Alan Wake’s American Nightmare Review
Close to five years from his disappearance, Alan Wake is welcomed back, and this time, in a Xbox360 Arcade title enveloped with doubts and good old fashioned American horror storytelling.
American Nightmare is not be confused as a sequel to the original but like a spinoff, involving the writer trapped in the infamous Night Springs TV-show-esque alternate reality and needs to write it again, until he gets it right. Now, we follow Wake somewhere in an American Southwest small-town, trying to defeat his evil alter-ego, Mr. Scratch, after he unleashed the Dark Presence in new psychopathic hosts. A hell of a (bad-written)nightmare if you ask me.
That’s basically the story in a nutshell, and there is no need to elaborate further on the subject, simply because that’s all you do. It’s kinda hard to get the gist of it at first, since there is a lack of coherence with the previous title and all at once, it’s a lot to take in.
The feel of the game is great and resonates with the mystery/horror genre in a way a lot of games miss out on. The setting is reminiscent of what 80’s horror movies’ pulp excelled in. The areas you get to explore are small but spot-on for the type of ambiance they were going for. Everything seems very natural and paints a perfect portrait of on you perceived the Night Springs TV show to be like in the first game. The first time you get to walk amid the grungy scenery is a thrill. Unfortunately, you only have three locations to explore and they’re not as big as you would hope for. For how the game goes, you realize after clearing all the three areas, you start all over again, re-falling on your footsteps as you need to re-write reality and you’re stuck in this time-loop. This aspect of the game is interesting at first but becomes tiresome around the ending, making the suspense a bit duller.
Walking around is the desert-looking settings, you get to find manuscripts, just like in the first instalment (but no more coffee thermos!) and the more you find, the more treasure chests you get to open, giving you a greater choice of weapons. The way the mini map is design this time around, it’ll save you a bunch of time instead of the running around in the forest’s edges until you find something glowy due to your obsessive compulsive behaviour you developed as a gamer. The indications are helpful and the cinematic involving the reading of the manuscripts is a bit more dynamic and more enjoyable to read, if it wasn’t for the corniness of the script.
The down-part of the story is the dialogues, hence being really stiff and awkward. Making it possible to continue conversations with characters to try and recreate a more personal connection, but most of the times, the dialogues are so bad that you don’t really wanna listen to what else they have to say. Due to the lack of story, the main mystery isn’t as fleshed out and intense as the first Alan Wake. However, throughout the game, you never feel over-powered and as you’re in constant danger, even if you’re re-visiting an area. The bad guys become increasingly hard to battle and balance out the redundant-aspect of the gameplay.
In terms of sound, I have to say I was expecting some mind-blowing tunes since the previous title made an excellent blend of indie/rock soundtrack and monster-deliverance. On that aspect, American Nightmare fell short. Voice acting is a bit off making it hard to convey any human emotions such as compassion for those poor bastards, but the likeable voice of Matthew Porretta for Alan Wake lifts up the atmosphere every time.
Graphically, the game looked sharp, except maybe the characters’ design, but again, this is a downloadable title. In these terms, the game is an accomplished experiment on the part Remedy Studios for attempting to flesh out a XBLA title just as well as a retail experience could be.
You’re looking into 4 to 5 hours of gameplay and for what it is, it felt just a bit too short (and for the record, I have nothing against short games). The story wasn’t expanded enough to match up its predecessor but, overall, you’re in for an enjoyable time for a classic story of good versus evil; light versus darkness.
Concept: Interestingly daring but fun, playing with a well-know character and defying his own world. But get slightly redundant the more you advance.
Visuals: Welcoming to the genre and quickly set the tone to the ambiance. Characters models are a little shaky and questionable though.
Gameplay: Camera angle is much better than the first Alan Wake, gives a closeness to the character. Very responsive controls and handles well the fast-paced action sequences. Reluctance on finding the story as charming as the previous installment.
Fun Factor: Oh, it’s fun all right.