In 2010, someone told me they heard about a game that might interest me: a game about a writer whose manuscript begins to come true. A few weeks later, I left the game store with a copy of Alan Wake.
Alan Wake’s genre is hard to pin down. It’s not quite horror, but it’s too slow and atmospheric to be dubbed a third-person shooter. Official marketing calls it a “psychological thriller,” so that’s what we’ll go with. More importantly, it’s a great game.
The story is exciting. Alan fights the forces of darkness to save his missing wife (and try to figure out what in the world is going on) while a manuscript he wrote but doesn’t remember writing come true. It has horror, mystery, and thriller elements, all woven together into a haunting adventure.
Gameplay is third-person shooting, but with some cool twists. The enemies are “the Taken,” under the power of the Dark Presence, and darkness shields them. Therefore, you need to focus your flashlight on enemies until the darkness breaks, and only then can you shoot them. Light also serves as safe havens, since the Taken can’t draw near. It’s not always a guarantee, though. My heart pounded whenever I raced toward a streetlamp only for it to flicker and die. Alan isn’t a powerhouse. Sometimes, you need to just run.
As you explore and progress through areas, you’ll find scattered pages from Alan’s manuscript. These often reveal story details, but occasionally play with foreshadowing, as well. For example, I’ll never forget the dread I felt when he heard the chainsaw. I did not want to continue on, knowing a chainsaw-wielding enemy waited up ahead, but I had no choice.
The game also has some really cool moments. The band Poets of the Fall provided music as the in-game band Old Gods of Asgard. Not only is their music good, but whenever it starts playing in Alan Wake, you can bet something epic will happen. The scene where “Children of the Elder God” plays (and I won’t spoil what it is) is still one of my favorite gaming moments just for how awesome it was.
Alan Wake is neither a survival game nor a fast-paced shooter, but if you want to try something in between a psychological thriller wit