Published on February 21st, 2012 | by Charlie


Review: Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (XBLA)

Review: Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (XBLA) Charlie

Summary: Charlie takes a look at Alan Wake's American Nightmare (XBLA), is it any good? read the review to find out!


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Some of you know me as probably one of the biggest fans of Alan Wake (like Rose in the first game, except I have no shrine of him), so hearing about American Nightmare certainly gave myself and other fans hope that Alan Wake is still a game people want to play, hopefully meaning more content. Remedy have said that American Nightmare is a game for the fans, but is also a game that really anybody could pick up and play. In a way, I slightly disagree, despite American Nightmare being a game Alan Wake fans need to play. If you’ve yet to play the first game, you might not want to read any further as this game does continue on from the ending of the first game in it’s own way. The first Alan Wake game took the “Stephen King”/”Lost” combination, while American Nightmare takes the “From Dusk Till Dawn”/”Pulp Fiction” combination. Two years has passed since Alan became trapped in the dark place and since saved his wife, Alice. Earlier on in his career, he wrote an episode of an in-game TV series, Night Springs. What he doesn’t realize is that he’s inside one of the episodes he wrote. If you’ve watched the Night Springs episodes in the first game, the plot of this game is similar to that of “The Man in the Mirror”. Whilst Alan is the “Champion of Light”, Mr Scratch (an urban legend come true) is the “Herald of Darkness”. Alan is trying to find a way to stop Mr Scratch before he enters the real world and hurts/torments the people Alan knows, including Alice. Whats more is that Alan’s caught in Mr Scratch’s trap; he’s caught in a time loop, reliving the same events. Alan’s objective is to fix his mistakes and hopefully stop time from looping again, for himself, and the characters caught inside the time loop too. It’s a complex story, and to be honest, I had a hard time understanding it at first, and I know many other fans will too. For a game that Remedy claim can be a game anybody can pick up, I don’t think that’s entirely true, as somebody who is not an Alan Wake fan will be baffled about what’s going on in the story. I’d say play the original Alan Wake first (maybe the two DLC’s too) and then pick up American Nightmare… for the story side that is. Another problem with the story is that it’s hard to understand “why” Mr Scratch is who he is in this game and why he is doing what he is doing. As for the gameplay side, then yes, anybody can pick it up. Following from the first game, it follows the same format of combat. You point your light at the enemies to burn away the darkness before you unleash a rain of bullets onto them. Remedy have put some work into this game, bringing new weapons, and new types of “Taken” to battle. Such new Taken are that of “Splitters” who will split into two if you boost your flashlight onto them (but there’s actually no darkness to burn away here). There are also “Birdmen” who can turn into birds and then back into a humanoid Taken; a sad thing about Birdmen is that you can’t kill them when they are in bird form, and personally, I liked killing birds in the first game. You might also remember that the first game felt so dark that you were sometimes afraid to enter areas with high fog. However in American Nightmare, you don’t get that feeling that Taken could jump out of no where, because most of the time, they didn’t, which was disappointing. New weapons include a nail gun, which by the way is outright fun to use, a crossbow, sub-machine gun and more. To unlock some of the high class weapons such as these, you need to find manuscript pages, which are littered all over the game. If you remember back in the first game, finding manuscript pages was not easy, as some would be littered in places where the fog was heavy, where Taken tend to lurk. In this game, you might either spot them in the distance, or spot them on your mini map, where they appear as a faded question mark; this made finding manuscripts a lot easier in the first game, and I actually found every one in my very first playthrough (that just shows how easy it is). I did feel, however, that showing you the locations of the manuscripts on your mini map took away the challenge. For fans of Alan Wake, manuscripts (along with TV screens of Mr Scratch and radio shows with a new host) help explain what happened to some of the characters you encountered in the first game, which I really do appreciate Remedy for doing as I was always curious to know what Barry would do without Alan, his best friend. Cut scenes and TV clips are also shown in live action, so yes, you could essentially say “wow. What realistic graphics” as a joke. Speaking of characters, there are some news ones; some more interesting than others. Whilst I won’t really mention any of the new ones (since there are very few), some of the new characters just don’t have the same chemistry as the characters in the first game. Whilst some of their back stories might be interesting, their chosen voice actors just don’t fit the bill too good. You remember Carly from Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and how many people said she couldn’t act that good? It’s like that. But as mentioned, some characters do actually return in this game. Whilst you might not see them physically, if you choose to read the manuscripts, watch the TV’s and especially listen to the radio shows, you’ll be able to hear their sweet sweet voices. Alan Wake on the Xbox 360 looked really good (up until the PC version that is). American Nightmare shares the same beauty as Alan Wake on the Xbox 360, except slightly better. The shadows that surround the Taken flow so much more fluently than in the first game, which actually look really nice. Here’s hoping that if a PC version of American Nightmare comes around, it’ll look just as good as Alan Wake PC… plus 1. Sound wise, there’s some good music in there as well as some great tunes by Poets of the Fall (Old Gods of Asgard songs are also performed by them, but the illusion is that the Old Gods of Asgard and Poets of the Fall are two completely different bands). There’s no songs that are as memorable as the first game however. You might remember that the first game was a single-path game. At first, Remedy introduced Alan Wake as an open world game, but they soon changed that. American Nightmare experiments with the idea of open world¬†where environments do change slightly and it was a good attempt; it has it’s good and bad sides. Some of the good sides are that every time you returned to the area, you felt like you knew your way around, giving you the freedom to explore wherever you please. A bad side is that it made the game slightly repetitive when you actually did return to these locations, despite the increase of difficulty in enemies as you played through the game. If Alan Wake 2 is made, it’d be a good idea if Remedy mixed single path gameplay with open world gameplay. A problem with open world is that instead of blocking your path with objects when you’ve lurked too far off the map, Remedy have simply placed an invisible wall to where you can’t go to, which I didn’t really appreciate. Finally we move onto a new feature added into the Alan Wake games; the Fight ‘Till Dawn mode. Essentially, you have to survive 10 minutes worth of enemies waves, where the difficulty increases with every wave, whilst trying to get as high of a score as possible. To get a high score, you have to increase your multiplier, which can be done by killing enemies or dodging attacks. There are a selection of 5 maps to play, with each map being unlocked depending on how many stars you have. It’s a great mode that I hoped Remedy would include at some point in Alan Wake, and thankfully they did. The 5 maps can be played in normal difficulty, and nightmare difficulty (that is if you have enough stars). Each map have their own look and feel to it, so you can’t complain about there being no variety. Whilst there’s no doubt people such as myself will spend hours and hours in this fun mode, there’s quite a lot of things Remedy could have done with this mode that they didn’t, such as custom settings where you could choose how long you want to fight waves for, or possibly a similar mode where you fight for as long as possible until you die. Here’s hoping Remedy might add such modes in their next iteration of the franchise (and while your add it, steal Epic Games’ beast mode. I’d love to play AS a Taken). American Nightmare slots very nicely in the Alan Wake universe. With gameplay one can understand easily, a pretty lengthy campaign and a new mode to play with, Remedy have done good; there are just those tiny flaws which just holds this game back. It’s not “as good” as the first game, but it is a good game. I’d of preferred it if Remedy went back to the same atmosphere as the first game though.

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About the Author

Some say I should be a video game journalist, others say a video game designer. Shame you can't be both.

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