ALAN WAKE is a failure.
Quite a blunt way to start a review, huh? But over the nearly half-decade that the game has been pimped by developer Remedy, it's accumulated an almost mythical status. "Twin Peaks with pixels," we were told—whereas what eventually hit store shelves is really more Gears of War than David Lynch.
That's not to say the game is bad. Alan Wake will definitely grace many "best of year" lists thanks to its gorgeous graphics, phenomenal tunes, and clever storytelling tricks. The problem, though, is that it isn't what we were originally promised. The game's style (which could superficially be described as "Silent Hill, but American") creates a suitably creepy atmosphere for the world's overarching evils, and thus a valid reason to shoot said evils in the junk—but again, it's not what we were all hoping for. Weird, twitchy, mysterious monsters have been done to death, and while shooting them yet again might get some people off, it seems like a disappointment in a game that was supposed to be the Next Big Thing.
It feels strange to say that this survival horror game's best feature is its smooth, inviting gameplay mechanisms. Remember, this is the genre that gave us the tank-like controls of the early Resident Evil games and purposely obscured your vision and hearing to create false jump-scares in Silent Hill. Alan Wake, on the other hand, makes navigating the hamlet of Bright Falls as easy as you'd like—making it that much more terrifying when you realize that, despite having completely unhindered abilities and some quality weaponry, you're still in a lot of danger from the unseen horror creeping in the shadows.
Both the game's brisk sales and its ending suggest an impending sequel, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Not in hopes that Remedy can make a good game—the firm's talent is evident—but that they can make Alan Wake 2 like Twin Peaks, something that is discussed for years to come.