Let's get one thing out of the way: If you're a creative type, especially a writer of any persuasion, Alan Wake is worth a playthrough just for the subject matter, namely the nature of dreams, the unconscious, and the creative process, and how they are all tied up in each other. Any professional fiction writer will tell you that they often don't know where their "ideas" come from -- they might as well just come straight out of the proverbial ether, and to anyone else it sounds like superstitious mumbo-jumbo. But the truth is, it often really does come out of left field, left field being that ocean of subconscious impulses and images that is constantly roiling in everyone's heads. A writer's job is paying attention to those images when they do show up, when most people can comfortably ignore them, and that makes it a tricky business. That's the gist of what Alan Wake deals with, and if anything, it's worth it to see what the game devs have to say about it.
Is it a GOOD story? Well. That is entirely up to your interpretation of the events in the game. And I'll mostly leave it at that. I'll give some of my impressions in no particular order: If you like the show LOST
, you'll like this. If you like David Lynch's stuff, you will like this, particularly for some of the music and very obvious homages to things like Twin Peaks
, Blue Velvet
and perhaps Lost Highway
. That is to say, if you want things to make sense in a linear way, forget it. It's actually a little bittersweet to play through this if you are a big fan of Lynch, because while Alan Wake is very very obviously a love letter to the "weird stuff happening in a little town" genre, and it really does nail some of the spooky imagery that Lynch is known for, the characters and the dialogue fall disappointingly flat. It's a very rough imitation of the unforgettable dialogue of Twin Peaks
, Blue Velvet
, etc. I can't fault them that much for that, because at least they tried. Enough of that.
Gameplay is pretty technically tight with satisfying, challenging gunplay mixed up with light-source mechanics -- you weaken things with your flashlight, and then blast them. It's fun and keeps you on the edge of your seat most of the time. But, and this just may be my low tolerance for the same damn thing over and over, there are many times later in the game where you wish you could just get it over with. The pacing is a little annoying and predictable at times; when you would appreciate a chance to just wander around in the more story-oriented areas, suddenly you're back in the gauntlet of enemies running through the nighttime forest. And there is a LOT of nighttime forest. You've never seen so many trees! But they certainly look pretty. One of my biggest gripes would have to be the fact that the game occasionally does not follow its own rules, which inevitably leads to some frustrating reloads. The enemies will sometimes cheap-shot you, for example falling on you while you're in the middle of opening a chest; most of the time you cannot break out of certain "cinematic" moments fast enough and it will screw you fairly mercilessly. Thankfully reload times are fast and the checkpoints for the most part are plentiful and logical. Just minor annoyances when it comes down to it.
It's a fun ride for the most part. I wish I could say that "this is, excuse me, a damn
fine cup of coffee," but for several reasons it's just a pretty good cup of joe. You take what you can get, though!