Alan Wake Preview

Written by Alex Watson

February 22, 2010 | 09:25

Tags: #alan-wake #horror #max-payne #stephen-king #third-person-shooter #thriller #twin-peaks

Companies: #remedy

Let There Be Light

The forest appears to be huge and it’s gloomy too, but the path through unfolds perfectly naturally. The third person viewpoint is the same as in Max Payne, although Alan feels less mobile – he has no access to bullet time, and he gets visibly and audibly tired when he runs, just like a real writer.

What Alan does have that Max doesn’t is a torch, and that’s a good job, because the first person Alan meets is, as in all good horror films, a psychotic axe man. He chases you around a spooky lumber yard, and as you remember from the tutorial, fixing the enemy with torchlight slows them down. The torch has two modes – standard, in which it recharges, and super-bright, where it burns through the battery very quickly, but really slows your opponents down. They’ll cover their faces to protect themselves and stumble around as if it’s burning them, which not only gives you the chance to shoot them, it also makes them weaker.

The importance of the torch means essentially there’s two sets of ammo to watch – batteries and bullets. Throughout the game, light is a key mechanic and metaphor. Daylight stands for normality, sanity and the real world. Darkness is the way of madness, insanity and monsters. True to form, the bad guys you meet appear to be made of darkness – or at least to be corrupting light. They’re human in form, but faceless, and their limbs dissolve to blackness at the edges.

Alan Wake Preview Let There Be Light
Click to enlarge

Light is a weapon, and so in various levels light can be used offensively. Alan gets a flare gun, which can destroy multiple enemies, and at one point we saw him commandeer a large spotlight and use it like a turret gun to hose down waves of incoming bad guys. Light is also how you recharge your health – you stand under a lamp post and your health bar regenerates.

Combat feels tense and pressured. Even early in the game you’ll be under attack by multiple enemies; in the hour and a half we had with the game, they seemed fairly smart, too – when you’re reloading the torch or gun, they’ll rush at you, but when you moving the light round, they’ll fan out and come at you from different angles.

The camera wasn’t perfect in the version we played, and annoyingly there appeared to be no button to press reset it to a default ‘behind Alan’ position, so if you start messing with it using the right thumbstick, it can waste valuable seconds re-manoeuvring it.

Alan Wake Preview Let There Be Light
Click to enlarge

On the other hand, while there’s no bullet time you can activate, the camera itself will sometimes reward you with a bit of cinematic slowdown and a change of angle. Fire a flare into a whole group of oncoming baddies and the viewpoint will follow the flare as it shoots towards them.

While the monsters themselves cause plenty of problems for Alan, Remedy showed off a later section of the game where the evil force you’re up against starts hurling huge objects – cars, tree trunks – at you.

The game’s audio is excellent too, albeit fairly standard thriller/horror stuff. Expect low key strings and sombre piano in the quiet sections, and the usual growly whispers the forces of evil usually adopt. Still, as standard as it is, it’s certainly effective and the game feels tense and scary.
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