"Alan Wake, Meet Quentin Tarantino"
Some would say Alan Wake is a thrilling adventure. Others would say it's a page-turning enigma. And yet others just think it's utterly confusing. Like nightmares, the Alan Wake franchise can be interpreted in many ways, and no two people are likely to have the same experience. Alan Wake's American Nightmare has its share of problems, but unlike nightmares, we endorse tumbling down Alan Wake's deranged rabbit hole one more time.
First and foremost, the game is fun to play. The weapons feel great in Alan's hand, and the dodge mechanic is still a revelation. The Taken are formidable enemies in groups, and new enemy classes show promise for the evolution of the Darkness for the franchise. Scouring areas for manuscript pages is addicting, especially for story-driven players, and finding pages unlocks new weapons that add variety to gunplay in Story Mode and Arcade Mode of Alan Wake's American Nightmare.
Alan Wake is known for its story, and potentially even more so for its storytelling. In Alan Wake's American Nightmare, Wake is trapped inside an episode of a Night Springs (read: Twilight Zone) episode he wrote. Mr. Scratch, Alan's doppelganger, controls the world and Wake much like a puppet master dangles a marionette under his strings. Wake journeys to three locations: a rundown hotel, a astronomy observatory and a drive-in theatre. But, Wake fights against the Darkness to piece together an end-game scenario will hopefully send him home to his world... and his wife.
Unfortunately, it seems like Remedy took a shortcut in only creating three maps, as there are nine levels to play in Alan Wake's American Nightmare. Fortunately, second and third trips to maps are streamlined. I'm willing to give American Nightmare a pass here, though, as recycling maps fits somewhat with the story. After all, I‘ve had reoccurring nightmares, haven‘t you? But, the maps are pretty large, and instead of encouraging exploration, the majority of real estate is sadly left unused.
With frequent NPC spoon feeding, the delivery can be rough at times, but the cutscenes kick the experience to a new level. Tuning into the videos Mr. Scratch left for Wake and the radio broadcasts add juicy layers to the mix as well. And, or course, the ending has the flair and overall polish that lives up to the Alan Wake name. For anyone interested in the story, the manuscript pages scattered around Alan Wake's American Nightmare won‘t disappoint. The only letdown is that pages offer a few untimely spoilers. Nobody likes watching a movie with someone who's already seen the flick, and for good reason.
The Arcade Mode in Alan Wake's American Nightmare is similar to Gears of Wars' Horde Mode or Halo: Reach's Firefight. Waves of Taken chase after Wake. Armed with a trusty flashlight and whatever weapons he can scrounge while dodging relentless blows, Wake has to survive the night until the sunrise turns the Taken to dust. Though there are leader boards, there is no multiplayer, so it is not quite as deep as other options out there. But, this mode suits Alan Wake extremely well and we're hoping Remedy expands on this feature in future.
If you watch a scary movie, it stands to reason that watching a comedy afterwards is beneficial, if only to settle the nerves. Following this thought, Alan Wake's American Nightmare is the tongue-in-cheek follow-up to the sensory overload the original Alan Wake delivered. It's like the Twilight Zone had a baby with Evil Dead; it's not necessarily bad, but what is it, exactly? Enemies aren't as tough or fast, weapons and ammo are abundant, and the hero's health regenerates.
I've never heard of regenerating health in a nightmare, and some Alan Wake fans may cry foul, though the transformation of Alan Wake as a character may turn more fans into a mob of smoky, enraged Taken. Wake is a stronger, more resilient character now. Sure, characters need to grow. But, we miss the scared, out of shape writer who could barely hold a pistol straight. There are plenty of fearless heroes, but there's only one Alan Wake.
Like re-watching a horror flick you were scared of as a child, you might not be terrified like you once were, but you may find new reasons to enjoy the show. Alan Wake's American Nightmare, like Alan himself, floats somewhere between gutsy and wan, but there's no doubt that it's a top-notch downloadable title whether you've played the first game or are looking for something new. At first, it's hard to get past the fundamental changes in the experience. I especially missed the dangers of searching for hidden weapon caches. If this is your first attempt at an Alan Wake game, then all the better!
GameDynamo's Score for Alan Wake's American Nightmare (X360)
John loves gaming and loves writing about games. He wants to become a known voice in the gaming community and a game designer one day.
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