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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Xbox 360
GENRE: Action
May 18, 2010

Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Alan Wake

 Written by Troy Matsumiya  on October 17, 2006

First Impressions: They mostly come out at night ? mostly.

Okay, so as far as titles go, ?Alan Wake? doesn't exactly grab you like Resident Evil, Silent Hill or Condemned does. However, don't let the game's unassuming title fool you, because you just may find something sinister creeping up behind you in the dark?

Alan Wake is an upcoming psychological action thriller (don't call it ?horror survival?) from Remedy Entertainment, developers of the famed Max Payne series. And for people who love giving themselves the willies, this is shaping up to be one damn scary game.

Remedy has only given us a brief taste of the story, but so far it seems like something out of a classic Stephen King novel. The title character is a writer struggling on his first novel when he meets the love of his life, Alice. Coincidentally, soon afterwards his writing takes on a life of its own as his novel ? a psychological thriller, of course ? almost seems to write itself, incorporating events from Alan's life and his increasingly disturbing dreams. The novel goes on to become a huge best-seller and life seems good ? that is, until Alice mysteriously disappears. The really weird thing is that she disappears in circumstances eerily similar to events in his novel.

The worry and stress about Alice's well-being takes its toll on Alan, who soon falls victim to horrible depression and ugly writer's block. He also begins to suffer from nasty insomnia, blurring his ability to determine what's real and what's only a dream. He tries to start over by moving to the small town of Bright Falls in the Pacific Northwest, where he hopes to get away from his troubles and work on his new novel. Unfortunately, his troubles not only follow him but get worse ? much worse. Like hearing voices in his head, finding weird stuff written in his journal and having disturbing visions of Alice worse. Maybe he should cut down on the Ambien.

At the beginning of the game, Alan is driving towards Bright Falls when he picks up a hitchhiker ? not a particularly smart idea since the main character in his new manuscript also picks up a hitchhiker, who is naturally a homicidal maniac. Hmm. As they drive, Alan finds himself talking about his book and the hitchhiker perfectly finishes his sentences. Creepy. But before anything can happen, Alan sees a terrible accident on the otherwise deserted road and pulls over to help. He gets out of the car to check on the apparently dead female driver but suddenly finds himself in the headlights of a speeding semi-trailer barreling around the corner. He dives out of the way just in time, only to see the truck plow into his car ? with the hitchhiker still in it. Ha! Take that, you hitchhiking homicidal maniac creepy guy, you! Alan passes out and wakes up hours later to find the sun going down ? and both the female driver and hitchhiker gone. Alan is understandably freaked out and flicks on his flashlight (showing off the cool dynamic lighting and shadow effects) to little comfort. He starts running and crosses a rope bridge but as soon as he gets to the other side, he hears someone calling his name. Unfortunately, that someone is the dead hitchhiker. Doh! Alan turns to see the empty rope bridge bouncing in time with invisible footsteps slowly moving towards him?

Got goose bumps yet? The story will unfold in a series of ?episodes? with the final ending varying based on the choices you make throughout the game; so there will be definitely replay value ? if you're brave enough to go through it again.

While full details about the plot are still tantalizingly vague, one thing is for certain: this is one stunningly beautiful game. The visuals are truly next gen, with incredibly realistic environments. In fact, take a quick glance at the screenshots and you'd swear they were actual photographs; only upon closer examination can you see they're computer generated. The forests of the Pacific Northwest are lush and green, filled with lakes featuring amazing wave and reflection effects. Even more impressive is the fact that these highly detailed forest, lake, mountain and town environments fill a huge map measuring a massive 100 square kilometers.

Further enhancing the environmental realism will be the incredible dynamic shadow, lighting and weather effects that are a sight to behold. Bad weather will especially show off the cool particle physics as wind stirs up dust and small objects; particularly impressive was how a tornado destroys a house with explosive Hollywood-style destruction. The game will have day/night cycles with the weather affecting the sunlight with eerie realism; for example, fog will diffuse and dull the lighting while sunset on a clear day will blaze with beautiful red and orange hues.

Of course, you won't be marveling at the pretty sunsets for too long since the really scary things will come out at night. And you really don't want to be outside after dark; of course, being inside probably won't be any safer either. I wonder if hiding under the covers and turning down the creepy music will help?

Final Thoughts
Although the developers are only dishing out tiny bites of Alan Wake, it's looking scarier, creepier and more beautiful each time. There's no official word yet on what enemies you'll encounter, what weapons you'll use or what some of the missions might be, but the chills I'm getting so far have definitely grabbed my attention. Will Mr. Wake be the new face of horror thrillers? We'll find out later next year.

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