Alan Wake has been at the epicenter of attention at Remedy Games and Microsoft Games Studios ever since it was announced. Heralded as another notable DirectX 10 game, Alan Wake describes the story of a critically acclaimed author Alan Wake and his tense and dark world that contributes to the atmosphere of this survival horror genre. While the game is primarily about mystery and looking for clues, the overall facilitation lies with exploration and horror. We were given yet another exclusive look at Microsoft’s Meeting Room this year at E3 2009 for a one on one look at Alan Wake after the Microsoft Conference E3 Stage Demo, the primary reason we held off writing impressions. We wanted to bring everyone the real thing, and here it is.
Open the scene to Alan Wake in a book store. Slowly and realistically, he moves a chair back and stands over the self-titled book created by him, imagining it finished. Outside, trees and a river can be heard as the landscape moves believably. Alan Wake and his wife, Alice, have decided to take a vacation to take a break from his writing of the supernatural book, according to the developers. His wife ends up being kidnapped at a time unknown to the players and it is up to Alan Wake to track her down by hunting down pages of his novel. Essentially, Alan Wake is one entirely interesting piece of work. Spoiler Alert: The interesting notion that Alan wake is a story in a story is not revealed according to Remedy until nearly the end of the game, when the players will have an “awe-inspiring” sense of déjà vu. Essentially, all the action sequences are taking place to the players’ unknown confusion either in a pseudo-reality: where dreams and reality intertwine on the border, where the beauty of the entire game comes into play.
A cutscene lends itself to Alan Wake consoling with Barry Wheeler about his wife’s disappearance. As a neurotic but interesting character in Bright Falls, he simply thinks Wake is crazy about assuming his wife is missing. Barry gives Wake information about Rusty, the local cop, saying he found some missing pages from Wake’s manuscript. Wake’s mission is to meet up with Rusty. The next scene is a very dark night near the cabin where the two were staying. Alan Wake seems to be having a bad dream and arises from the sounds of his wife, clearly in his own mind. “Alan…Save Me Alan,” can be heard which raises Goosebumps. He decides now is the time to head out to Rusty’s. The night atmosphere is tense and extremely eerie. Owls can be heard, and if the players do not move at all to hear their own footsteps, there is a level of cold dead in the night. Alan Wake slowly walks through the darkened forest, a flashlight in his left hand providing the only source of light. Inanimate objects suddenly spring to life in this forest and Alan has to start swinging at the boxes with his flashlight. The controls are interestingly inverted for Alan Wake. The right analog sticks control the actual player movement while the left analogs provide a steady support for the physical view of the head, an interesting concept that surprisingly works well to place players in the tension of always progressing forward and using their opposite writing hand to exaggerate a closeness to auxiliary view.
On the path down towards Rusty’s place, Wake comes across a page of his manuscript. A narration follows where Wake is shocked, “He screamed,’They’re here!’ and then he pulled the trigger.” And that’s when things get weird. The lights along the trail blow out and a scream is heard from Rusty’s place, followed by a bullet sound. Rusty is in serious trouble. Alan slowly lit his flashlight, when suddenly, a group of infected townsfolk surrounded him in a dead pan stare. The sparks from the light sends them to a screeching agony, and Wake is shocked.
The primary reason these things are here is because of one thing: Darkness. “A darkness grows in the world of bright falls,” says a Remedy rep. At least, that is what Alan Wake believes. His wife goes missing, taken by something or someone that wants the missing pages of Wake’s new manuscript. A large focus of the missions involves hunting down these pages, which foreshadow coming events. While there are many pages that you are required to find to progress the story, many more can be collected that add to the detail of the atmosphere. WhatIfGaming is a smart media site with an even smarter audience (considering most of our staff went to Ivy League’s) so we figured out quite quickly that this darkness is actually the key villain in Alan Wake’s supernatural novel, where the darkness infects the locals thereby providing a sense of irony in the whole fictional yet realistic realm of Wake. To kill these bad people, you must first expose them to the light which can be done either with your trusty flashlight, any other light-based weapon, or lights in the environment. Once exposed to the light, these enemies are vulnerable to physical attacks and can be defeated.
While this Alan Wake exclusive hands-on preview ended here, it was definitely worth the wait. Alan Wake presented a simply creepy environment while providing subtle details that will certainly relate much better once the full game is released. With the good 20-30 minutes we had with it, we can see that Remedy is clearly geared to making a game that is simply worthwhile and shows it at the same time too.