We got some hands-on time with Remedy’s new thriller at the Alan Wake Launch in Delhi yesterday. Best known as the developers of Max Payne, Remedy has certainly worked hard on this game, taking over five years to make it, a lot of which was spent on script writing. Said to be inspired by Twin Peaks, Stephen King, Twilight Zone, X-Files, and Lost, the game has been termed as a “psychological action thriller”, and has plenty of elements based on mystery, horror, and suspense. Made in a special episodic format that mirrors its inspirations, the game is designed to provide a cinematic and genre defining experience, and uses Remedy's proprietary MAX FX graphics.
The game looks great, placing a huge emphasis on lighting, both in the graphics and gameplay. Darkness is a major theme of the game, and protagonist’s bewildering journey to the truth is unfailingly accompanied by his flashlight.
The player slips into Alan Wake’s shoes, a best-selling crime novel author suffering from writer’s-block, who seeks inspiration in the small town of Bright Falls. Things take an ominous turn with the mysterious disappearance of his wife, and the game then descends into a roller-coaster suspense ride through the rugged but eerily beautiful landscape of the Pacific Northwest, with something supernatural, and definitely dark going on, and hordes of ‘Taken’ out to kill you.
Read on for our views on the graphics and gameplay of the game...
The graphics were good overall, with great lighting and environmental effects, and excellent geographical realism. However, some rough edges were visible, begging for some anti-aliasing, or, dare we say it, DX11 tessellation. The contrast of light and dark was everywhere, with Alan’s trusty flashlight blazing a way through dark places, and the light being nicely occluded where mist and smoke is evident. The atmosphere of the game, even during few daylight hours it has, somehow conveys a sense of foreboding, with the feeling that something ominous is happening somewhere in the world. Water effects are also excellent.
As for the gameplay, the lack of any radar or a decent HUD was certainly welcome, leading to some “thrilling” moments when enemies appeared out of the dark. Here too, the theme of darkness and light is seen, with Wake being able to temporarily “blind” his enemies in the night with his flashlight, and as you are shooting them, shards of light fly off them, until they are killed in another explosion of light. Enemies will also regain strength if allowed to go back into shadows. The puzzle elements were not too difficult, at least in the initial stages.
Alan Wake’s health regenerates quite fast (we were playing in normal mode), enough that you need not be too frantic with your trigger or worried when you are being shot at or axed, at least in the initial stages. Well-lit ‘safe zone’ areas are also present though, where Alan’s health will regenerate super fast. Also, Mr. Wake must be a smoker or suffer from asthma or something, as he can’t run for more than 10 seconds, severely slowing the player down across large distances, which have to be traversed regularly.
Read on to know more about the gameplay, and the price of the game...
The game, with its stunning scenery, begs for some open world action, however, those looking for it will be disappointed. The game is quite linear – not allowing Mr. Wake to do much else but explore the path provided him, and its surrounding areas. Few doors and gates can be opened, and the many that can’t do not show any ‘locked’ symbols, or the like, leaving the player to go this way and that till he finds the correct path, or door. The game's vehicles are fun to use though.
In the short while we played the game, we found the dialogues were well written and voice-acting was realistic, setting the tone of game as one of helplessness in the face of the supernatural and the writer’s (Wake’s) own disabilities.
On the controls side, we found an instinctive dislike for aiming via the right joystick, and itched for a mouse in our hands, even after discovering the semi-auto aim afforded by a half-pressed L-trigger. Unfortunately, the game is an exclusive Xbox360 release. Gears of War players will find it easy going though.
On the whole, we’re sure the game will make for some interesting playing, and its episodic format will keep the players hooked to the series for quite a while, with DLCs expected by the end of the year. It is priced at Rs. 2,399, and is available in retail stores across the country, and online, on www.microsoftstore.co.in.