Alan Wake is an incredibly strong port following the original release on the XBOX 360 - itself preceded by nearly a decade in development. Remedy (creators of the original two Max Payne games) deliver a lovingly crafted narrative married to engaging survival horror gameplay, and fans of either will find a lot to appreciate. Alan Wake borrows liberally and eagerly from a variety of influences - homages can be found from sources as diverse as norse mythology, Stephen King, Twin Peaks and the previously mentioned Max Payne.
VISUALS AND ATMOSPHERE: Graphically, the game has chops. The small town of Bright Falls (and the forests of the Pacific Northwest that surround it) are well done. Small details strewn throughout the sets reward observant players by alluding to a narrative beyond the main story. The game often finds clever ways of interacting with the props of the environment, which lends itself towards the feeling of a very dramatic (and dynamic) atmosphere. The effects of the darkness - on the environment and everything in it - is easily one of the most impressive mechanics in the game.
However, stilted animations often betray the models, resulting in awkward puppet-like mouth movements when characters speak. This is most noticable when characters are in distress, and regrettably (given the theme), characters often have a good reason to be.
Sound is well done. Ambient music is tense but often subtle (though it can border on repetitive), and the game prefers to use it's carefully chosen collection of licensed music to solicit emotions beyond circumstancial flare ups. Voice acting was solid.
NARRATIVE: Alan Wake is both author and audience of the story, an unreliable narrator thrust into progressively stranger circumstances as he investigates the disappearance of his wife. As a protagonist he is far removed from the chisled and grizzled stereotype, often openly frustrated, petulant or terrified. There is a clear sacrifice made where the depth given to him as a character supercedes our ability to really step into his shoes, and I found it to be a trade worth making. The story is divided up into clear chapters emulating a television episode, featuring a brief recap ("Previously on Alan Wake") and a clear intermission at their end. It is an often confusing story, but unapologetically so, and the presentation is exceptionally well done.
GAMEPLAY: Presented in third person with a focus on light and darkness, expanding on the themes strongly featured in the story. The bulk of gameplay involves either exploration or combat, which is often difficult. Enemies will often spawn without end in dark areas of the woods, adding urgency in your race to the next light source. I felt challenged (and at times frustrated), but never cheated.
There are limitations to the engine. The excitement you'll feel after stepping behind the wheel of one of the game's many vehicles will fade quickly when you actually have to drive them. Even with care, driving often felt like a DUI simulator, and vehicles frequently arrived at their destinations like they'd gone through a demolition derby. Additionally, the game often pretends to be a platformer and fails, miserably (as you invariably will during these portions). Jump mechanics are imprecise and I often found difficulty in clearing gaps with any degree of certainty.
OVERALL: 4/5, easy. Well worth the asking price.