submit to reddit
Pin it

Alan Wake box art

  • Graphics: 92
    Character models are underimpressive, but the enironments are some of the most realistic and awe-inspiring locations in any game that I've ever played.
  • Gameplay: 82
    Some camera issues occasionally make the fast-paced, frantic, and otherwise fun combat more frustrating than it needs to be.
  • Production: 88
    Story is not terribly original, but it is well-executed, and the game shows a great deal of polish.
  • Sound: 90
    Excellent licensed and original soundtrack and great voice acting.
  • Value: 22
    Game is fairly short, with little replay value. DLC is not particularly good, either.
  • Overall Score: 75

The long wait

Years ago, when the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 were brand-spanking new, I was debating about whether I should get a 360 or stick with Sony and get a PS3. I had a lot of built-up loyalty to the PlayStation and the game franchises that had been exclusive to that console: Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Ace Combat, Devil May Cry, Grand Theft Auto, God of War, Gran Turismo, and so on. But as time went one, more and more of these game franchises jumped to being multi-platform, chipping away at my justification for saving up for a PS3 instead of the cheaper 360. But when it all came down to it, I knew I would still be able to get all those games on the PS3, and there would still be a few of them that would remain exclusives (Metal Gear Solid ended up being the only one on the list that stayed exclusive and is worth a damn any more). But there wasn’t anything on the 360 that specifically jumped out at me. I kind of wanted Ace Combat 6 and Forza, and Star Trek Legacy looked interesting. But neither one wowed me enough to buy a whole console. I wasn’t into Halo or Gears of War, or Fable, so none of the big-name Xbox exclusives really pushed me over the top.

But there was one game that kept the thought of purchasing an Xbox 360 at the back of my mind. That game was Alan Wake. I tracked it on the internet for years, waiting for its release. Its gorgeous, scenic visuals and promise of a psychological horror story set in a small, mountain town had me captivated. But the game kept getting delayed. The fact that it was supposed to be on PC, and the lack of a firm release date, eventually caused me to give up on purchasing an Xbox. Eventually, the game was released to critical acclaim, but I missed it, since I was waiting for the PC port that eventually got canceled.

Well, I recently bought an Xbox 360 for my sister’s birthday, and one of the things I picked up for it was Alan Wake. I finally got a chance to play this game that I’ve been wanting to play for over four years.

So is it worth the wait?

The basic setup for the game is that a writer named Alan Wake goes on vacation with his wife at some small town in the mountains called Bright Falls to “get away from it all” and hopefully find some motivation to get over his recent writer’s block. Unbeknownst to him, his nyctophobic wife has arranged to have him checked into a psychiatrist’s clinic. He gets into an argument over this, and during the argument, some magical force grabs his wife and pulls her to the bottom of the lake outside their cabin. Wake passes out and wakes up in a crashed car on the side of the road to find pieces of a manuscript that he wrote scattered around the environment that are somehow capable of predicting the future. Apparently, a week had passed since his wife disappeared, and he wrote the manuscript during that time, but now can no longer remember it. The rest of the game has Wake exploring the town and surrounding area trying to fill in the missing week and figure out what happened to his wife by finding as many pieces of the manuscript as possible and dealing with the inhabitants of the town that have been possessed by some strange “darkness” that causes them to attack Wake on sight.

Alan Wake's scenery
Alan Wake provides breathtakingly scenic vistas.

Like a stroll through a real haunted forest

The idea of a main character with amnesia is nothing original, nor is the idea of a book that describes the future. What makes Alan Wake unique is its setting. The town of Bright Falls and the Northwest lakeside alpine mountains around it make for some of the most gorgeously scenic visuals in any game I’ve ever played. Much of the game is played in lush, forested areas in the mountains, along rivers and creeks, through a national park, and along roads that snake around a serene lake in the center of it all. The ground in the wilderness areas is covered in realistic underbrush and foliage, and the effect of trees and shrubs blowing in the wind is very immersive. Walking through the forest trails of this game feel more like walking through a real forest than a video game level. The game combines light, darkness, fog, and wind to create a setting that at one moment is the most peaceful place you could imagine, but at the next minute is a haunting forest of doom.

The town of Bright Falls is also a quaint little town that will doubtlessly remind a lot of player of the short-lived David Lynch series Twin Peaks. Particularly the diner. The place may look like Twin Peaks, but the townspeople don’t have the intrigue and soap opera quality of Twin Peaks’ colorful cast of characters.

Your peaceful strolls through the forest will often be interrupted by ghostly, pervasive fog and frequent attacks from enemies. Your enemies are townspeople who become possessed by a strange darkness that envelopes and protects them as a shield. In order to break the shield of darkness, you must shine light on them to weaken them enough for you to be able to harm and kill them with a firearm. This means that the game provides some interesting options for weapons. Flare guns, lampposts, searchlights, flashbang grenades, and car headlights can all be used to attack the enemies or protect yourself from their attacks (since they are afraid of the light). This provides the player with some opportunities to find fun and creative ways to injure or dispatch the enemies. The traditional guns in the game are all guns that have very low ammo counts, such as revolvers, shotguns, hunting rifles, etc. They usually only hold 2 to 12 rounds before needing to reload (which is done in real time). The low ammo capacity, combined with frequent ambushes and the enemies’ innate talent for hiding in the darkness makes most of the encounters in the game very frantic, frightening, and tense.

Alan Wake combat
Alan Wake's combat consists mostly of shining flashlights at bad guys, then shooting them with a revolver or shotgun

But the combat mechanics are also not perfect. The idea of using a flashlight to weaken an enemy may seem original and unique at first, but once you get used to it, it really isn’t any different than any other game in which enemies have some kind of shield or force field that you must disable before being able to defeat the enemy. I was also frequently irritated by the placement of the dodge button on the left bumper. I usually hold the triggers with my index finger, so the dodge button’s placement on the bumper made it very difficult and uncomfortable for me to use it. And the dodge is used constantly in battles. Enemies are fast and hard-hitting, and if your dodge-reflexes aren’t fast enough, you’ll end up restarting from a lot of checkpoints.

The combat is tough, but it is not overly so. I was able to get past a majority of conflicts without dying, and the times I did have trouble usually did not take more than one or two retries for me to pass them. The possessed birds and telekinetic debris towards the end of the game did give me some more frustrating moments though. But despite its problems, the combat manages to do an excellent job of striking a balance between fun, fright, and challenge.

The thick foliage looks nice, but its not always practical

The biggest problem with playing the game comes more from the camera. Remedy did not bother to include transparency for objects that come in between Wake and the camera. So the realistically cluttered bushes, trees, logs, and other foliage and underbrush in the game’s environments will often times obscure your visibility of Wake or the enemies around him. There is also no “look behind” camera that I was aware of. This makes running away from the enemies (something that you may end up doing more often than you’d like) a lot harder than it needed to be. It rarely got me killed, but I took a lot of damage while trying to get far enough away from the action to be able to reload my gun or reaffirm my bearings.

Alan Wake foliage
The thick foliage and underbrush at ground level can sometimes block visibility and interfere with combat

There are also a lot of times when the game goes into slow motion, and the camera pans around the environment to show upcoming ambushes or challenges. This is nice the first few times it happens, but after a while it starts to get irritating. It takes a lot of the suspense and anxiety away from the game when it reveals an upcoming ambush to you before it happens. But it doesn’t happen all the time, so there are also plenty of occasions when I felt perfectly safe walking along the path, and then I suddenly get an axe to the face with no warning. It creates an awkward unevenness in the game’s atmosphere and pacing.

Fortunately, the progress of the story is very well paced. Levels are fairly linear and there actually is a wide variety of environments and locations to spice up the visuals a bit. The game is broken up into chapters, each of which has its own licensed music that plays during the break, and each has a recap to catch you up on what happened when you left off. This makes the game satisfactory for short game sessions that last two hours or less, or for longer sessions. There are also occasional driving segments that work fairly well and benefit the game, as they break up any monotony they may have built up from the repetitive combat. Sadly though, the nifty chapter recaps are utterly unnecessary, since

  • a.) There's no opportunity to save and quit in between chapters, so you just start the next one whether you wanted to or not, and
  • b.) once I started the game, I didn’t want to put it down.

In an attempt to add some replayability to the game, Remedy added some collectibles. As you explore the areas of the game, you'll come across four types of collectibles. The first type is the manuscript pages that will provide you with hints or warnings of what is to come, or solutions to some puzzles that you may encounter. Some pages are only present in the Nightmare difficulty, which means you'll have to replay the game in order to find them and obtain the entire manuscript.

The second type of collectible is isn't really a collectible, but is just ammo and supply caches that have been hidden in many areas and marked to special paint that only shows up when illuminated with the flashlight.

Both of the above collectibles are useful (and logical) within the context of the game, as they provide Wake with assistance in progressing. But the third type of collectible is coffee thermoses - dozens of them are scattered throughout the game locations - which do absolutely nothing in the game. These coffee thermoses can often be hard to find, but serve as nothing more than "achievement bait", as finding certain threshold numbers of them unlocks some Xbox Live achievements, but provides no in-game utility that I'm aware of. They don't increase Wake's health or stamina, unlock special paths through levels, unlock alternate weapons or costumes. They do nothing at all. Achievements are nice and all, but if you're going to include something like that in the game, at least make it worthwhile to find; otherwise, it feels like a waste of the player's time.

The fourth and final type of collectible isn't really a collectible, and it also has no impact on the actual game, but is far more interesting than coffee thermoses. Every so often, you'll come across TVs which you can turn on in order to watch an episode of a fictional TV series called "Night Springs". Each episode is a short (two minute or so) Twilight Zone-like story complete with narration. It's a fun little addition that adds some personality to the game, and can give the player (and main character) a few minutes to unwind and relax in between getting ambushed by zombie lumberjacks.

Alan Wake coffee thermoses
Yes, we get it. He's a writer. He really likes coffee. And yes, we understand that you were heavily influenced by Twin Peaks, and all the characters in that show really loved coffee. But could you have made it more than just "achievement bait"?

Yes, it was worth it

I was somewhat disappointed that the game did not include any kind of open-ended sandbox segments that allowed the player to explore and investigate occurrences in the town of Bright Falls and the surrounding areas or get to know more of its citizens. But I can’t really complain because the game has a very controlled a well-defined narrative, and casual, open-ended exploration would not have fit very well with the tense and objective-oriented gameplay that the game focuses on.

Given the years of build-up and anticipation for the game, I was expecting a bit more considering how long it spent in development. However, in the end, Alan Wake proved to be a well-polished and thoroughly enjoyable experience that I would recommend to just about anybody.

Tags:, , , , , , , , , ,

Other Game Reviews I've Published

>Observer_>Observer_12 Minutes12 Minutes
35mm35mmAce Combat 7Ace Combat 7
ADR1FTADR1FTAlan WakeAlan Wake
Alan Wake 2Alan Wake 2Alien: IsolationAlien: Isolation
Alone In The DarkAlone In The DarkAmnesia: a Machine for PigsAmnesia: a Machine for Pigs
Amnesia: RebirthAmnesia: RebirthAmnesia: The BunkerAmnesia: The Bunker
Amnesia: the Dark DescentAmnesia: the Dark DescentAmong the SleepAmong the Sleep
Assassin's Creed IIIAssassin's Creed IIIAssassin's Creed IV: Black FlagAssassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Assassin's Creed: OriginsAssassin's Creed: OriginsAssassin's Creed: ValhallaAssassin's Creed: Valhalla
Atomic SocietyAtomic SocietyAxis Football 18Axis Football 18
Axis Football 2019Axis Football 2019Axis Football 2020Axis Football 2020
Axis Football 2021Axis Football 2021Axis Football 2023Axis Football 2023
Axis Football 2024Axis Football 2024Back to the Future Episode OneBack to the Future Episode One
Backbreaker FootballBackbreaker FootballBanishedBanished
Batman: Arkham CityBatman: Arkham CityBattlefield 1Battlefield 1
Blair WitchBlair WitchBloodborneBloodborne
Bloodborne: the Old HuntersBloodborne: the Old HuntersCall of Duty World War IICall of Duty World War II
CatherineCatherineCities SkylinesCities Skylines
Cities Skylines IICities Skylines IICities Skylines: After DarkCities Skylines: After Dark
Cities Skylines: AirportsCities Skylines: AirportsCities Skylines: CampusCities Skylines: Campus
Cities Skylines: Financial Districts + World TourCities Skylines: Financial Districts + World TourCities Skylines: Green CitiesCities Skylines: Green Cities
Cities Skylines: Hotels & RetreatsCities Skylines: Hotels & RetreatsCities Skylines: IndustriesCities Skylines: Industries
Cities Skylines: Mass TransitCities Skylines: Mass TransitCities Skylines: Natural DisastersCities Skylines: Natural Disasters
Cities Skylines: ParklifeCities Skylines: ParklifeCities Skylines: Plazas & PromenadesCities Skylines: Plazas & Promenades
Cities Skylines: SnowfallCities Skylines: SnowfallCities Skylines: Sunset HarborCities Skylines: Sunset Harbor
Cities: Skylines: Match Day & ver. 1.4Cities: Skylines: Match Day & ver. 1.4CitiesXL & Cities XXLCitiesXL & Cities XXL
ControlControlCrusader Kings IIICrusader Kings III
Dark SoulsDark SoulsDark Souls Artorias of the Abyss DLCDark Souls Artorias of the Abyss DLC
Dark Souls IIDark Souls IIDark Souls II: Scholar of the First SinDark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
Dark Souls IIIDark Souls IIIDark Souls III: Ashes of AriandelDark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel
Dark Souls III: the Ringed CityDark Souls III: the Ringed CityDarker SkiesDarker Skies
Dawn of ManDawn of ManDead Space (2023)Dead Space (2023)
Dead Space 2Dead Space 2Death StrandingDeath Stranding
Death's GambitDeath's GambitDeliver Us The MoonDeliver Us The Moon
Demon's SoulsDemon's SoulsDemon's Souls (PS5)Demon's Souls (PS5)
Devil May Cry 5Devil May Cry 5Disco ElysiumDisco Elysium
DmC (Devil May Cry)DmC (Devil May Cry)DOOM (2016)DOOM (2016)
DreadOutDreadOutElden RingElden Ring
Endling: Extinction Is ForeverEndling: Extinction Is ForeverEvent [0]Event [0]
F.T.L. (Faster Than Light)F.T.L. (Faster Than Light)Fallout 4Fallout 4
Fallout ShelterFallout ShelterFar Cry PrimalFar Cry Primal
Final Fantasy VII RemakeFinal Fantasy VII RemakeFinal Fantasy XIIIFinal Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XVFinal Fantasy XVFirewatchFirewatch
Five Nights at Freddy'sFive Nights at Freddy'sGame of Thrones (Telltale series 1-2)Game of Thrones (Telltale series 1-2)
Ghost of TsushimaGhost of TsushimaGod of War (2018)God of War (2018)
God of War IIIGod of War IIIGone HomeGone Home
Gran Turismo 7Gran Turismo 7Grand Theft Auto VGrand Theft Auto V
Green Hell VRGreen Hell VRHell Let LooseHell Let Loose
Hellblade: Senua's SacrificeHellblade: Senua's SacrificeHer StoryHer Story
HumankindHumankindImagine EarthImagine Earth
Kayak VR MirageKayak VR MirageKingdom Come: DeliveranceKingdom Come: Deliverance
L.A. NoireL.A. NoireLayers Of Fear 2Layers Of Fear 2
Legend BowlLegend BowlLetters To A Friend: FarewellLetters To A Friend: Farewell
Lifeless PlanetLifeless PlanetLollipop ChainsawLollipop Chainsaw
Mad MaxMad MaxMadden NFL 11Madden NFL 11
Madden NFL 12Madden NFL 12Madden NFL 13Madden NFL 13
Madden NFL 15Madden NFL 15Madden NFL 16Madden NFL 16
Madden NFL 17Madden NFL 17Madden NFL 18Madden NFL 18
Madden NFL 19Madden NFL 19Madden NFL 20Madden NFL 20
Madden NFL 21Madden NFL 21Madden NFL 22Madden NFL 22
Madden NFL 23Madden NFL 23Madden NFL 24Madden NFL 24
MADiSONMADiSONMars Rover LandingMars Rover Landing
Marvel's Spider-ManMarvel's Spider-ManMarvel's Spider-Man 2Marvel's Spider-Man 2
Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles MoralesMarvel's Spider-Man: Miles MoralesMaster of Orion: Conquer the StarsMaster of Orion: Conquer the Stars
Maximum Football 2018Maximum Football 2018Maximum Football 2019Maximum Football 2019
Maximum Football2020Maximum Football2020Metal Gear Solid V: the Phantom PainMetal Gear Solid V: the Phantom Pain
MiasmataMiasmataMiddle-Earth: Shadow of MordorMiddle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Middle-Earth: Shadow of WarMiddle-Earth: Shadow of WarMonster Hunter: WorldMonster Hunter: World
Moons of MadnessMoons of MadnessNCAA Football 11NCAA Football 11
NCAA Football 12NCAA Football 12NCAA Football 13NCAA Football 13
NFL Pro EraNFL Pro EraNiohNioh
No Man's SkyNo Man's SkyObservationObservation
Outer WildsOuter WildsOuter Wilds: Echoes of the EyeOuter Wilds: Echoes of the Eye
OutlastOutlastPacific DrivePacific Drive
Papers, PleasePapers, PleasePortal 2Portal 2
Project Wingman: Frontline-59Project Wingman: Frontline-59Propagation: Paradise HotelPropagation: Paradise Hotel
Red Dead RedemptionRed Dead RedemptionRed Dead Redemption IIRed Dead Redemption II
Resident Evil 2Resident Evil 2Resident Evil 3Resident Evil 3
Resident Evil RemasteredResident Evil RemasteredResident Evil VII: BiohazardResident Evil VII: Biohazard
Resident Evil VIII VillageResident Evil VIII VillageReturn of the Obra DinnReturn of the Obra Dinn
Rock Band 3Rock Band 3Room 404Room 404
Sekiro: Shadows Die TwiceSekiro: Shadows Die TwiceSettlement SurvivalSettlement Survival
Shadow of the Colossus (2018)Shadow of the Colossus (2018)Sid Meier's Civilization VSid Meier's Civilization V
Sid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New WorldSid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New WorldSid Meier's Civilization V: Gods & KingsSid Meier's Civilization V: Gods & Kings
Sid Meier's Civilization VISid Meier's Civilization VISid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering StormSid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm
Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and FallSid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and FallSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond EarthSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising TideSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising TideSilent Hill 4: the RoomSilent Hill 4: the Room
Silent Hill HD CollectionSilent Hill HD CollectionSilent Hill: Shattered MemoriesSilent Hill: Shattered Memories
Silent Hill: The Short MessageSilent Hill: The Short MessageSilicon DreamsSilicon Dreams
Sillent Hill DownpourSillent Hill DownpourSimCity (2013)SimCity (2013)
SimCity BuilditSimCity BuilditSomaSoma
Song of HorrorSong of HorrorSpider-Man: Edge of TimeSpider-Man: Edge of Time
Spider-Man: Shattered DimensionsSpider-Man: Shattered DimensionsStar Trek ResurgenceStar Trek Resurgence
Star Trek TrexelsStar Trek TrexelsStar Wars Battlefront IIStar Wars Battlefront II
Star Wars Jedi Fallen OrderStar Wars Jedi Fallen OrderStar Wars SquadronsStar Wars Squadrons
StellarisStellarisStellaris mod: New HorizonsStellaris mod: New Horizons
Still Wakes The DeepStill Wakes The DeepStranded DeepStranded Deep
The Amazing Spider-ManThe Amazing Spider-ManThe Amazing Spider-Man 2The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Callisto ProtocolThe Callisto ProtocolThe Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLCThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLCThe Evil WithinThe Evil Within
The Evil Within 2The Evil Within 2The Last GuardianThe Last Guardian
The Last of UsThe Last of UsThe Last of Us Part IIThe Last of Us Part II
The Outer WorldsThe Outer WorldsThe SaboteurThe Saboteur
The SwapperThe SwapperThe Twilight Zone VRThe Twilight Zone VR
The Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3: Wild HuntThe Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This War of MineThis War of MineThis War of Mine: the Little OnesThis War of Mine: the Little Ones
Tomb Raider (2013)Tomb Raider (2013)Total War: AttilaTotal War: Attila
Total War: Rome IITotal War: Rome IITotal War: Shogun 2Total War: Shogun 2
Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTotal War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTrineTrine
Tropico 5Tropico 5U-BoatU-Boat
Ultimate General: Civil WarUltimate General: Civil WarUncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionUncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Until DawnUntil DawnVirginiaVirginia
VisageVisageWhat Remains of Edith FinchWhat Remains of Edith Finch

Contribute Comment


We'll incarnate your avatar from the services below.
PlayStation Network Steam Xbox LIVE Facebook MySpace Pinterest Twitter YouTube deviantART LiveJournal

  • Comment
  • Preview

Grid Clock Widget
12      60
11      55
10      50
09      45
08      40
07      35
06      30
05      25
04      20
03      15
02      10
01      05
Grid Clock provided by trowaSoft.

A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

Check out my YouTube content at

Follow me on Twitter at:


If you enjoy my content, please consider Supporting me on Patreon:

FTC guidelines require me to disclose that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made by clicking on Amazon product links on this site. All Amazon Associate links are for products relevant to the given blog post, and are usually posted because I recommend the product.

Without Gravity

And check out my colleague, David Pax's novel Without Gravity on his website!

Featured Post

The Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season RecruitingThe Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season Recruiting08/01/2022 If you're a fan of college football video games, then I'm sure you're excited by the news from early 2021 that EA will be reviving its college football series. They will be doing so without the NCAA license, and under the new title, EA Sports College Football. I guess Bill Walsh wasn't available for licensing either? Expectations...

Random Post

The Lakeview Hotel and SH2's subtler, more personal OtherworldThe Lakeview Hotel and SH2's subtler, more personal Otherworld04/01/2015 Years ago, I wrote a post regarding the nature of Silent Hill's Otherworld and how it is most likely not a parallel dimension. In it, I may have made a significant mistake. Uh oh. Everybody makes mistakes, and I'm definitely not an exception. But no, I haven't changed my mind and conceded to parallel dimensions :P Specifically,...

Month List

Recent Comments

Comment RSS