Max Payne recently and that I should probably play the first game in Remedy's follow up franchise while the memory is still fresh. Better than leaving it sitting in my Steam library for another twelve months anyway.
I'll be playing it on Easy Mode by the way. I usually go with the default or medium difficulty for a game, but for the PC version Easy Mode is the same as the Xbox 360 version's Normal Mode, and I've heard that it's not a game that improves as it gets more challenging.
(Click the images to view them at a slightly less horrifying resolution.)
The game is one of those third person action type of games with nice comfortable modern controls and they've even thrown in an FOV slider for me. I'm still supposed to be heading for the lighthouse and fortunately it's very easy to see, shining out of the fog on the right. Despite all the darkness, mist, and the endless forests, it seems unlikely I'd ever manage to get lost (because odds are that it's going to be a linear narrow path all the way to the end).
Check out that image on the bottom left as well: the game's got picture-in-picture video commentary! I can't think of a single other game I've seen that does that, though I can't leave it on as they're going to start throwing out spoilers any second now.
There's also a QR code on a board down here, next to a missing poster of Alan himself. I scanned it in and... it's the address for the Alan Wake facebook page. Disappointing.
After a few successful dodges the game is satisfied that I know what I'm doing and opens the gate to the next section of path. The only way to escape horror is through understanding you see, that's why Alan mentions in the intro that the best horror stories don't explain a damn thing.
There's not much for me to do in here though but admire the lighting and wonder why the guy had four televisions in the same room and why they're all staring at me right now saying 'die'. It's not the kind of game where I can actually investigate anything myself it seems, though like Max Payne, Alan takes every chance he gets to tells me what he feels about the situation.
I suppose I should be looking for a way out so I can get back to running towards the light.
This particular light in the sky is apparently friendly though and has come into my dream to give me a heads up on the evil I will be facing, in the form of a tutorial.
Don't ask how, but I'm also able to boost a torch's output to speed the process up (it's a nightmare so I just can). Weirdly using the torch normally doesn't waste the batteries, only boosting does and they automatically recharge after I release the button... with the light still shining.
Alan's come to the town of Bright Falls with his wife Alice on vacation, to get away from all the stress of being constantly pestered to come up with another novel. Being a famous author is less fun when you've had writer's block for the last two years and no one lets you forget it. At first I assumed this must be set in Maine, (like Silent Hill and every Stephen King novel), but it turns out that Bright Falls is actually a fictional town in Washington... just like Twin Peaks.
This part of the game is purely to set up the characters, as I'm stuck on a boat and all I can do is pose for a photograph, answer the phone, and generally sit through a bunch of conversations. It's giving me flashbacks to Final Fantasy X to be honest.
Still, I completed all these tasks with the skill and efficiency of a veteran gamer, right up until the point that Alice asked me to get back into the car. I didn't realise that he had a different car in the real world! I was stuck for ages trying to find a way inside this beige car from his dream.
I'm here on a quest to get the key to my cabin from a guy called Carl Stucky and it seems that all I have to do to get out of here is figure out which of these people is the guy I'm looking for.
Rose here turns out by pure coincidence to be Alan's greatest fan. No seriously, she even has a cardboard cut out of him by the doorway.
Look at all that outdoors out there, cruelly out of my reach. The game was originally intended to have a sandbox town but the developers eventually decided to scrap it because it interfered with the storytelling. There can be NO ESCAPE from the storytelling.
The guy wants me to put the jukebox on, so I guess I'm taking part in a jukebox activating QTE minigame now. Hit the A button to smack the machine back into life!
That's some S-rank key finding right there; a tremendous demonstration of my skill.
Actually that could be a interesting idea: a game where you play an actor filming a movie, adlibbing lines, choosing the correct interpretation of the dialogue, making sure to hit your marks, having to react to things that aren't there on a blue screen set etc. Movie Star Simulator 2014, someone needs to make this happen.
Alan doesn't exactly take it well, yelling at her and storming out into the spooky night.
Alice is apparently being threatened by someone inside the house, so I sprint back as fast I can, only to find an empty cabin and an open window. Alan leaps through it down into the lake and...
I'm unarmed though so all I can do is make a run for it and try to dodge if I see any airborne axes arcing my way.
But yeah, Stucky's gonna get his ass kicked now.
Alright, Stucky's been dealt with (I'm sure that fall off the cliff totally killed him for real) and now I need to get up this broken staircase. I can tell that's the right way to go because following the light is always a good plan, and not just because they heal me and provide a safe haven from enemies. I do have slowly regenerating health, but standing under a light speeds the process up considerably.
That red box over on the left contains essential supplies like bullets and batteries, which is handy because enemies don't seem to drop any. They don't even drop axes for me to take.
The revolver on the other hand doesn't regenerate (obviously). It seems like I can only carry four guns at once by the way, though I'm a long way from being able to test that theory.
In fact whenever I come back out it seems like I'm attacked by the same number of enemies, no matter how many of them I killed last time. Maybe I'm whittling down a larger army, maybe they keep respawning, or maybe I'm just resetting them. I guess I'll just keep heading onwards to the next checkpoint and only fight them when I have to. I don't have infinite ammo here.
I've also been collecting Thermos flasks of coffee along the way, which is slightly less weird. Hang on though, isn't Thermos another brand name?
Max Payne return, only this time they're full video instead of a slide show! It's basically a three minute long Twilight Zone episode pastiche.
You know, now that I think about it Alan Wake kind of feels like it belongs on a TV in one of the Max Payne games. Alan's issues with reality remind me so much of the game's fictional Address Unknown series that I keep expecting him to meet a backwards talking flamingo convinced that mirrors are more fun than television.
Well that's the end of Stucky. I was expecting a little more of a fight from the guy, but he was basically just a super-charged version of a regular axe-maniac. Okay, I should be right next to the gas station now surely.
Anyway, after three hours of gameplay that's the end of episode one (of eight), which makes it an excellent place to turn the game off.
Alan Wake seems pretty decent to me. I generally prefer a bit more game in my video game and a bit less interactive storytelling, but I've been liking it well enough so far. The combat hasn't been anywhere near as enjoyable as Max Payne's slow motion shootdodging, but it did give me something to do during those long walks through the forest, as I headed for the next bright light in the distance.
Also the game has skippable cutscenes, directors commentary, a cinematic replay feature, a radio replay feature, a music replay feature, plus an level select screen that lets you choose individual stages within an chapter. It's even got a 'previously on...' at the start of each episode so that you can take a break and jump right back in a week later.
I don't know what to think about the story right now, as I'm not sure it's even supposed to make much sense at this point. It's a mystery story and I don't even know whether I'm in a parallel universe, or dreaming, or trapped in a world of pure imagination, but the Stephen King quote at the start about how there's little fun in explanations makes me wonder if I'll ever get a straight answer.
But I still found it interesting enough. I definitely plan to play it some more at least, so that's earned it a shiny star.
That's all the 'A' games done with then. Tune in next time for a game beginning with B! Also, feel free to leave a comment if you're so inclined, I'm always interested to read your opinions and criticism.