When I first heard of Alan Wake 5 years ago, I was hooked. A game located in the Pacific Northwest that is creepy and about a writer? I dig it.
So general gist of the game (generally spoiler free): A guy has a writers block, his loving wife tries to help him by taking him to a small town with hopes to persuade him to see a doctor that 'specializes' in art therapy. They have a fight, she goes missing and he wakes up a week later.
There is a lot going on here. This game isn't made to make you scared like Silent Hill, it's to make you afraid. There is a difference, believe me. When I play this game, things don't jump out at you and surprise you. The enemies are creepy monsters, they're human beings overtaken by a shadow, so they look more like shapes at first and then are revealed as human. How the scare tactic works is the game mostly takes place in the forest, I found myself second guessing often when I saw a tree, because I thought it was a shadowy figure. The game uses shadows to play with your head, that is by far scarier, because this can transfer over into real life.
The battle system flowed real well. 'Light' is your main weapon, with side arms of pistols, shotguns, and hunting rifles. (I categorize the flashbangs, flares, and flareguns in the 'light' category). I really enjoyed the battle system, it was easy to master.
Alan Wake is set up episodically. There are 5 episodes, and when an episode ends, a music track is played. When the next episode appears it has a "Previously on Alan Wake". It's a nice way to break up the game, if you are like me and couldn't only play an episode a night for the first couple night, it was a nice way to catch up without forgetting everything. The music tracks are pretty damn good too, featured all sorts of people including a long time favorite Poe, and the credits were none other than my hero David Bowie.
The environments were phenomenal. The mountains were gorgeous, the weather was beautiful, the whole scenery was unmistakably pacific northwest inspired. I'm not just saying that because I live here :). My boyfriend, who grew up in a similar area, said he felt at home when he saw it, so it wasn't really scary to him.
-Alan Wake himself is a very conflicted character as presented in the game. He obviously loves his wife, but he has some very serious flaws. He's a writer that was successful and then couldn't write for years. There is a frustration, and a hatred in him that is seen throughout the game.
-Sarah, his wife is a lovely girl, who has a phobia of the dark. Fitting for the story. She loves her husband and is very patient with him, but unfortunately we don't see a whole lot of her relationship. This game is about Alan Wake, not so much his wife.
-Barry is Alan's manager. At first he was annoying, but that annoyance later became his charm. He's not charming, but he is determined. And he makes a surprisingly refreshing experience.
However, as much as I enjoyed this game, somethings were a bit annoying:
-I'm a tester for game, so when I get invested in a game and find a bug, it pulls me out. The most annoying bug I found was after a random conversation with someone, the subtitle of what I said would not go off screen. Other than that, mostly game glitches, nothing game breaking like memory loss or hard locks.
-There is no point in hoarding ammo, flares, or any item like that because you loose your stuff ALL THE TIME. Although it does make it a bit more realistic (i.e. falling out of a helicopter you won't be holding on to your pockets, but still, once, I get it, like 6 times though, really?
-You cannot get all the manuscripts in the Normal setting. I always progress up from Normal to Nightmare when games allow it. The first time through is just to help prepare for what to expect, the second and third, that's for collecting everything. But those manuscripts help clarify the story. The FBI agent Nightengale, I'm still not entirely sure what his purpose is. If you miss just one manuscript, you're missing bits of the story. And there are quite a few that can only be found in Nightmare mode.
Besides these things, I actually really enjoyed this game. It was worth the amount of the Limited Edition (and the stress of trying to find it). It came with a soundtrack and a special features disc as well as a book. I highly recommend this game, it's definitely worth playing through once.