The light of day [E3 2009]

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.

7 thoughts on “The light of day [E3 2009]

  1. Wait, what part was original exactly? I thought the game was a mashup of Silent Hill with Luigi’s Mansion…

  2. The “Previously On” and “Tonight On” cues make me think of TV shows or old radio dramas. It might use those cues as a way to break up the game into chunks or open the door to DLC “episodes” should the game do well.

    I thought the light effects were excellent and the narrative seemed fairly interesting. It definitely could carve out a niche in the survival horror genre. It remains to be seen how much psychology will be involved in the game itself.

  3. Without a shadow of a doubt, Alan Wake is my game of the show. Having grown up in the Black Hills, the idea of something scary in a dark, sleepy forest town intrigues me because it’s a more plausible fear for me. I actually like the episodic format; it’s one of the few things that the reboot of Alone in the Dark had going for it. I don’t have the time to play games as I’d like to, so a recap is an appealing factor for me as well.

    Let’s just hope the game play isn’t nearly as broken in Alan Wake, though.

  4. The premise of this game actually reminds me of a little known Carpenter movie: In The Mouth of Madness. Stars Jurassic Park-hero-guy, who plays the lawyer of this famous and popular King-esque horror novelist. The novelist disappears to the town Hobbes End (which happens to also be a setting in his books), and his lawyer has to track him down (for some reason or another). Also the novelists books are starting to drive people crazy, and the real Hobbes End is oddly similar to the Hobbes End in his books…dun dun DUN!

    Seriously though, I’d recommend checking it out.

  5. As I’ve said countless times on various sites, I’m so excited about Alan Wake. It feels so much like the original Alone in the Dark’s in feel and somewhat in pacing (I’m assuming so, because we’ve only seen fairly action filled moments), unlike Atari’s recent addition. This year has felt like a fever of multiplayer and social emphasized games, and Alan Wake really stands out amongst the noise. I can’t wait for another highly crafted, atmospheric, single player game. I do hope it’s not episodic, as I would like to experience some semblance of a satisfying conclusion.

    I’m also tiring of all the MMO’s, episodic content etc… it seems games today are always trying to create various hooks into gamers, demanding more commitment than I’d like to be tied up to. If more and more titles take on this nature, and with my limited time, I’m screwed.

  6. @Daniel I think it’s going to be episodic in structure, like a serial TV program or a book, but I doubt you have anything to worry about in regards to DLC. Remedy probably wouldn’t gimp the ending of a single player only game they’ve been working on for so long.

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