So, I won a competition some ... time ago.
I won a very nice edition of Alan Wake. A nice big box with lots of stuff and all I needed was the code for STEAM and the box been collecting dust ever since. Tragic - but that's the way PC gaming is going these days.
Anyway - I had been against Alan Wake from the time they decided to go Xbox only - same as with HALO. Halo I finally played when I very late got an Xbox and I played it a bit and never really understood all the ruckus. Was I in for the same thing with Alan Wake?
Not really, there is something to Alan Wake that I liked. It is a serious shot at combining a compelling story with a game but usually that fails - and in sense so does Alan Wake.
First off - Alan Wake is a beautiful game. from the start when you are coming to town on the ferry you realize that you are in for a visual treat. The game starts with a theme and setting that I for one feel is ripped pretty much from Twin Peaks - and that is the first thing that I turn against. These fine ideas, this much thought and story - and it is not even a unique story, no it is not even that much far away from your Dean R Koontz or Stephen King. And while a game in that spirit is fine - for a game to be great - the game should stand apart more and be able to stand on its own two legs - especially when the story is supposedly the really big thing here.
Well, set that apart and we get into the madness and pretty quickly we have some sort of a past getting along with current events and mysterious people, dreams and shadows. This brings pretty much the gaming element to show its face. Unfortunately it is an ugly face IMO.
The controls aren't good, not horrid or flat out bad. They hardly pass OK and for a game that should be ported "with love" for the PC gaming audience - I take it more like a slap to the face. The controls make it pretty difficult to run straight ahead. The set camera from either left or right crookedly behind the shoulder view in 3rd person is awkward and makes the areas where running and not getting stuck on small things or make precise jumps everything but dangerous and thrilling - it makes it a gashing roaring angry sizzling - trying not to destroy your keyboard in frustration. And no - a controller doesn't make it better for me thank you very much.
The game element of having a flash-light to first weaken shadows and then shoot them is interesting. Would have been even more interesting should the upgrades of flash-lights feel like they did something of a difference even more interesting. The flash-light run out of batteries pretty quickly I found out when boosting the light and on easy (yeah because I switched cause the action part of the game became such an annoyance I wished to finish the game and see the end as quickly as possible)let you actually be almost as effective just turning your beam on enemies and dodging around a bit. Problem with dodging is that you get more disorientated then your foes that doesn't at all seem perplexed and as often as not didn't give a crap of your dodging and killed you anyway. So stay cool, aim from far and let them have it with the revolver. The shotgun feels like a false security since the developers most likely never have fired a shotgun for real in their life. The effective range made it feel like a squirt gun more or less. Shotguns are lethal for a far more than a measly 3 meters in your face..
The hunting rifle was decent, slow but once you had flash-lighted your foes in true X-files style it did the business at least.
Now, there aren't that many different opponents, and the ones that are becomes less and less frightening and more and more cumbersome the further into the game you get. After a few fights and running through the dark - I turned the difficulty down to easiest. The only way was the quickest to the end.
Now that the developers had done so much for us to lose the feeling in the game - their can't be much more to set the feeling off right? No WTF?
Coffee thermoses - what the hell? A more gaming induced thing like collecting stupid things like a thermos here and there. Oh and shot the canned pyramids to get another achievement. Achievements in a horror game where the continuation if a story should be the achievement itself is just - so many bad cuss words in a row and a slap with a big fat fish in the back of your heads as it could be. Whatever notion you had that this game could draw you in is over when you get achievement's for walking 5 meters, getting to the toilette in time and finding and turning on a flash light. Exaggerated - but not too far away from the truth.
Achievements in games is a big turn off for me and have always been. There are very few games where the achievements give you a sense of belonging in the game and I think that the over the top Bulletstorm was one that hit home since it was just so far over the top with everything..
Anyway, 10 hours later I had finished the game and had figured out the mechanics pretty much. In the beginning the light sensitive paint to cashes of ammo and supplies was good, then midway they turned into always an ambush. Guys - did you co-develop with some people from the Dragon Age 2 team?
The story ended, finally, and the ending wasn't really worth it. But that is very much a matter of opinion, but from all the praise I had heard from the game - I had expected more. All in all though - I did finish the game. That is a feat in itself but bare in mind that I have been at home with infections and inflammations for some time so I'm pretty bored and even a bad game can yield some hours away from misery so maybe not such a big feat in the end.
Still, my biggest thank you to the guys at SI - without you I wouldn't have trued the game at all. Now I would say that the total experience for me is something like 4-5 out of ten - and its a straight scale where 1 is worse then shit and 10 is more or less never reached and not like Metacritic where OK starts at 85...
It is an OK game, will definitely sit better with people perhaps either die hard King and Koontz fans or total newbies to the genre, that may find this stories fresh. I fall in the middle where I like Koontz and think that King has written a few good enough books and the theme is well used IMO.