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Alan WakeOctober 22, 2010

Alan Wake is a good game. It is driven by a very good story, and the story is presented very well. Gameplay wise though, I found it a bit repetitive, the combat skills you learn in the tutorial: Shine light on Taken until its shield is down, shoot Taken until dead, are the same throughout the game. You also have flares and flare guns, as well as flashbangs, but these don’t alter the combat formula much, as they are rare items. There are only four guns in the game: a revolver, a double barrelled shotgun, a pump action shotgun and a hunting rifle. While these are a realistic selection, as you wouldn’t expect to find many assault rifles and sub-machine guns in a small rural town and the surrounding area, I think the developers could have included a semi-automatic pistol as well. All the weapons are reloaded one round at a time, which I suppose was the point, as it heightens the tension more, but it would have been nice if a weapon with a magazine was included. It was certainly in the back of my mind when I played that in small town America I would be just as likely to encounter something like a Model 1911 as I would a revolver, but maybe I think too much. The story more than makes up for the nature of the gameplay though, you want to know what happens next, and there is a constant feeling of “Is this all in his head or not?”. To talk too much about the story would ruin it for people who haven’t played the game, so I’ll try to be vague. During the game you collect manuscript pages, which most of the time either describe the story before it happens to you in the game or describe an event that took place elsewhere in the games universe, the consequence of which is usually seen later in the game. I don’t mind collecting these, as they are usually on your path and make sense in the story. However there are also coffee Thermoses you can collect which, as far as I can tell, have no justification in the story and are just there as an additional thing to do and, of course, to add another achievement. I don’t think the game needed these, for completionists like me it meant playing through the game with a guide, which I did on a second playthrough, for others they would just be ignored, and so needn’t be in the game in the first place. No doubt many decided to use a guide on their first playthrough in order to get all the collectables, and therefore all the related achievements. For me, using a guide in a survival horror game removes all of the suspense and, for people who used a guide on their first playthrough, I think it would have made the game less enjoyable. The developers have made use of a guide almost compulsory by not including proper in-game information, you can check your stats to see how many of the total pages or Thermoses you have, but not how many you have in a given chapter. So if you miss even just one you’d have to replay the whole game, checking every location, until you eventually found it. If you’re going to include as many collectables as they have here the least you can do is include proper documentation so situations like this are avoided. That’s really the only major complaint I have with the game though, and it only really affects people who are bothered by those sort of things. I am one of those people, and I suppose it doesn’t bother me too much.

There are two DLC chapters for the game. The first “The Signal”, is free if you’ve got a new copy of the game and the included code, the second, “The Writer” costs 560 Microsoft Points. I’ve played the first and it was OK, more of the same I suppose. I haven’t got the second one yet, I probably will at some point.

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