A Mystery 'PS4' Project Revealed? Plus: Other Gaming Secrets Involving XSeed, Remedy And More

In mid-November, Quantic Dream registered the domain, suggesting a title and system for the second of two games the Parisian developer is said to be developing for Sony. Despite Cage declaring a lack of enthusiasm for the next generation of consoles, it's been evident for a while his company is eyeing future platforms.

"Singularity" is a rather curious and possibly revealing title. David Cage acknowledged futurist Ray Kurzweil's recent book The Singularity is Near as a chief influence on Quantic Dream's "Kara" tech demo, and Kurzweil's exploration of the synthesis of man and artificial machine is very much up the wheelhouse of what Cage likes to focus on in his games. When asked in an interview about whether he would elaborate on Kara's themes and milieu in a future game, Cage delivered a rather evasive non-answer. And Cage's games do sometimes have titles that are rather on the nose.

The domain falls very much in line with past Quantic Dream domains and, and mirrors SCEE's general preference for domains that indicate a game's platform. Given these domain trends and Quantic Dream's status as a valued second-party Sony developer that would presumably privy to the overall strategy of their publishing partner, "singularityps4" could perhaps indicate that Sony will opt for the name of PlayStation 4 for their next console (a surprise to probably no one)—and the current codename of Orbis will vanish.

It is, however, quite unlikely that the game will come to market simply titled "Singularity." Singularity was, of course, the title of Raven Software's commercially unsuccessful time-travel-themed 2010 shooter, and Activision holds the "Singularity" trademark in multiple territories. ("Singularity" was also, oddly enough, the name of an apparently now-scrapped big-name action film at Sony Pictures about nanotechnology that Roland Emmerich and Kurzweil were collaborating on in late 2011—something that makes me wonder if Cage possibly consulted with Kurzweil for his project.) In order to use the name in commerce, Sony and Quantic Dream will have to add some sort of subtitle or additional words to make sure their name doesn't infringe on Activision's already existing mark, assuming "Singularity" is anything more than a working title.

* * *

According to Remedy Entertainment's recruitment page, the studio is now working on an "unannounced iOS project" alongside the previously known "unannounced AAA project for future generation consoles," which many believe to be a full-fledged sequel to Alan Wake.

This new iOS project is quite possibly a sequel to Remedy's first mobile release, a remake of their 1995 combat racer Death Rally that broke even in three days. Last August, Remedy's Oskari Häkkinen told VentureBeat that his studio is "going to be doing more Death Rally."

Häkkinen hinted that Remedy hopes to bridge the gap between Death Rally and the company's other franchises by placing a greater emphasis on cinematic storytelling as to "bring more life to the cars and the drivers." In terms of gameplay, he also hopes Remedy can tailor the next Death Rally with "user-generated content" in mind to allow players to realize "the craziest cars and the craziest weapons." (Additionally, a publicly accessible sitemap for Remedy's website reveals a page with the URL "death-rally-2.")

But a few weeks later, Häkkinen said in another interview that Remedy had not yet decided what its next mobile title will be. And despite the commercial imperative for a Death Rally 2, he said Remedy still wants to "create new themes and franchises" that suit its creative ambitions.

* * *

It appears XSEED is the American publisher for Suda 51's recently-revealed PS3 and Xbox 360 action title Killer Is Dead. Last week, the niche publisher registered the domain killerisdead-game, as well as presumably marketing-related sites and

The game is yet to be confirmed for release outside of Japan, where it is slated for release in the summer. If one wants a very iffy suggestion for a possible American release timetable, the domains are set to expire in about a year.

Also of note: XSEED seemingly almost dipped its toes into the mobile free-to-play market last year. The company very quietly put up a site, trailer, and Facebook page for a "free to play action RPG for iOS and Android" that was intended for release last summer. The game, which was developed by Japanese mobile studio Blockbuster, seems to have been a fusion of Infinity Blade-esque touch and slash gameplay and a JRPG aesthetic.

* * *

Finally, amid THQ's troubles, Alex Peters, who was the studio head at THQ subsidiary Relic Entertainment, states on his CV that he left the Vancouver developer this month to join Activision. Peters was at Relic for two years, and prior to joining the studio, he served as game director on the ill-fated RPG Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned and chief operating officer at DICE.

superannuation is a self-described "internet extraordinaire" residing somewhere in the Pacific Time Zone. He tweets, and can be reached at heyheymayday AT gmail DOT com.

Top photo: It's not a screenshot! It's a futuristic-looking dentistry robot. Photographed by David Guttenfelder | AP.

Read more Assorted Scoopery! Secrets lurk within.

Alan Wake

When it released for PC in February 2012, Alan Wake came with no mod tools. Developer Remedy Entertainment said tools wouldn't be released because of their complexity, and their dependence on third-party tools which would presumably require permissions or licenses.

That hasn't stopped Alan Wake's community from hurling itself at the task, which, to change textures, requires unpacking and repacking a 2.9 gigabyte file, using a community-released tool. Against these odds, modder Xymbiot3 has defiantly released this, which gives Alan's flashlight... a Hello Kitty pattern. And Alan a Mike Tyson face tattoo. Problem is, because it all has to be repacked into a 3GB file, it's impractical to distribute. But here, at least, you can say that you have seen Alan Wake running around like Ed Helms in The Hangover II.

Alan Wake Flashlight Mod Images [Remedy Games Community, h/t Matt.]

Mass Effect

The Video Games That Showed Up When I Least Expected Them A controller gets put down. A disc gets shelved next to dozens of others just like it. But, sometimes, the game lingers. It creeps into your sleep and live on in the backs of your eyelids, demanding ever more from you.

Here's an example: the one night that the crazy nocturnal zombies from Alan Wake showed up in my head. I was me in my dream, and not the overwrought author that's starred in two games.

I hadn't played an Alan Wake game in more than eight months. But a nightmare I had about a month ago threw me into a world straight out of Remedy's psychological horror thriller. I wasn't wielding a flashlight and automatic weapons like the writer hero of the two games. I was in trouble, prey for powerful enemies without any special video game abilities.

I don't know why some games stick around my subconscious more than others. Long after I've left them behind, they pop up when I least expect. I'm not talking about the warm fuzzies I get when remembering favorites like Phantasy Star on the Sega Master System, Shadow of the Colossus or Gravity Rush. Rather, these are straight-up ambushes from the chemicals in my brain, sneak attacks that I can't predict.

Back to that Alan Wake dream. I was on the run, inside my own clumsy body after looking back at the shadow-engulfed people that were chasing me—I can remember in horrifying detail the way that a slimy darkness snaked up their legs and over their bodies. I remember feeling utterly fucking helpless. And somewhere in the churn of my thoughts, I also remember some more conscious part of my brain thinking: "Didn't I beat this game already? And the other one after it? Why am I in here?!"

The feeling of being in a gameworld—without the power to control an outcome—can be a terrifying one.

Worst was how it ended. The Dark Presence—an evil force that possesses people in the Alan Wake titles—crawling up my feet, locking first my ankles, then my knees into place. I couldn't "see" what happened next but I could "feel" it. I lost the battle against the Dark Presence. That never happens in video games, which is probably why I woke up so agitated.

This dream made me wonder about how and why certain games worm their way into my head. It makes sense that Alan Wake would stay lodged in the recesses of my brain, since so much of Remedy's game concerns what happens below conscious thought. But Bastion was more of a surprise. The first few times I fell off the world in Supergiant's acclaimed action RPG, it reminded me of the acute physical sensation of when I'd fall in my dreams: a sense of increasing momentum paradoxically paired with full-body paralysis. But the Bastion-based dream was worse than just falling. This nightmare was filled with Lunkheads, the frog-like creatures that were my most hated enemy from the game. I suspect the real reason Bastion showed up is because the game's final choice is the kind of moment where you have to think about who you want to be in both real and fictional worlds. But dreams are never that clear cut, are they? I didn't have to figure out what I'd do after a cataclysmic tragedy in my Bastion dream; I was only left haunted by giant, disgustingly real versions of some of its antagonists. Lucky me, I guess?

The Video Games That Showed Up When I Least Expected ThemWhat's more surprising are the games that haven't lingered on the edges of my unconscious brain. I loved Papo & Yo and fully expected to have daydreams or sleeping visitations from the PS3 game. But Monster and Quico haven't shown up after I fall asleep at all. Journey's another game, impressionistic as it is, that I figured would be in my dreams. But I haven't had any kind of adventures in the Wanderers' robe since I finished thatgamecompany's masterpiece. Likewise for Silent Hill 3, a game I swore would stay with me forever after scaring the crap out of me years ago, but it never ever showed up in my most meandering thoughts or dreams.

It's tough to figure out any sort of rhyme or reason as to why some games make appearances in my subconscious and others don't. The amount of time spent playing a game doesn't seem to factor into it. Titles that I've spent hours and hours with, like the Mass Effect series, never come to bed with me. The muscle memory that's a physical part of playing games probably isn't any sort of conduit to the part of my brain that brews up dreams. But the feeling of being in a gameworld—recreated in your mind with all its terror, beauty and familiar cues, yet without a button to press or the power to control an outcome—can be a terrifying one. As much as I love games, I'm glad it doesn't happen more often.

Alan Wake

Comedy crew Mega64 are at their best when they're out in the wild harassing innocent bystanders with obscure video game jokes, so... yeah, this take on Remedy's Alan Wake is Mega64 at their best.

Mega64: ALAN WAKE [mega64]

Alan Wake
Fact-Checking Alan Wake's Writer CredI've only played a bit of Remedy's newest downloadable Alan Wake game—though Evan Narcisse liked it a lot, and I like what I've played, too.

But then, I have something of a soft spot for Alan, for some reason. The original game sticks with me more than I thought it would; it's the sort of game that I think of more fondly while I'm not playing it than while I am. That's in part because while I'm not playing it, the repetitive combat and endless wandering through the woods don't seem as interminable, and the game's best aspects don't feel as spaced out.

While the game itself does have some highs—that heavy metal concert blowout among them—the narrative setup is also something I really dig. I like the setting, which still feels fresh as a place to put a video game. And while Alan himself can be a bit of a drip, I like that he's a novelist, and dig how the game experiments (usually unsuccessfully) with that by using the scattered manuscript pages to flesh out characters and provide foreshadowing.

But how close is the game to accurately portraying the life of a writer? Alan wake isn't some internet writer like certain people I could name; no, he's a tweed jacket-wearing, typewriter-using capital-W Writer in the mould of Stephen King. Or actually, as I've always maintained, Dean Koontz.

Game designer and writer Matthew Burns, who in addition to being a fantastic writer is always good for a laugh, looked into this very question on his blog "Magical Wasteland" back in 2010, and the post has always stuck with me. First, Burns wrote the tongue-in-cheek "An excerpt from the novel 'Departure' by Alan Wake." Key bit: " I was relieved. As the twisted forms evaporated into slivers of light, I realized that my kill count with the flashbang had reached fifty. A sense of achievement washed over me.").

After that, he decided to see do a further investigation (tongue still firmly planted in cheek) of what Alan Wake gets wrong, and right, about being a writer.

Butns turned to who else but Tom "actual writer" Bissell for an interview on the subject. Is Alan Wake an accurate portrayal of the modern American novelist?

"I read that this fiction writer protagonist could sprint for only about ten feet or so," Bissell says, "and I thought, 'Yes! They've done their research!'"

Personally, I'm not sure I ever bought Alan Wake as a realistic writer. I grew tired of his plodding writing style, though I do like the theory that his manuscript pages are something of a joke, a commentary on how bad writers become famous every day in America. Burns brings up this question and Bissell mentions Dan Brown, who despite his huge success you may have heard is a fairly terrible writer.

I did like how Wake's writing improved noticeably between the first game and American Nightmare. Apparently, he's been working on his craft between games. And given the fact that he can finally run for more than a few seconds without running out of breath, I guess he's been hitting the gym, too.

What Alan Wake Gets Wrong, And Right, About Being A Writer [Magical Wasteland]


Please Change The Endings Of These Video GamesWarning, spoilers ahead, starting with the end of Casablanca:


RICK, only moments after watching the plane containing ILSA, his love, taxi down the tarmac and fly away forever, slowly walks away from the hangar with LOUIS.

RICK: Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

The two walk off together into the night.



The ending of Casablanca (1942) is one of the most memorable film conclusions in the history of cinema. It isn't necessarily a happy ending, but it leaves the audience on a hopeful note, with Rick (Humphrey Bogart) telling the French officer, Captain Louis Renault, that it's going to be "a beautiful friendship."

But I've been tossing around an alternate way this film could end; perhaps a conclusion that is a bit more powerful:


RICK, only moments after watching the plane containing ILSA, his love, taxi down the tarmac and fly away forever, slowly walks away from the hangar with LOUIS.

RICK: Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Louis: But what about ze plane?

Rick returns his gaze to the sky.

Louis: Ilsa will have a new life now. Using this oversized futuristic remote control, I will be rerouting the plane to...

Rick turns toward the camera.


A giant robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex grabs Ilsa's plane out of the sky, as we EXPLODE to the words "CASABLANCA" in flaming typeface.


We can all agree this is a better ending, and more appropriately sets up for the sequel, Casablanca 2: This Time More People Die.

Please Change The Endings Of These Video GamesAll of this nonsense regarding the unfavorable wrap-up of Mass Effect 3 got me thinking: Have video game endings really mattered that much to me? It seems that endings of books and movies stick with me moreso than their middle content, whereas the early levels of video games stick with me moreso than their endings.

Rhett Butler didn't give a damn. Bill Murray whispered a secret to Scarlett Johannson. Frodo destroyed the ring. Jack Nicholson's cabin fever convinced him that chopping up his family with an axe was probably a good idea. And what's in the booxxxxx?

Conversely, when it comes to some of my favorite video games, their endings are rarely at the forefront of my mind when thinking back on the experience:

  • How did Bioshock end? Didn't the bad guy get really bloated and angry or something? I only remember epic Big Daddy battles, shooting bees out of my fingers, and the big plot twist in Act II.
  • How did Bulletstorm end? Not sure, but I kicked a whole lot of people into cacti.
  • How did Red Dead Redemption end? Oh! I remember. I broke Bonnie's heart and then was forced to play as John's bratty, annoying son.

Speaking of that, Red Dead Redemption is a perfect example of the video game industry giving gamers what they consider to be an ending with a "tragic plot twist," but done in such a poor fashion that it just makes us bitter. We understand that Rockstar wanted us to really feel something, and realize that the Wild West was no "It's A Small World" ride, but the way the story's conclusion played out seemed more like a slap in the face than a well-crafted twist on a fantastic adventure. [Editor's note: Oh, Lisa... we're going to have a big argument about this.]

Please Change The Endings Of These Video GamesI'm not saying we always need "happy" endings; I'm saying we need to be satisfied.
The ending of Final Fantasy X was extremely sad, but gamers were still more than willing to cry those tears. Sure, it was resolved in Final Fantasy X-2, but the mere existence of that game is more depressing than X's ending.

As another example, I was fully prepared and content with the ending of Prince of Persia 4, when it appeared that Elika must give her life to save the world. It was her choice. It was beautiful. It was heart wrenching. …But just kidding! You get to bring her back to life and undo everything you've worked for since the beginning of the game. All your efforts have been erased so you can have a girlfriend! Isn't it great?

Nope. I found it sad, irritating, unsatisfying.

"But real life isn't always satisfying," you may argue. In my opinion, we play video games to escape the cruelties of reality. Getting audited by the IRS isn't satisfying in real life either, but the second it starts happening to me in my video games, I'm setting my consoles on fire and fleeing to wherever Margaritaville is.

So it's established. Basically every video game ending is terrible. Guys, I know we didn't want it to come to this, but please print out this letter and mail it ASAP:

Dear Federal Government,

Please change the original endings of the following video games to the obviously better and way more badass alternate endings provided. Thanks, and get your shit together regarding all the debt.

Sincerely, (Your Twitter Handle Here)

Fable 2

How it ended: You are left with the choice of either A.) returning the lives of all those who died, but losing your dog, B.) saving your dog, but letting all of those innocent people remain dead, or C.) giving it all up for a million dollars, you greedy, greedy jerk.

How it should've ended: Your dog becomes King of Albion and, as his slave, you are faced with the moral choice of feeding him overly-priced organic dogfood (recommended by 4 out of 5 veterinarians) or processed cornmeal, which will give him gas. You also have to find your own dig spots. (Sucker!)

Mario Kart

How it ended: Wait, do these games have endings? Other than you just win a fancy trophy and tell all your friends to "suck it?"

How it should've ended: We would turn the series into "The Hunger Games," so when you win, you are the only character still living. It is now your job to single-handedly carry on every Nintendo franchise left behind by your dead opponents.

Alan Wake

How it ended: "It's not a lake… it's an ocean!"

How it should've ended: No. It's neither. Alan, you're inside the snow globe of an autistic child.

Rock Band and Guitar Hero series

How they ended: You started out as a starving musician, but gig after gig earned you massive amounts of fans and upgraded your van to a stretch limo. Now, you're the world's greatest rockstar and nothing can stand in your way of achieving god status.

How they should've ended: Yoko Ono shows up during your final song and, if she is not defeated, breaks your game disc and renders your console forever unplayable.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

How it ended: Nathan Drake saves the day Indiana Jones-style, beating the bad guys and getting the girl.

How it should've ended: Right before the credits, you get a personal phone call from Nathan Fillion. He says he's glad you enjoyed the game, but he's not going to star in the movie adaptation, so please don't ask.


How it ended: Fontaine injects himself with a large amount of ADAM and attacks Jack as an inhuman monster.

How it should've ended: The REAL antagonist turns out to be that scary clown from The Circus of Values vending machines. He comes to life and has unlimited everything, and the only way to defeat him is with a carnival-style water gun hidden somewhere in Rapture. If you win, you get an oversized Tweety Bird doll filled with sawdust to give to the Little Sisters in exchange for their undying loyalty. [Editor's note: Lisa, you've redeemed yourself for the Red Dead Redemption thing.]

Batman: Arkham Asylum

How it ended: The Joker injects himself with Titan and transforms into a huge, ugly Super Joker, and then your typical boss battle takes place.

How it should've ended: How about something, anything that would have actually made sense in the Batman universe? You know, where The Joker doesn't really want to kill Batman? It's all mind games? Just spitballin'.

Super Mario Bros.

How it ended: Bowser takes princess. Mario beats Bowser. Mario saves princess.

How it should've ended: Once he comes down from the mushrooms, Mario realizes Bowser won and Peach died, so he has to go back to being a plumber all day. And for some reason, he's just really mad at Luigi all the time.


How it ended: You just spent the entire length of an RPG searching for riches beyond imagination inside "The Vault," only to discover there is nothing within its confines except a final boss fight. And then everyone was sad.

How it should've ended: Narnia. You enter Narnia with all your guns and shoot everything in Narnia.

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge

How it ended: After Guybrush's suspenseful cat-and-mouse game with the Zombie Pirate LeChuck, he exits the scene and realizes the entire game took place in a theme park and he was only playing make-believe with his older brother.


Please Change The Endings Of These Video Games

And finally…

Mass Effect 3

How it ended: The ending to Mass Effect 3 involves vast amounts of energy spreading throughout the galaxy via the Mass Relays.

How it should've ended: Instead of energy, it should be Skittles, with Skittles explosions erupting at each Relay. Then we find out the entire Mass Effect series was just another entry in the long line of those weird-as-f*ck Skittles commercials.

Got it? Now go write to your favorite federal official.

Kotaku columnist Lisa Foiles is best known as the former star of Nickelodeon's award-winning comedy show, All That. She currently works as an actress/web host in Hollywood and writes for her game site, Save Point. For more info, visit Lisa's official website.
Alan Wake
Crossover: Find What Comics Inspired the Writer of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare

Part of Panel Discussion's mission is to look at the ways and places where comics and video games intersect and here in Crossover, we'll be talking to game creators about the comics stories and creators who've shaped their sensibilities.

In our first installment, we hear from Remedy Entertainment's Mikki Rautalahti, who—along with the dev studio's Sam Lake—puts words and ruminations into the head of Alan Wake. Given how the light-wielding writer battles a shadowy evil, you'd figure that Rautalahti would prefer his comics dark and gritty. But Rautalahti enjoys a broad variety of sequential art, including upbeat superheroics from writers like John Byrne and Mark Waid. Here's the writer describing his likes and dislikes in his own words:

I'm a big fan of the form. Don't get me wrong, I love video games, but if I had to pick just one of the two, there's a good chance that in the end, I'd end up with comics. To quote Harvey Pekar, "Comics are words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures."

In general, superhero comics are a kind of a safe bet, no matter what era we're talking about. I can be picky about which titles I like at any given time, and I do have standards of quality, but it's a safe bet to assume that a good superhero comic is a thing that I enjoy. I'll mention a few specific titles below, but whether it's Mark Waid's Flash, the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League or Peter David's Hulk, chances are I'm game.

This list could be endless, and my problem with something like this is always that I go, "OH GOD I'M LEAVING SOMETHING IMPORTANT OUT," so I've tried to just list things as they pop into my head.

So, some past favorites in no particular order:

Crossover: Find What Comics Inspired the Writer of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare • Will Eisner's Spirit (I love his other work like A Contract With God too, but man, I just love the Spirit).
• Peter Bagge's Buddy Bradley stuff.
• Joe Matt and Chester Brown
Love & Rockets
• The work of Hugo Pratt.
• John Byrne's Fantastic Four
Usagi Yojimbo
Mage, Grendel and almost anything by Matt Wagner.
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson.
• Like most comics readers of my generation, I grew up on the Chris Claremont/John Byrne era X-Men.
Cerebus, until the rampant misogyny just got too ridiculous.
• Brian K. Vaughn's Ex Machina.
Daredevil by pre-nutcase Frank Miller — the "Born Again" arc in particular.
• Most anything by Alan Moore, for kind of obvious reasons.
• Harvey Pekar's American Splendor, which is quoted above.

Some current favorites:

Crossover: Find What Comics Inspired the Writer of Alan Wake’s American NightmareLocke & Key by Joe Hill.
• Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, of course.
• Mike Carey's The Unwritten from DC/Vertigo.
Hark! A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton
Morning Glories by Nick Spencer (not sure if I really like it, but still).
• Almost anything that Ed Brubaker writes.

I'm not a big fan of:

Crossover: Find What Comics Inspired the Writer of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare • The Image stuff from the 1990s. A lot of the ‘90s superhero stuff in general, actually. It just was not a great decade for that kind of material.
• Comics by people who are intent on creating art but don't understand anything about comics, which generally results in an unreadable mess.
• Mark Millar and Garth Ennis. Preacher? Great fun, until you realize that it's nowhere near as ironic as you think at first. Stupid shit.

Alan Wake

Alan Wake's Boxed Edition Gets a Release DateAfter extending a collector's edition launch on Steam by a week, Remedy Entertainment has found a publisher for the boxed edition of its Alan Wake release for the PC.

Legacy Interactive will distribute the game and release it in North America on April 3. The boxed edition wil also include "The Writer" and "The Signal" episodes previously released as downloadable content on consoles.

Alan Wake extending launch deal on Steam for another week [Joystiq]

Alan Wake

Alan Wake's American Nightmare: The Kotaku Review Going into Alan Wake's American Nightmare, I'd worried that I hadn't played the DLC that followed the 2010 game that introduced Remedy's literary action hero. I loved the long-brewing Xbox 360 exclusive but, after months of never being able to slot in The Signal and The Writer add-ons, I'd decided to skip them after repeatedly hearing how I didn't need to play, did I? That way, I could keep my memories brightly-lit. Still, when Microsoft announced this latest new downloadable return to Alan Wake, I fretted about shadows encroaching on the series' unique flavor. Turns out I shouldn't have worried.

American Nightmare feels like fringe cinema, a work that embraces all its messy roots and questionable creative decisions unabashedly. What I loved about the original Alan Wake—the core premise that turns a thematic conceit playable—gets blown open even more here. From a story perspective, the metaphor gets stretched as Alan Wake finds himself trapped in the fictional Night Springs universe he helped architect. The game takes place two years after the events of Alan Wake. You're hunting for the keys to re-write reality in the game's levels, just as a writer hunts for the right words to create mood and meaning. American Nightmare adds depth to the symbols at the core of the Alan Wake formula—writing, light, darkness, multiplicity of self—and also ramps up the combat in a satisfying way.

Nothing about the way you play an Alan Wake game has changed significantly. You're still burning off darkness with a flashlight and then shooting the Taken—humans subsumed by the evil Dark Presence—until they die. Despite that familiarity, I still found myself tense and nervous, jumping at the Taken who managed to sneak up on me. That I'd still respond that way is a testament to Remedy's skill at setting mood with their art and sound design. The Alan Wake games are among the few that startle me with my own breathing.

Alan Wake's American Nightmare: The Kotaku Review
WHY: You'll get the signature Alan Wake fusion of sharp two-tiered combat and assured storytelling, along with a terrifyingly fun arcade experience.

Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Version played)
Released: February 22nd (Xbox Live)

Type of game: Third-person action/adventure with psychological horror and shooting elements.

What I played: Completed Story Mode in about 8 hours; spent about 12 hours playing Fight Til Dawn mode across various maps.

Two Things I Loved

  • Mr. Scratch's smarmy screeds prove to be oddly hypnotic, even when the actor portraying him is clearly chewing scenery.
  • Alan Wake actually feels like he's grown as a person. The prickly, whiny writer of 2010's offers some compassion to those he meets and walks around palpable regret.

Two Things I Hated

  • American Nightmare's Story Mode offers a novella-sized experience which you can blow through in a night. If you liked the heft of the first game, you'll feel slighted here.
  • Unlocking new maps based on performance got to feeling tedious.

Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes

  • ""I cursed out loud and screamed like a little girl in the office! People stared! Thanks, Remedy." - -Evan Narcisse,
  • "I've never been so glad to see a blazer-with-hoodie combination go away." -Evan Narcisse,

You get a real villain here, too. Mr. Scratch—the evil doppelganger created by every shitty thing ever thought or heard about Wake—breaks free of the darkness in Cauldron Lake, leaving Alan trapped there until he manages to pierce through a intersection of reality and the Twilight Zone-style Night Springs show he used to write for. Scratch gives sharp voice to what was once an amorphous enemy and also provides a bit of meta-commentary with which Remedy can poke fun at themselves and their critics.

Their lead character might be restricted but Remedy doesn't feel trapped at all. American Nightmare feels looser and more confident than the game that kicked off the franchise. The experiments with a more action-oriented mode pay off and the character of Alan feels more seasoned and less whiny than in the 2010 game. The goofy yet macabre FMV presentation of the Mr. Scratch sequences and Rod Serling-style narrator testify that this is a game made by people with taste, people who know how to pay homage to formative forebears and make their own craft zing at the same time.

American Nightmare rotates around the idea of life as a series of drafts for what you're really supposed to do, like the movie Groundhog Day. That means you're going to run through the environments more than once in the story mode. But, just because Remedy's re-using environments doesn't mean that it's the same feel every time. I'd lulled myself into think that my last-go round would be easiest, but its difficulty had me sweating and swearing out loud.

Manuscript pages actually serve a purpose now, as collecting them unlocks weapons in the Story mode. You can then use those weapons—after foraging for them—in the Fight Til Dawn mode. It's this interconnectedness that makes AWAN's design feel like an evolution and not just a crass cash-grab.

Fight Til Dawn comes across as a rangier version of the scare-suffused combat that you get in Story Mode. You're not being led around by plot. You can wander and explore, writing the chase scenes, desperate stands and unlikely survivals of your own story as you go. The fact that the levels are timed adds another delicious wrinkle of tension, as your mind does the formula of how many more minutes you'll need to stay alive. While the creepy Pacific Northwestern forests that made the Bright Falls locale work so well in Alan Wake aren't present here, the Arizona desert carries its own sparer sort of environmental terror.

The waves-of-enemies experience you get in Fight Til Dawn put me through a roiling churn of emotions. The triumph I felt at putting down one swarm of Taken quickly faded into sheer fear at the advance of another group. Fight Til Dawn also creates a great push-pull symbiosis between the two most satisfying parts of Alan Wake: do you venture and explore the dimly-lit scrub-brush for more manuscript pages, weapons or ammo or do you try to make a 10-minute stand on familiar ground?

Either way, it's a more chilling variant of the one-vs-many template many games are trying out. The only thing you can fortify, really are your own nerves.

New enemies—like Splitters, who cleave into two smaller dudes when you blast darkness off of them and Grenadiers that throw explosive chunks of shadow at you—change things up. Shapeshifters who burst into clouds of birds and hillbilly Giants round out the bad guy types you'll need to sear with your flashlight and blow to kingdom come.

The hints of what's happened after the first Alan Wake game dropped by American Nightmare tease that there might be more expansion for this action/horror franchise. AM feels like a game that proves the Alan Wake concept is sturdier and more flexible than just one game, ripe for the episodic updates a book-minded game series cries out for. It makes you yearn for more. More chapters of self-consciously (?) stilted writing, more run-to-the-light desperation, more of Alan Wake becoming increasingly likable while still not becoming a boring square-jaw. There's loads of self-aware texture in this little slice of downloadable experimentation. Open it up and rub your fingertips along Alan Wake's newest chapters to see what great psychological horror plays like.


Alan Wake's PC Version Pays For Itself in 48 HoursThe PC version of the 2010 Xbox 360 exclusive Alan Wake has broken even in just two days, said a Remedy producer on the game's official forums.

"We are very happy with the sales and hitting #1 on Steam at launch was nothing short of amazing," wrote Remedy's Aki Järvilehto. "We recouped our development and marketing expenses during the first 48 hours. And yes, we're certainly very excited about PC."

That's certainly heartening news for PC gamers who'd like to see ports of other successful Xbox games. Come on Rockstar, all eyes are on you… I know a good number of members of the glorious PC gaming master race who'd love to finally try out Red Dead Redemption

Alan Wake Forums [Official Site via Edge Online]


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