[E3 2009] Preview: Alan Wake Impressions


A great story and a solid plot are the critical foundations for making a good novel great, a movie spectacular, and a TV show addictive. So why shouldn’t that be the same in a video game? As video game development progresses, we are seeing more action genre games receiving well-written scripts with intriguing characters and modernly crafted plots.

Alan Wake plays out like a modern mystery thriller TV series, starting each episode with a recap of past events, and ending with a cliffhanger in preparation for the next episode. It’s a game whose main focus is in creating an intense and addictive plot that brings cohesion to the combat, light and dark elements, and subtleties within the gameplay and environments.

At Microsoft’s E3 booth, we took a look at a behind-closed-doors demo, which continued from the trailer at the Microsoft press conference Monday. The demo presented by Remedy, the development team behind the game, showed an incredibly effective, creepy and mysterious mood set by the environment, characters, sound effects, and gameplay. The game uses light and darkness as critical gameplay elements similar to The Darkness, Chronicles of Riddick, and areas in Gears of War.

Set in Bright Falls, WA, situated in the Pacific Northwest forest, the setting is reminiscent of the TV show Twin Peaks, with its cast of small-town quirky characters.

Alan Wake is a best-selling author who has a case of writer’s block. His wife, Alice, suggests they take a vacation to Bright Falls, WA, deep into the woods, to get away from everything in hopes to stimulate some creative juices for a new novel. Soon after arriving, something unknown and supernatural happens and Alice disappears. Wake finds himself in a terrifying nightmare and discovers that his latest manuscript — which he doesn’t remember writing — is coming true in every way.

From what we saw, the game is coming together amazingly well. The game’s eerie mood draws from its subtle elements such as the game’s AI sensitivity to its surroundings, which seemed more refined and tuned than other adventure action games.

Wake meets up with his friend Barry Wheeler and tells him that he thinks his wife is has been kidnapped, so he is meeting up with Rusty from town to get pages of his manuscript. After the cut scene, the demoer turned on his flashlight and shined it towards Barry causing him to react in an allergic sneezing fit followed by a series of verbal complaints about mold and spores. Then when Wake heads to the door and turns off the light switch, Barry again reacts, and this time in fear.

Enemies in the game include local townsfolk possessed by a dark entity, invisible entities like poltergeist, and other shadowy characters that are all nearly invincible when they’re in dark areas.

Combat relies on the use of concentrated light like a flashlight, or a flare gun. To kill an enemy, Wake must first shine his flashlight on the entity which causes its skin to flake, shed and sizzle like a vampire in the sun. The light essentially softens the enemy rendering it vulnerable to gunfire, which causes some enemies to explode and others to just disintegrate.

Another option is to use a flare gun that shoots off widespread light to increase visibility in outdoor areas and can also be used to affect a large radius of enemies.

Alan Wake is definitely one to keep an eye on in the upcoming months, so come back to VGBlogger for more info down the line. Alan Wake is currently scheduled for release on Xbox 360 in Spring 2010. A PC version should also still be in the works, but right now the 360 version is the focus.

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