On May 18th, 2010, Remedy’s long awaited game, Alan Wake, was released for the Xbox 360, and later was released for Windows as well. Now this game was not just highly anticipated, it was built up for almost 10 years, with little nods toward it here, an interview about it there, and usually when a game is a couple years into development and there still isn’t much news about it, *cough* DMC *cough cough* some fans begin to worry. But needless to say, Remedy delivered with this game, which garnered a 9.0 from IGN, an 8.5 from Game Informer, and an 8 from OXM.
Alan Wake game not only delivered a new and innovative way to play, but also a fresh new story line, one that you could’ve swore came from the Stephen King library. The game left fans hungry for more, and they received it, first with 2 patches of DLC: The Signal, and The Writer, both of which *SPOILER ALERT* explored more into Alan’s experience while trapped in the Dark Place.
But even those two were not enough. Remedy had a winner on their hands, and they knew it. Fans were in love, the forums were ablaze with discussion about this game, about where it would go next, and where Alan would go next. Even with all the discussion, all the waiting, I don’t think anyone was ready when the 2011 VGA’s rolled around.
Remedy could’ve taken the series anywhere, but the fact that they chose an arcade title instead of a full-fledged game not only shocked gamers and editors alike, it left murmurs in its wake (no pun intended) that Remedy might’ve dropped the ball. I will admit that I was a bit skeptical about it, with the developers stating that “If the first Alan Wake was 70% story and 30% action, American Nightmare will be 70% action and 30% story”. This worried me, because when I play games, I play them for the story, whether it’s an FPS like Halo, or an RPG like Skyrim or Fallout. I do agree that gameplay is an essential part to games, but I also am a firm believer that story is the bread and butter.
Even with all these rumors and speculation, I still stocked up on Microsoft points, and eagerly awaited the arrival of February 22nd. Now, the burning question is, was it worth the wait? Well, the short answer is yes. For the slightly longer and in depth answer, you’ll just have to keep reading!
Alan Wake’s American Nightmare was indeed a big step out on the ledge, but if we have learned anything from Indiana Jones, sometimes you just gotta take a leap from the lions jaw and hope you make a solid landing. Remedy, on both accounts, did just that. When this game touched down in the marketplace, I will admit, I was refreshing the game marketplace as quick as I could, and I stayed up all night once the download was done (work in the morning? Who has time for that? I’m the warrior of light!) I sat and played that game for 4 straight hours. Diving head first into the story and not coming up for breath until I was choking on the epicness that I found myself engulfed in.
I will say this, the gameplay hadn’t changed much from the original game, and that was good! The movement was still fast and fluid. Wake still moved like a human, getting tired after running too far, or not being able to run much after being hacked and slashed by The Taken. It felt real enough to keep me on the edge of my bed, blanket thrown around me, and my trusty mini flashlight close by just in case.
The addition of the heavy fire power was a welcome sight after learning of the new enemies that I would be facing. (More on that later) When Wake pulled a combat shotgun out of a case, I honestly couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The hunting rifle and shotgun in the first were believable, because Bright Falls was a known hunting area, but this just made no sense to me. But after I wallowed in this disbelief for a minute or so, I picked up my shotty, and proceeded to open up all kinds of hell upon any unlucky taken who happened upon me.
One thing that I had a problem with in the first one, which seemed to carry over to this one, was the fact that this everyday writer had the ability to go full out Rambo with any gun he came across. Now this could be because he “wrote” himself with the ability to do this, but it was never really touched upon. But small flaws like this are easily over looked when you see the Mona Lisa that is the big picture that Remedy managed to paint.
Now, like every new game, there has to be new aspects to it or fans can, and will, get bored. For an arcade title, American Nightmare delivered with the new “Fight til Dawn” feature. Basically a horde mode, you start with a set time, and as the timer winds down, your enemies become more and more numerous, forcing you to be quick and evasive. I can’t count the number of times I found myself running for my life, reloading my magnum, and turning just in time to have to dodge out of the way of a behemoth. This feature has kept me entertained to this day, and will continue to do so until I defeat all the nightmare levels!
No doubt, The Taken in the original Alan Wake was a pretty scary concept. Being alone in a forest, with nothing but you, a flashlight, and a seemingly endless horde of people engulfed in darkness would be enough to send most people howling to nut house. Add to this the ability for the darkness to go full on “poltergeist” made for one hairy situation.
Jumping into American Nightmare, I was pumped. I had been watching videos on YouTube and IGN about this game, and was eager to fight these new enemies. But when I started playing, I was a bit disappointed in how underwhelming they were. The bird men could’ve been done a lot better, instead of having the two splits land in front of you, I thought it would’ve been terrifying to have one land behind you and grab you as the other flock of birds flew right at you. Again, just things like this don’t really affect the big picture of the game, but at the time, it was a bit of a letdown. Now the Behemoth was everything I expected! A hulking, blubbering mass of 99% muscle, 1% brain. This thing wasn’t the fastest enemy, but if it got anywhere near you, and you weren’t aware, you can guarantee a quick KO for Mr. Wake.
My favorite out of all of the enemies though had to be the spiders. Personally, spiders scare the crap out of me, thanks to my dad showing me Arachnophobia at the age of 6, I haven’t been able to be in a room with a spider since (knowingly anyway). When I found the page describing the scurrying legs of the spiders, I felt my skin crawl and a shiver shoot up my back like lightning, instantly getting those phantom itches you get when you think there is something crawling on you. Remedy may have dropped a lot of the story aspect for this game, but the narration and storytelling, when it is around, is still by far the best of its time, uncontested by any other game.
Now the most important enemy in the game was one you never actually fought. Mr. Scratch. A shadowy, mirror image of Wake, all Mr. Scratch wants is to get into the real world, and continue to do what he does best: cause havoc in Alan’s life. Looking at the trailers of this game I had wondered how he would be portrayed. If he would stay on the TV’s found throughout the world, or eventually show himself in the gameplay. The answer was both, but never actually became a figure you would fight, more of a mocking voice in your head….who occasionally through trucks at you. Overall, the new enemies, bolstered by the new weapons, made the gameplay in this title a familiar, but oddly new experience, and that being a good thing in a sequel is a rare sight indeed.
While new enemies and new weapons are fine and dandy, Remedy once again shined the brightest in its story. While not as in depth as the original, American Nightmare still manages to take hold of you with its immersive dialogue and intriguing take on the story. Instead of just continuing on from chapter to chapter, Wake is forced to live out the same three scenarios over and over. This may sound dull and dumb, but trust me, it never loses interest.
With every new run through, new enemies are present, new dialogue becomes available because Wake now remembers more and more. As you watch the story slowly come together, you begin to understand what is happening, and by the final climatic run through, it gives you a unique sense of satisfaction to watch the last cutscene take place, and for the first time, enjoy the most beautiful sunrise you have ever laid eyes upon.
In conclusion, one has to ask themselves, is American Nightmare the game we were waiting for to continue the story of Mr. Wake? Or was it just another DLC postponing the real sequel and trying to buy Remedy some time? I would have to say a little bit of both. Yes this game was amazing, it continued the story, and had great gameplay, but it did lack the engulfing feeling you got from the story in the original. I feel that this game is a great stepping stone toward Alan Wake’s future, and despite the darkness that continues to circle him, Wake’s future looks quite bright indeed.