The 360 hit comes to PC, finally……

The Good: Excellent creepy survival horror; Looks awesome, and has great atmosphere; Gripping story with nice twists and turns; Good, yet simple, combat mechanics; Lots of little extras, such as collectibles, bonus chapters, and expanded story materialThe Bad: Not massively groundbreaking; a little short, and lacking in any major replayability; leeches some ideas from other classic titles
Gameplay: Gameplay - 9 out of 10 9
Graphics:   Graphics - 9 out of 10 9
Sound:      Sound - 10 out of 10 10
Overall:     Overall - 9 out of 10 9

Gold Y AwardGold Y Award

Alan Wake comes to PC, with Remedy finally fulfilling the ultimate broken promise: often delayed, repeatedly cancelled, a PC version of the Xbox classic that flew under the radar of so many. For those who bemoan the lack of quality survival horror titles, take heed: Alan Wake is amazing, and if you don’t get on and buy it, you’ll be missing what is possibly the best shock-fear title since Silent Hill 2.

Quick overview then (I’m being particularly brief on purpose here, as the fun is letting the tale tell itself): Alan Wake has a problem – he’s a celebrity author with epic writers block, and he’s getting depressed about it. His wife, Alice, takes him on a holiday to an idyllic town in remote Washington, hoping to not only kickstart his writing, but spend some quality time together in a peaceful cabin,. However, the town hides a secret that comes to haunt Alan, threatening his wife and leaving him with gaps in his memory. And if that wasn’t enough, he keeps finding pages from a book he doesn’t remember writing, predicting his fate…..

So, in short, its a thoroughly modern classic: great story marries up with inventive gameplay to create something quite special, with Alan fighting forces of darkness – not Justin Hawkins, but a malevolent dark shadow with turns everything it touches into an insane evil. Luckily, it hates light, and combat revolves around torches, flares and flashbangs helping Alan dispel the shades before simply blowing things away with a gun. The weapons aren’t varied, but the fun to be had with them is: the game mixes up enemy types and attack patterns in a way that keeps the gameplay fresh throughout the main twelve hours of campaign.

The visuals are worth a shout too: everything centres around the town of Bright Falls and it’s surrounding countryside, and is generally a lot of broken down towns, sweeping mountains and lakes, and the ever present woods, usually hiding treasures in abandoned lodges and ranger huts. You’ll certainly get the most out of it by exploring, as a lot of the filler is hidden in radios, TVs and nooks and crannies: the quirky tales of “Night Springs” on the TVs, for example, offer some great short Twilight Zone-style takes, and there’s some great nods to the seminal Twin Peaks as well. It’s really good stuff indeed.

Also, the sound is immense: not only is the voice acting perfect for the tone of the game, the sound effects are the first truly creepy noises in some time, adding some real depth to the experience. Pop on your headphones and crank it up, cos you’ll also get the benefits of the fabulous soundtrack too.

Adding to the “TV horror serial” sensibility is the fact the game is broken up into chapters: each one ends on a cliffhanger, running a closing track (with no subtitles, weirdly), before launching into the next episode with a recap and tole shot. It works, too, adding more flavour to the perception of a serial show with all the quirks and jinks associated.

Also, as an added extra, the PC version features two episodes of DLC, previously sold separately on XBLA; despite their relative brevity and good atmosphere, both are a mere sideshow to the main story, instead operating at a tangent to the main tales closing ideas. It’s a nice extra, sure, but doesn’t really do much to the meat of the adventure. So, where are the problems, then? Well, overall it’s a little short: I’d definitely advise hunting out all the little secrets and extras in each level, but even with this you are talking around twelve hours of game play with limited replay. There’s no multiplayer, no real extras (apart from a few extra hidden pages in the single player Nightmare mode), and aside from lots of “hunt the treasure” odds and ends such as coffee flasks, there’s not really enough to bring you back regularly. It’s also a little generic, although that’s really a genre issue, not specific to Alan Wake solely.

But, in the same way I watch Twin Peaks nearly every year, I know I will go back; the quirks and intrigues of this title are a rarity nowadays, with small hints and nods to all kinds of pop culture (there’s even some in-jokes hidden in QR codes within the game itself), and a great atmosphere lacking in so many cookie-cutter titles of recent years. Wake as a character is brilliant, with his own hidden demons and problems, and the tale does a great job of catching you out with red herrings and truly unexpected plot twists.

So, horror fans, I leave you with this: buy this game. You’ll love it, and it will hopefully encourage more of the same quality on offer here. Sure, it’s a bit lacking in a long life, but it’s the nature of the genre – what I can promise is that you won’t forget it for some time……

Written by Dave Snell | Alan Wake