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07.10 Got Game – Not Going. Wake Up, Alan…

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By Tom Hodgson

Four years in the making, Alan Wake finally receives the red carpet treatment on the Xbox 360. Since it was developed by Remedy Entertainment, makers of the famed Max Payne series, you already know you’re in good hands. Admittedly paying homage in many ways to Stephen King, Alan Wake plays on your psychological fears. If you weren’t afraid of the dark before playing this game, you will be afterwards.

The story takes place in the idyllic town of Bright Falls, WA, an unsuspecting retreat for Alan and his wife. Suffering from a severe case of writer’s block, Wake is searching for inspiration behind his next novel. No sooner do they arrive than his wife goes missing, as he starts to live out the pages of a manuscript he can’t remember writing.

The game plays through in episodic fashion, and is magnificently terrifying and expertly paced. It seems as soon as one leaf gets turned, another compelling situation presents itself, never leaving you with much down time in between character interactions and running like hell.

The environment is nothing short of breathtaking. It’s a lush and encompassing evil that’s as every bit as beautiful as it is deadly. Bright Falls is Shining-esque in every sense: it’s a living, breathing entity that consumes those who cross it. The Taken, the game’s enemies, emerge seething from the shadows at every turn, making for an extremely unsettling experience running through looming forests in dim moonlight, hoping to find your next generator or pack of Energizer batteries for your flashlight before you take an axe to the face. The Taken’s presence is ever-growing, and the further you traverse through the truth, the stronger they become and the weaker your flashlight seems.

The sharp contrasts between light and dark as good versus evil is a fresh and wholly believable approach to the horror genre and why Alan Wake is so infinitely successful. Call me a realist, but there is something that makes this game so much more frightening than Resident Evil when it plays on a premise as simple as your fear of the dark, providing you with flashlights and practical weapons that aren’t a far stretch from things kept in your closet.

The unnerving journey for answers that is Alan Wake had me captivated from beginning to end. Never has a horror/thriller game been so effective for me. The cheap thrills of zombies is a thing of the past, and like going from Goosebumps to The Shining, I’ll never look back.

Pros:
• Production values and presentation are superb
• Haunting audio cues and chilling sound effects complement a game already brimming with terror
• A masterpiece

Cons:
• Lip-syncing in cut scenes is abysmal
• It ends

Rating: 99%

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