark Presence is seen as something that is attempting to wrest control away from the writer, who is frustrated at not being in complete control of his own vision. As the story develops and we get into American Nightmare, Wake becomes increasingly confident in his own abilities and how to 'reshape reality' to get what he wants.

Night Springs = video games - The Night Springs episodes that crop up occasionally are obviously done in a Twilight Zone style, yet they also are to Alan Wake what video games are for Sam Lake. In American Nightmare Wake talks about how he got started in his career by writing episodes for Night Springs and even though it wasn't what he initially wanted, he's come to terms with the role it played in furthering his career. Likewise, Sam Lake, as someone who studied literature at university, writing for video games is something which he possibly felt conflicted about as it's not a role that's appreciated all that highly. Also, there is a 360-style box of a 'Night Springs' game sitting on a desk in one of Hartman the psychologist's rooms, and the stilted dialogue/acting and weirdo plots of the Night Springs episodes could be a poke at the usual narrative fare we're served up in most video games.

Combat - Wake is given a gun in the chapter 'The Signal' and told by Zane that "it is not a gun, it is a process of elimination". Wake uses a flashlight to illuminate the things that are getting in his way, then he uses the gun to eliminate them. The main things that you 'eliminate' in the game are enemies that attack using melee weapons and random possessed objects. These represent the things that are getting in the way of Wake telling his story - two things which set Alan Wake apart from most survival horror games are the lack of melee combat and the lack of an inventory (besides ammo). Melee combat in survival horror games is usually derided for being 'clunky' and the puzzles are often criticised for using obtuse logic involving random objects. In Alan Wake, you are in a sense eliminating melee combat and weird object puzzles as these are the things that have tended to get in the way of a well-paced narrative in other survival horror titles.

Alan Wake's development - Alan Wake was originally announced as an open world game and then after a period of several months, they had to abandon this design in favour of a more linear approach. This decision becomes part of the game's narrative and towards the end of the game (I think it was in the 'The Signal' chapter), Wake's increasingly crazed persona in the TV clips talks about the "world getting smaller... closing in on itself". The final line in the game sees Wake uttering the line "It's not a lake, it's an ocean", which seems like a fairly random non-sequitur to end on, yet it hints at Sam Lake becoming more confident in himself (using his own name and saying there are bigger things to come) or, as I initially thought, maybe they will attempt to expand the game into a more open-world structure in future Alan Wake installments. Sure enough, in American Nightmare we have a more open, non-linear structure than the main game. Additionally, American Nightmare is Mr Scratch's world - he is the id to Wake's ego. He tells Wake in one of his TV appearances that he has more freedom and has the guts to achieve all the things that Wake was never able to (i.e. have an open-world game vs Wake's linear story).

Thomas Zane/Max Payne connection - Zane comes across as a kind of father-figure to Alan Wake, and he provides him with a crucial object called 'The Clicker', which is an object from Lake's own childhood which he used to comfort himself against the things that go bump in the night. However, since Zane is trapped in the Dark Place in Cauldron Lake which is Alan Wake's headspace, he is actually meant to represent a creation of the writer, i.e. Zane is to Wake what Payne is to Lake. Zane and Payne are voiced by the same actor and, in the game, Zane writes things into his story that help Alan Wake complete his story - Max Payne helped the real-life writer Sam Lake become successful and make a name for himself. Sam Lake wouldn't be where he is without Max Payne, likewise, Alan Wake needs Zane to get to where he needs to go. Also Thomas Zane appears in a diver's suit and Max Payne dived around a lot. That last bit is possibly a stretch...

So 'The Clicker' is an object from Sam Lake's own childhood, which was used to give him comfort when he felt afraid of the dark. It is something which allowed him to regain control and put himself at ease. Within the game, The Clicker becomes the crucial object which allows him to overcome The Dark Presence and bring the story to a close. As something which gives Alan Wake control, it could be seen as analogous to a 'controller', i.e. a video game controller. It represents the writer coming to terms with his role in a video game and realising it's the controller which gives him power to change to the story.

Also in 'dying' or at least separating himself from Alice at the end of the story, it could be viewed as the writer having to cut-ties with something special or important in his own life. Max Payne had been the most significant creation of Sam Lake's career up to this point and, since the series is out of his control, now he has to come to terms with it carrying on without him. He has to let himself go and allow it to continue without his input.

The quality of the writing in the manuscript pages that you collect seems to change as the series progresses as well - they appear to be markedly better written in American Nightmare vs the original game, which seems odd given that you'd have to assume Sam Lake wrote all of these. Given that one of the themes of American Nightmare is about Wake growing in confidence and accepting where his career has taken him I'm wondering if part of this was deliberate or if it signals that Lake is becoming more confident in his own abilities - maybe he wasn't all that invested in Wake's character to begin with, but he's started to see the potential in the series and has continued to stretch himself in attempt to realise these possibilities.

Just another little thing that I noticed at the point I stopped playing in American Nightmare last night - there's a point where Mr. Scratch sends you back to what appears to be the beginning of the game. This is seconds after you enter a room which prominently features a mock up of a Death Rally arcade game. Death Rally was the first game Sam Lake worked on at Remedy. You're shown something that represents the beginning of Lake's career before Mr. Scratch sends you back to the 'beginning'.

While some of this metaphorical content may be obvious, it still seems like there is a dearth of discussion about these kinds of things with respect to video games. This plays into some of the themes addressed in the game such as the frustration of the writer having to work in a medium that perhaps doesn't appreciate his input all that much. People are always talking about how they want stronger narratives and more thematic depth in games, yet when a game offers these things they're mostly ignored, e.g. Alan Wake probably received more discussion on the substandard quality of its facial animation that on its narrative/thematic content. Sigh.
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It's almost as if Sam Lake delivered the lovechild of David Lynch and Stephen King
It's a very creative game while being one of the cheesiest and most trope-drenched games of its era. The mood, atmosphere, lighting, visuals: all perfect. Dark, chilling, foreboding. All of the supporting characters are quirky and charming. Gameplay is average, yet has some inventive applications of design such as using your flashlight as a weapon. The story is quite a trip. It's really well done, but also what gives the game nearly all of its cheese. You're a... FAMOUS WRITER taking a VACATION in a SLEEPY TOWN in MAINE, where a STRANGE WOMAN casts an ILL OMEN upon you. It seems YOUR OWN CREATIONS ARE ATTACKING YOU.... I don't even know how many Stephen King books this is like
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The best way I can describe this game is imagine if Twin Peaks was a horror thriller written by the guys behind Xavier Renegade Angel. This was a trip and a half the whole way through. Some clunky platforming and sometimes fiddly combat, but that wasn't much of a deterrent for me. There were quite a few major visual bugs that I had to deal with more than should be satisfactory, but that's on the PC port, so as long as you stick to the console versions you should be fine.
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There are a lot of cool things about Alan Wake despite so much of its design being indicative of video games in the 2010s. What sets it a part from other games of the time is its very unconventional narrative. Easily the best part of the game is how it piece mails the story through collectibles in a non chronological way. It's fun to collect pages of the story and have it spoil to you what would happen later in game whether it be spoiling a boss fight or critical plot points. The narrative and writing also has an obvious Twin Peaks veneer with quirky characters, small town vibes and intangible evil presence.

The actual gameplay of the game is just ok. If you've played games from this era you know what to expect. Clunky controls, repetitive set pieces and hundreds of useless collectibles to waste your time with. There is something oddly comforting about all these negative features as I grew up on games like this. To someone who is not acclimated to these design decisions you might find it a bit of a slog

My main motivation for continuing to play was just seeing what sort of interesting spin on the narrative they would pull off. Once that wore off I was just kind of going through the motions for the remainder of my time. I enjoyed this game but I think if I played it back when it came out it would have blown my mind. While it's meta narrative is interesting, its not as revolutionary as it was over a decade ago.
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ThatOneLupin 2024-01-17T18:06:24Z
2024-01-17T18:06:24Z
3.5
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I never had an Xbox and never felt the urge to purchase one until “Alan Wake” came out. The mood seemed to somehow bring together two of my favorite franchises: “Silent Hill” and “Twin Peaks”. I mean, it even has its own Log Lady alternative!! Finally able to play the game over a decade later, I have to say that the mood and atmosphere are definitely its strongest points. It masterfully captures the unsettling tone of its inspirations, enveloping players in an eerie and mysterious world.

However, despite the intriguing setting and atmosphere, "Alan Wake" falls short in the gameplay department. The novelty of using light to weaken enemies before shooting them is refreshing, but the repetitive nature of the gameplay loop becomes a burden too quickly. Some areas drag on for too long, making the experience feel monotonous and, at times, unsatisfying. The constant resetting of inventory and equipment, even within a single episode, hampers player and character progression, leaving a sense of stagnation throughout.

I also found the narrative a little fragmented. It's not the non-linear structure that poses a challenge, but rather the clunky dialogue and abrupt transitions during chapters and cutscenes, which make things difficult to follow.
In short, "Alan Wake" shines in its ability to conjure a haunting atmosphere, paying homage to franchises that hardly find a counterpart in video games. However, its gameplay struggles with repetitiveness and a lack of progression, while the narrative, though intriguing, tends to stumble due to its fragmented presentation. Despite these shortcomings, the game manages to carve its niche, offering a unique experience for those drawn to its distinctive mood.

About the DLCs: the first one is just a patchwork of areas previously encountered in the game, definitely skippable. The second one makes a more creative use of the surreal elements of the setting, and also uses the environment in interesting ways. The ending is as anticlimactic as the main game, but the overall experience felt slightly more diversified.
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manicure 2024-01-12T17:33:57Z
2024-01-12T17:33:57Z
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First off, do not play the remaster if you have an AMD card. The graphical glitches in the game on PC are unbearable, with textures randomly stretching across the screen, random bright lights flashing and TVs not even playing properly. There is little chance of Remedy fixing these issues so you're better off just playing the original because it ruins the tone of the game.

Alan Wake has a good story and atmosphere but it's really held back by its gameplay. I'm a big fan of Control and defended a lot of the gameplay in that game, but now I totally understand the issues people had because it's so much worse in Alan Wake. The gameplay loop is really tiring, especially when you're fighting inanimate objects or birds and the extent of gameplay is hold right mouse and point at the enemy, occasionally press Q to insert a battery. When you fight inanimate objects it feels more like you're fighting the physics engine than anything else. Objects move erratically and dodging them is even more awkward than trying to dodge the human enemies.

The game also makes fights even more difficult when it goes into "cinematic" mode and rips the camera away from Alan Wake and instead starts circling around you when you use a flare, or following the shot of a flare gun. It's seemingly random when it decides to do this but it's never at a good time. The game also punishes you for trying to find hidden collectibles due to exhausting your run in a few seconds. One manuscript page I found was at the top of a mountain, requiring minutes of just running up an empty trail, picking up a single page, and then running all the way back down. By the last episode I was really just trying to push through as fast as possible to the end.

Playing this I can really see where Remedy polished their style and improved things while making Control. I still love their use of live action segments and hidden messages. I'm hoping Alan Wake 2 continues to improve the gameplay to better support the story they're trying to tell.
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Kaputnik 2024-01-01T18:17:06Z
2024-01-01T18:17:06Z
3.0
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Catalog

yetmoreusernames Alan Wake 2024-05-22T04:18:27Z
2024-05-22T04:18:27Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Awe
bewater Alan Wake 2024-05-20T14:12:56Z
2024-05-20T14:12:56Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Blorgang Alan Wake 2024-05-19T18:34:34Z
2024-05-19T18:34:34Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
LookItsAlex Alan Wake 2024-05-18T20:08:01Z
2024-05-18T20:08:01Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
bebe12345 Alan Wake 2024-05-15T12:31:46Z
Xbox 360 • XNA
2024-05-15T12:31:46Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Silly_Clown Alan Wake 2024-05-14T17:42:49Z
2024-05-14T17:42:49Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
yubay Alan Wake 2024-05-14T09:29:43Z
2024-05-14T09:29:43Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
FellowInternetTraveller Alan Wake 2024-05-13T10:13:49Z
PS5 / PS4
2024-05-13T10:13:49Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Nezbie Alan Wake 2024-05-12T22:40:47Z
2024-05-12T22:40:47Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Bubu66 Alan Wake 2024-05-12T04:16:14Z
2024-05-12T04:16:14Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
xalpi Alan Wake 2024-05-11T23:55:35Z
2024-05-11T23:55:35Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
bittahknight Alan Wake 2024-05-08T18:30:35Z
2024-05-08T18:30:35Z
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Content rating
ESRB: T
Player modes
Single-player
Media
1x DVD
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  • Previous comments (28) Loading...
  • TurboThot 2023-11-13 03:27:52.810109+00
    Forcing myself to get through this bc I do like the pulpy writing and am excited to play the sequel based on its reception but the actual core gameplay here is so atrocious it's unbelievable this is by the same studio that did Max Payne. Obviously 2 games with very different goals but even just walking around in this game feels awful, it's unreal
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  • LapnLook 2023-11-20 22:28:45.748191+00
    I genuinely don't understand why people say the gameplay in this is "awful" or "atrocious" or any other harsh adjective like that.

    Feels like i played a different game than everyone else here. It's a fun crowd control challenge. A different kind of TPS, where the focus is on positioning and movement, rather than the aiming itself - all of which is complemented by the generous auto-aim, the consistent weapon damage, and the various crowd-control mechanics (enemy stun on flashlight boost, area denial with the flares, rewards for grouping up enemies if you have a flaregun or flashbangs).

    The only issue gameplay-wise I'd argue is a level design one. The second half of Episode 3, and the entirety of Episode 6 drag on for waaaay too long, but that's not the combat system's fault.
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    • Jodas 2023-12-17 14:56:53.650508+00
      Turning your back on enemies equals death. Avoiding them feels clunky. Endless stunlock + lack of i-frames leads to many unnecessary deaths. I don't think the mechanics are bad per se, but combat design is atrocious IMHO.
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  • orhunbalkaya 2024-01-26 19:19:48.825654+00
    Gameplay is confused whether it wants to be a survival horror or an action game but because of this it's kind of unique. It gets boring towards the end but the story is really fun so I kept going.
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  • polifck 2024-02-19 20:24:05.255127+00
    I really wish the game was only the day-time sections or at least remove 75% of the "traversing the woods at night" parts, otherwise it is a nice game for David Lynch and Stephen King fans.
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  • KesiMiao 2024-03-13 00:52:07.455903+00
    I want my 4 hours wasted on this shit back ASAP. Fuck the movement, fuck the weapon reload, fuck this useless dodge mechanic, and fuck the way they swarm you with enemies which combined with all of the above make this the most miserable gameplay experience I've had the unpleasure of experiencing. I wanted to play Control only for the PS5 ver to not be in the Essential subscription. So I opted for this, and I think I have to postpone an attempt at Control for like a year at least.
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  • youarefuckingcrazy 2024-03-19 00:56:54.368763+00
    i cant tell if the writing sucks because alan wake is a hack writer and it was intentional or the writers themselves are just not good
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    • youarefuckingcrazy 2024-03-19 00:58:41.880709+00
      reminding me a lot of silent hill 2 but with significantly worse combat. i think more egregious than the poor gameplay is how badly it breaks the atmosphere
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  • Kevao 2024-04-11 16:54:30.188594+00
    john carpenter's alan wake
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