Survival horror was all the rage back in the day; Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Eternal Darkness and um Dino Crisis. For those unfamiliar with Dino Crisis think Resident Evil but with dinosaurs, why it wasn’t a bigger hit is unfathomable. For those unacquainted with Eternal Darkness shame on you!
Slowly though the scares dried up and first person shooters laden with chills and thrills became the standard. Back in 2010 Alan Wake was released on the X-Box 360. While not belonging solely in the aforementioned category it flits in and out, perhaps a resurgence of the genre was on the cards.
It has only taken me four years but I’ve finally found the time to start playing Remedy Entertainment’s spooktacular(sorry) hit. So draw the curtains, dim the lights, check under the bed and lets delve into the world of Mr Wake as I regale you with my thoughts on the first hour.
The first thing to note about the psychological thriller is the atmosphere. Only two seconds in and the intro is purposefully lathering the setting with cliches. A fogy night, a winding abandoned road that a car slowly snakes along then BOOM right into a previously unseen hitchhiker.
And the dark. Everything is scarier in the dark, the imagination runs wild, shadows leap and dart in a terrifying manner. It’s ok though because you have a torch to illuminate the gloom and what it hides, normally something that wants to kill you.
The sound effects play a big part as well, the creak of a tree or the caw of a crow, the… well some sounds are just unexplainable noises, there to further ramp up the tension and get those hairs on the back of your arm standing on end.
All in all the setting is electric, perfectly pitched to submerge the player in the atmospheric world it is building. All would be pointless however if the game engine was stunted or buggy, fortunately that is not the case.
For instance the controls are so natural that the brief tutorial is hardly needed. In his left hand Alan holds a torch, so the left trigger is used to switch it on. In his right a gun, so the right trigger fires that. The right analogue stick moves the camera, as it always does, and the left manipulates Alan himself. Simple, it might be ridiculously unexciting but it is a breath or fresh air to have such an uncomplicated control system. None of this hold the left bumper and press Y while standing on your head nonsense.
Plus a intriguing story involving, well why don’t you play it and find out just make sure you don’t play it before bed, it might give you nightmares…