Published on February 19th, 2012 |
Review: Alan Wake (PC)
Since Alan Wake was released in the Xbox 360 on May 14th 2010 in the UK, it took exactly 1 year, 9 months and 2 days for the game to get back home where it belonged. When Alan Wake was first announced, it was originally going to be a PC game, and then was bashed around from platform to platform before ending up as an Xbox 360 exclusive… Yikes. Back in December however, Remedy announced they were bringing Alan Wake to the PC, and now PC gamers have had their dream come true. Here’s hoping they appreciate it enough, even if it did arrive a little late. Considering it’s price, I’d say PC gamers should be happy with what they get (note how I say SHOULD).
Unlike the Xbox 360 version, which at first just came with Alan Wake episodes 1-6 (plus a DLC code for an extra episode later on in the year), the PC version was packaged with all 8 episodes, from 1-6 including the two “special” episodes. Alan Wake is (or should it be said “was”?) a bestselling writer. But for two years, he has not been able to write anything due to “writers block”. He takes a vacation with his wife, Alice, who believe it or not, has a fear of the dark. Alan meets a strange woman who gives him keys and directions to the place where they’ll be staying. The place they stayed at seemed very nice; on a small island away from the town and it’s people (who are nice people too, but Alan’s not a people person). Later on in the night, Alice hopes that Alan could maybe start writing again now that he’s out in the peace and quiet, but this only angers him, and he storms out in a rage… this is where things go wrong for Alice. The lights go out in the cabin, leaving her in terror. Hearing her screams, Alan runs back to the house, only to find Alice gone where he presumes she fell in the lake. He jumps in after her, only to wake up behind the wheel of a crashed car. Now Alan’s main priority is to find Alice, and uncover the mystery of a manuscript he finds throughout the game which he apparently wrote, but doesn’t actually remember writing.
This is a story which has many twists and turns, with cliffhangers around every corner, as the game itself is set out like a TV series. The problem with the story is it’s ending, to which some people may be baffled about (Xbox 360 gamers were baffled at the time). The ending certainly leaves room for a lot more stories to be told in the Alan Wake universe, and no doubt both “special” episodes help to broaden around that ending, but only slightly. What I do personally love about the story is how it “borrows” concepts from other media, such as Lost, The X Files, Twin Peaks and the Twilight Zone. The characters in their game are compelling and interesting in their own ways. There’s Barry Wheeler, Alan’s agent and best friend who is a little stubborn, but is the “funny sort” of stubborn. There’s also Sarah Breaker, the Sheriff of Bright Falls who is rather cautious about who she trusts and believes. Agent Nightingale; a drunk FBI agent searching for Wake after he learns about these so called “pages” he knows that Alan wrote from background research. There’s even a character who acts like the log lady from “Twin Peaks”, known as Cynthia Weaver (nicknamed “The Lamp Lady”). The atmosphere of the game is dark, and although it might not be as scary as Dead Space or Amnesia, this game certainly has a few fair of scares, with ear piercing sounds and rustling in the bushes where the Taken (your enemies) come running out to attack.
The Taken are actual people taken over by the “Dark Presence”. They are protected by darkness, so just shooting them won’t do any good. Instead, you need to use Alan’s flashlight to burn away the darkness. Once you’ve done that, then you can damage them. It’s not all just a “point light and shoot” game, as you can use all kinds of items, including flash bangs, flares and sometimes even the environment. Other enemies include poltergeist objects, such as barrels, boxes and even vehicles, and birds which swoop down at you as if you were in the actual movie of “The Birds”. Weapons include pistols, shotguns, rifles and even a flare gun. One thing some people might complain about is how you might complete a section of a game, and in a cut scene, you might fall off a cliff and lose all the items you had. Whilst I understand where this comes from, the whole point of this is to add to the cinematic experience, where such moments like that will punch you in the face. Alan Wake is not like every other shooter where you will have a gun no matter where you are or what you do; Alan Wake is realistic… if that’s the term you would use in a game about a dark presence taking over the town of Bright Falls.
Summary: Charlie takes a look at Alan Wake (PC), is it any good? read the review to find out!
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Remedy and Nitro have added a fair few features into the PC version. The first is the upscale in graphics from the Xbox 360 version to the PC version is ridiculous (by ridiculous, I mean amazing). Comparing the Xbox 360 to the PC, the PC version makes the Xbox 360 version look like it was 480p instead of 720p. My hardware in my PC is pretty good, but running on high settings, I did notice a fair amount of screen tears here and there, but if you get as immersed as I do, you probably won’t even care about them. Key bindings have also been included, so now you can fully configure what button does what. An Xbox 360 controller can also be used, and you can even switch off the HUD for that full cinematic experience (not many games actually do that). Of course switching off the HUD means you can’t see how much ammo you have, how much health you have, or how much battery life you have, but I suppose that’s the whole point of turning it off. There are also things Remedy have managed to sneak into the game that don’t affect the game graphically, but are just for a little fun, including QR codes, one of which leads to the Alan Wake Facebook. Very sneaky.
One of the things Alan Wake has been known for is it’s sheer amount of collectables. There are 100 coffee thermoses to find, over 100 manuscript pages to collect, 12 can pyramids to shoot, 30 hidden chests to find, 11 radios to listen to, 14 TV’s to watch, and 25 signs to read… and that is not including the collectables in the DLC specials. Collecting all these items would take at least 15 hours to find, since you got to play the game again in Nightmare difficulty to find the manuscripts that can only be found in Nightmare mode. I would recommend doing this too, because the manuscripts do help build on the story. Whilst the game is at a great price, if you decided to just play the game without bothering on any of the collectables, you could probably complete every episode (including the specials) in around 10 hours. For a campaign only game, it might just be enough for the price it is, but some PC gamers might feel a little let down that the game didn’t have any extra features, like the “Fight ‘Till Dawn” mode which has been added in Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (an XBLA game). Don’t worry PC gamers, we felt the same on the Xbox 360 version.
A problem I had hoped Remedy would have fixed (but it seems like they didn’t) is the rather rough lip syncing animations in cut scenes. There are still times when words don’t fit the lip movements when a character talks, and it has always bugged me since the Xbox 360 version. It doesn’t happen all the time, but there are moments you wish Remedy could just go back and fix it. Another slight problem is the sound for headphone users; I am one of them. If I hadn’t had subtitles on, I probably wouldn’t have noticed, but there are some moments where you can’t actually hear what should be said. It only tends to happen to “back of the mind” moments, such as (very slight non-story related spoiler) in the dream sequence in Episode One where the TV is supposed to say “Die. Die. Die” You don’t hear that. There are other moments, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
If you want the best Alan Wake experience, the PC version is where it’s at with hugely upscaled graphics, custom key binding features, and even 3D to those who like to play their games in another dimension. Alan Wake on PC delivers the complete experience, and although there are a few problems which carried over to this version from the Xbox 360 version, they are forgivable. Alan Wake on PC is the perfect port. This is how you port a game.