HCF videogame review: Alan Wake’s American Nightmare

Remedy – Microsoft Game Studios – Xbox Live Arcade – Out Now

Alan Wake makes a welcome return in this not quite sequel, yet not Alan Wake 1.5 episode, in which the darkness that had been out to take over the world, has transported Alan to the mysterious backwater Nevada town of Night Springs. Immediately pursued by the Taken (townsfolk who have been enveloped by the darkness), Alan knows what he has to do, after finding pages of an already written manuscript. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Wake, he is trapped in a story that has been written by himself, but manipulated by the darkness. The manuscript pages he finds are what he has since written, to turn proceedings in his favour.

Night Springs may be a small desert town, but Alan full well knows, that Night Springs is the name of Twilight Zone-esque TV show as seen in the original game. As you would now come to expect from Alan Wake, nothing is straightforward in American Nightmare, and although the darkness’s presence and meddling is just as inexplicable as before, it takes a new twist, with the presence of Mr. Scratch. Mr. Scratch is a manifestation of the darkness, posing as Alan, out to corrupt the people Alan will meet as well as turn them against him, all in a bid to stop him breaking free of the darkness’s grasp

American Nightmare makes no departure in terms of gameplay. This is the Alan Wake we know and love, and although it runs along similar ground, there are several changes in the enemy department, as well as the more obvious difference, the setting. The Taken have certainly beefed up, with some stronger and faster adversaries, who are kitted out with all manner of weapons, including darkness grenades. Add to that, there’s the occasional wave of spiders to contend with, so those with an aversion to all things eight legged are certainly in for a treat. The location has moved from the lush greenery of the Twin Peaks-a-like Bright Falls, to the much dustier and dry Night Springs, which is just desert and rock for miles around, as well as the odd small settlement or establishment, dotted around the arid land. While it does pale in comparison next to Bright Falls, the change of scenery is most welcome.


The cut scenes this time around are a combination of live actors and CG landscapes, which isn’t entirely noticeable at first, as it’s presented in such a way that the characters are surrounded in darkness, but it becomes a little more obvious as the game wears on. Making a return are the radios and TV’s you happen across and can tune into. Mr Scratch has taken over the airwaves, with some sinister transmissions, all there to mess with Alan, and also fill a little bit of story in at the same time. The eerie atmosphere still lingers, but unfortunately, the only scares in the game are when you are low on ammo in the middle of being ambushed by the Taken. It doesn’t mean things don’t tense, there’s just a lack of scares in contrast to the previous game.


On top of the main story there’s an arcade mode, which is basically arena battles with the Taken, which you must survive until sunrise. It’s a fun addition which can become somewhat addictive when trying to beat a friends high score, or trying to get the tough achievements, and while it is welcome, surely the time and effort that has gone into it could have gone into adding a little more longevity to the main story? It’s doubtful people will be picking up American Nightmare on the merits of this mode alone.


It’s a fantastic continuation of the series, if all too brief, as the main story clocks up between 3-4 hours (depending on if you go in search of manuscript pages or not), which isn’t bad going for an Arcade game, but when its in the top pricing bracket at 1200msp, which considering Dead Rising 2: Case Zero cost a paltry 400 and lasted just as long, American Nightmare really doesn’t come across as value for money. Luckily its a brilliant story and one that will have you hooked from the outset.


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