Anyone thinking that this is just another survival horror game, would be mistaken. This is what I call a psychological thriller with a dose of the supernatural thrown in. It's NOT survival horror as you are not up against the shambling walking dead. Instead you face what are known as The Taken. but I am getting ahead of myself but felt that needed clearing up before we started.
Alan Wake is an author of Stephen King style horror thrillers, and a moderately successful one at that. However when he experiences writer's block (been there, done that) he finds he is unable to put pen to paper for two years and he is under pressure to produce another novel. His wife gets the idea that a vacation to a secluded location may well be the answer. She however, has an ulterior motive as she has secretly created a room for him to write in within the shack that is on a remote island. Alan is not too happy about this at first and after a row decides to go for a walk to clear his head. But then the generator gives out and as his wife has a phobia of the dark, he hurries out to the aforementioned generator to get it going.
Obviously she is scared but her screams become truly terrified and as he powers up the generator, Alan runs to the shack only to find it empty. His wife cannot be seen anywhere. So he reports her missing after searching for her. But things take a real strange turn for the worst when he starts seeing shadowy figures approaching, and to make matters worse, they are armed with axes and are after his blood!
A hunt for his wife ensues but Alan gets knocked out. But coming too, things become even more weirder. He comes too with a head wound in a crashed car, His Wife is still missing but when the Police catch up with him, they show him that neither the island or the shack they were in exists.
So where is his wife and just what in the hell is going on in the sleepy town of the perhaps inappropriately named Bright Falls? Why are some folks scared of the dark? Who was the mysterious woman that allegedly gave him the keys to the shack? And why does he keep finding pages of a manuscript that he hasn't written yet?
Like I said, forget shambling zombies, what we have here are shadowy men with axes that can be weakened by light before being dispatched with a shot from a gun, rifle, shotgun or a flare gun.
By day the town looks harmless and is open for exploration pretty much to your hearts content. Meet people, pick up snippets of information, and collect coffee thermos (I don't know why but they are dotted throughout the game and are there to be collected), at night you are almost on your own, armed with a flash light and a gun. And then comes the poltergeist attacks and like the shadow men, these can be destroyed with lights (watch out for the flocks of night crows as well).
Mister Wake is no combat machine so you'll need to be careful timing your attacks and dodging incoming hostilities. The aforementioned pages of his unwritten book can be collected at night, and these are worth reading. They often give you a heads up warning about dangers ahead.
Also the torch can highlight symbols painted by some helpful soul in luminescent paint, that lead you to weapon caches, battery supplies for the torches and maybe even flares. The torches are your main tool to be honest, Shine them into the face of the enemy, whilst boosting the light with the left trigger. This weakens them and when the enemy glows brightly, dispatch them with a well aimed shot. The torch beam is your reticule for aiming so use those batteries wisely. The battery will recharge over time, and light will heal you.
Damaged? Then head for a bright light source and stand under it. Torchlight won't heal you, so bare that in mind. But light is your friend, so use it!
You are not quite alone, there's a mysterious doctor and a friend that hates the countryside but never the less comes out to support you.
But be wary of who you trust in Bright Falls.....
The game is a suspenseful trip. It perhaps bares echoes of Silent Hill, with the peaceful town by the light of day becoming more than a little menacing at night. But as said, no zombies or triangular headed beings here.
It's soundtrack is suitably eerie, relying at night on sounds rather than music. Listen out to the countryside around you. If things are going to kick off, then you'll hear a distant growl or disembodied shout. Sometimes it will go deathly quiet before hell breaks out. The pages provide early warnings and insights as to what to do and where to go next but you shouldn't get too stuck. By all means explore the forest as much as you can, this is where you'll find coffee, and supplies of ammo and batteries dotted around the landscape as well as those useful hints left by the markers.
This game will mess with your head and may well make you jump out of your skin. If the last few resident evils were like this, I'd think more of them. This raises the bar for horror games, It's atmosphere, and suspense are truly spine tingling. Combat is not a frenzied affair, timing is crucial, and for once your character is not a natural killing machine. Indeed the killing bothers our hero, a nice touch that makes Alan human and you can honestly sympathise with him.
You want something different, suspenseful and genuinely spine chilling, then give this title a go. With two expansions available for download (The Signal and The Lighthouse) there is more than enough to keep you occupied and on your toes.
This has to be one of the best games in this genre ever, and it has fast become one of my all time favourites. Don't take my word for it, try it. With the lights out? Sure, if you are brave enough but keep a torch by the side of your chair.......