Alan Wake has clearly been a troubled project. Remedy Entertainment last released a game in 2003 with the crime drama The Fall of Max Payne. Six years is a long, long time between projects, and Alan Wake has been on the horizon of upcoming Xbox 360 games for half that time. Sadly, those three years have come and gone with fewer and fewer public appearances from the mysterious game; every E3 has brought with it another Microsoft press conference making no mention of Wake. But now, at long last, the game has resurfaced with a (hopefully final) release window of next spring, and Wake still looks to offer something original despite how long it’s been since the project’s inception.
[[image:090603_alanwake.jpg:Wake up, Alan.:center:0]]
This year’s gameplay demonstration gave me hope for a genuinely unique take on the survival horror genre. Remedy are doing their best to blur the line between thriller novels and the scary sector of video games: Wake stars a writer whose tales of the macabre come to life, and it seems to feature a chapter-esque episodic structure. It may essentially work out to be little more than a traditional mission system, but the twist is interesting nonetheless.
Remedy’s gameplay demonstration showed off a visually striking level with creepy atmospheric lighting and realistic physics. While we’re probably not going to see mass environmental carnage a la The Force Unleashed or Red Faction, all the objects in the world are obviously going to play a big role in the encounters. The Remedy playthrough finds Alan contending with supernatural forces using the real world against him, flinging environmental hazards like cars in his direction. In some cases, those enemies won’t be defeated with bullets — they’ll be defeated by light.
With the advent of HDR lighting and better graphics, more and more games are starting to use lighting as a key facet of gameplay. It looks like Remedy’s going to do a better job than, say, Epic did with the obnoxious Kryll segment in Gears of War, but it remains to be seen whether the gameplay involves running from one powerful light source to another, or if the developer takes a more inventive approach. Staring off with a flashlight that can be used in tandem with other weaponry gives me hope that Wake will succeed where games like Doom 3 failed… and the flare gun looks like the perfect combination of beauty and deadly force to take down the light-shy enemies.
I was disappointed not to see any of Wake’s weather effects in action. The tornado in the official trailer caused a terrifying degree of carnage, and if the game’s engine is up to producing dynamic, powerful weather that affects the environment, the light/dark demonstration will be a mere shadow of what Remedy has in store. We already know they can deliver on great bullet time and gunplay — with half a decade of development, hopefully they can back up those basics with some genuinely fresh ideas that push the psychological/horror genre forward.