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Chris Kavan's Video Game Reviews (495)

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Persona 5 Royal 4.5/5
A Hat in Time 3.5/5
Sunset Overdrive 4/5
The Vagrant 4/5
Honkai: Star Rail 3.5/5
MechWarrior 5: Mercenar... 4/5
Rage 2 3.5/5
Alan Wake 4/5
Riverbond 3.5/5
Dead Island 2 3.5/5
Saints Row IV 3.5/5
The Last of Us Part II 4.5/5
Torchlight III 3/5
Wolfenstein II: The New... 4/5
Ghost of Tsushima 4.5/5
Battletoads (2020) 2/5
Danganronpa: Trigger Ha... 4/5
Override: Mech City Bra... 3/5
Maneater 3/5
Door Kickers: Action Sq... 4/5
Spider-Man (2018) 4.5/5
Red Dead Redemption 2 4.5/5
Boot Hill Heroes 3.5/5
Control 4/5
Victor Vran 3/5

Next 25

Alan Wake   PC (Steam) 

Darkness and Light Lead to Decent Frights    4/5 stars

As far as horror games go, Silent Hill has set the bar (for me) as the high water mark. Even though I've had this game on my radar for quite awhile, it took me a fair amount of time to get around to it. In fact, the first real experience I had with Alan Wake was the DLC in Control (another Remedy Entertainment game) and the two games look like they take place in the same shared universe. With a brand new Alan Wake on the way, I figured now was a good time to check the original out and while it's hard to get scared in my old (and jaded) age, I still found the game to be effective - very atmospheric and decently forgiving.

Looks and Stuff: For a game that came out way back in 2012, it holds up well. While it suffers from the blahs (that it mostly different shades of gray) in terms of color, for a game that is mostly about darkness, I guess that's to be expected. Still, it has a nice variety of locations - small town locale, lake, forest, mountains, mine, lodge, rock and roll farm house (yes, that is totally a very real location in game) - that it keeps things interesting. Likewise, while most of the enemies are slight variations on the same thing - farmers, hunters, loggers, etc., they manage to throw in some beefier guys, along with shadow-controlled objects that fly at you (and, in one fun battle, a nasty combine) and your typical flock of murderous ravens. As the game progresses, certain people you meet along the way (friend and foe) may fall to the shadows and turn into bosses to fight. Thus, the music and effects reflect the game - dark and sinister with plenty of "did I hear something behind me" around many a corner. For an older game, I also never suffered any bugs or game-breaking of any kind.

Story: Writer Alan Wake is suffering from major writer's block and, at the behest of his agent, Barry Wheeler, takes a much-needed vacation with his wife, Alice. This takes them to Bright Falls, Washington. Even before arriving, Wake has a nightmare about shadowy creatures and is told only light can stave off the encroaching darkness. At a local diner, Wake is given the keys to his cabin in the middle of Cauldron Lake, formed by a crater, where he learns his wife has contacted a local psychologist, Dr. Emil Hartman, to help him with his writer's block. Alan is incensed and storms out - but soon comes back when he hears Alice under attack. She is dragged into the depths of the lake and Alan dives in to save her - only to wake up in his crashed car with no memory of how he got there. Soon after, he has his first encounter with the "Taken" - humans who have fallen to the shadows - and discovers pages of manuscripts - pages his has written but has no memory of ever doing - seem to eerily predict future events. When he finally arrives at he police station, he finds out that the cabin that was once on Cauldron Lake has been gone for several decades - and that his story seems to parallel that of poet Thomas Zane. His agent, Barry, soon arrives in town, as does FBI agent Robert Nightingale. Dr. Emil Hartman also has his own plans for Wake - but soon he realized that everything seems to be tied to an entity known as The Dark Presence - and it is using Wake to try to escape - much like it did with Zane years earlier - and it is this connection that will present him with the only way to save his wife. The game is presented in episodic format - like a television series - with each ending on a cliffhanger. Funnily enough, as you go through the game you come across various televisions that let you watch short live-action segments of "Night Springs" a Twilight Zone-like series as well as a live-action version of Wake dealing with his situation (and getting more paranoid as the game goes on).

Gameplay: A third-person shooter where you do get guns (a pistol, shotgun and rifle) but where your main weapon is light - a flashlight, mostly, but you can also use flares and even flash grenades when you find them. As the game goes on, you can find better versions of your main weapons - flashlight and guns - though each chapter resets your progress, meaning you mostly just start with a basic flashlight/pistol each time. The game also has a mechanic where you need to use batteries (specifically Energizer) to refill your flashlight, along with ammo, of course. I found the levels were generous enough that you always seemed to have just enough to get you through the tougher levels and plenty left over on the easier ones.

Fighting mostly entails shining a light on the Taken enemies until they are stunned - leaving them open to regular bullet damage. Certain enemies like the raven flocks or possessed items can only be stopped by the power of your flashlight. Safe zones are marked by overhead lights or bright rooms - if you happen to get damaged, standing in light will heal you. Your flashlight can also reveal some hidden clues that will point you to valuable caches usually filled with helpful items like flares, grenades or extra ammo. If you do happen to fall, the game's checkpoints are also fairly generous. Each chapter runs about an hour or so, and with seven chapters total, you can get through fairly quickly if you choose. Still, the game provides some collectibles - manuscript pages (the main ones are easy enough to find, but others you will have to hunt down) and coffee thermoses (which serve no purpose other than to collect them).

Replay value: You need to play on the hardest setting to find all the collectibles in the game - but otherwise that's about the only reason to return as the story doesn't change otherwise.

Final Verdict: An above-average horror game that weaves a fine tale.

Presentation: 4/5
Story: 4/5
Gameplay: 3.5/5
Replay: 3/5
Overall (not an average): 4/5



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