Saturday, May 15, 2010

Preview Power: Alan Wake

[Part of a series of smaller posts that I'll be doing about various upcoming games. I don't jump on board the hype train too often, but when I do I like to think that there's a pretty significant reason for why, and in this series I will attempt to explain my anticipation for each game.]

In just a few days Alan Wake will finally come out. After years of waiting for it to not just be released but to be revealed in more detail, it would be safe to say that anticipation -- my anticipation -- is running pretty high right now. Here is a game that I’ve been interested in ever since it was announced, with the few pieces of information known about the game before E3’s (re)reveal last year piquing my curiosity and suggesting to me that it was worth keeping an eye on. So before I savour the moment next week, just why is the game on my radar?

So far this generation there hasn’t been that many games focused on scaring players. Despite the odd exception, Survival Horror doesn’t really seem relevant anymore or a priority for the various developers out there. I won’t say too much because I plan to elaborate in an upcoming post, but Alan Wake seems like a game that will scare me, and that alone is enough to put it on my radar. From what I’ve heard, it’s not just cheap scares ala early Resident Evil titles; the game really seems to emphasise the eerie, its light and dark mechanics adding to the isolation and hesitation that such an atmospheric experience should deliver. I don’t expect a thrill ride nor do I expect a game where what you don’t see is scarier than what you do; I just want a game that puts me on the edge of my seat, gets my heart pounding and draws me in through my uncertainty with what I will come across next.

Another reason I’m anticipating the game is due to its more realistic approach to story-telling. Yes it is a bit cliché, the idea of an author’s stories coming true nothing we haven’t seen before, but in the context of videogames where the fantastical is apparently more important than anything else, its emphasis on a more believable setting with characters who seem like they might be easy to relate with is enticing to me. Strangely enough, I actually kind of view the game in a similar light to that of Heavy Rain -- I was looking forward to that for a similar reason, its attempt to tell a mature tale with engaging characters eventually delivering an experience I’ve already covered elsewhere -- so it will be interesting to see if Remedy can deliver on my expectations like Quantic Dream did.

Lastly and what probably won’t surprise anyone anymore, I am also eager to see how it uses its space. The changes between a linear and open-world and then seemingly back again for the final product has been intriguing to me, and I’m interested to see how it has finally turned out. The town of Bright Falls also seems interesting, its idyllic, picturesque environments something I’m eager to explore. From what I’ve heard from a few people who have already played the game, its structure sounds not unlike BioShock’s Rapture: a linear experience that still contains a nice amount of exploration -- and considering how much I love that franchise, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that if the vibe I’ve picked up on is correct.

All in all, Alan Wake has been on my radar for as long as it has been in development, so it goes without saying that the day I get to finally put it into my Xbox 360 will be an exciting day indeed. Can’t wait.


Michelle said...

Didn't read a single thing about Alan Wake - not at any point in its development. First notice I'd taken of it was when it turned up at my house and Max started playing it.

It's ridiculously atmospheric, quite amazing, not at all scary for me (I don't think anything can scare me as much as Project Zero does) but the setting is just perfectly pitched, beautiful.

Steven O'Dell said...

Michelle -- Yeah, nothing will come close to Project Zero I don't think but it will still be interesting to see whether it can make me anxious later this week.

It's good to hear that it has nailed the atmosphere. That's one of this current generation's best assets I think, the way atmosphere of all kinds has really progressed. Really benefits the immersion factor, and makes the experience even more enjoyable too. Now you've confirmed what I assumed would be the case, I can't wait for my copy to arrive. :)