When you consider that the lead character in Alan Wake is a best-selling and internationally renowned author it’s unsurprising to learn that engaging storytelling is one of the game’s biggest assets. How does its narrative shape up? Read this part of our Alan Wake review to find out.
The game begins with Alan Wake and his wife Alice taking a much-needed vacation to the remote American town of Bright Falls. The couple’s marriage is under strain following the onset of Wake’s writer’s block. Although he is famous throughout the world for creating massively successful novels, our protagonist has been unable to put pen to paper in years.
True to form, the sleepy retreat of Bright Falls isn’t at all what it seems. Within moments of arriving Wake finds himself thrown into a confusing and chaotic chain of events which seem to be based around the manuscript for a book called Departure – a novel which he apparently has written without even knowing it.
Given Remedy Entertainment’s sterling reputation for high-quality storytelling you’d expect Alan Wake’s plot to be pretty amazing – and thankfully it doesn’t disappoint in this regard. It’s divided into episodic segments – all of which start and end as if they’re part of a TV series – and has more twists than a crate full of curly fries.
Naturally it would be remiss of us to spoil the story and reveal what happens as Alan Wake fights his way through the progressively hostile surroundings of Bright Falls but we can say this – keep an eye out for the discarded manuscript pages scattered throughout the game. They embellish Alan Wake’s tale and in many cases refer to events which have yet to take place. As a result, they offer an insight into what kind of obstacles you’re likely to encounter later on.
Alan Wake takes inspiration from several different sources, including TV shows like Lost, Twin Peaks and The Twilight Zone, as well as the writings of Stephen King, James Herbert and Dean Koonzt – and manages to wrap them all up in a convincing and thoroughly entertaining manner and atmosphere.
The only fly in the ointment is the occasionally stilted dialogue. Scenes in Alan Wake which are intended to have incredible dramatic effect are sometimes ruined by clumsy wording or unconvincing chatter between the key characters. Also, the main character’s narrative – which kicks in at certain points during play to offer examinations and clues – sometimes comes across as dull and monotone, sapping away some of the tension which makes Alan Wake so compelling.
The awkward facial animation, which Remedy is apparently looking to rectify via a downloadable patch, also makes some of the more powerful exchanges in Alan Wake look unintentionally amusing. Wake in particular grimaces through some earth-shattering scenes with the look of a man who’s had one too many curries and is in urgent need of a trip to the bathroom.
These problems are pretty insignificant when compared to what has been achieved in Alan Wake. Remedy has managed to create a mature and riveting storyline that both thrills and shocks in equal measure. In fact we’d even go as far as to say that if Alan Wake were in fact a proper TV production, it would be right up there with the likes of Lost and the other legendary shows that have provided so much inspiration for it.