Published on March 21st, 2010 | by prime4
Alan Wake – Hands On
From the recent Microsoft’s Hands-On experience for Alan Wake, it is clear just what Remedy is trying to accomplish with its long awaited survival horror thriller. If some games aren’t through justice by their screens, then Alan Wake isn’t even through justice by its trailers – this is something that you need to see to truly appreciate.
Some of the games that Remedy make are more cinematic, movie like action, or so says Remedy’s OZ Hakkinen, going some way to explaining the mixture of gloomy ambiance and surprisingly accomplished mechanics that defined our very own particular play session.
‘We are well known for the Max Payne games, where we had a story driven experience and a strong lead character, and we’re seeing similar things happening with Alan Wake,’ he continued when asked on the motivations behind Alan Wake’s prolonged development. ‘We’ve evolved the game into a thriller.’
Alan Wake is a type of gaming experience that isn’t afraid to combine narrative and gameplay together!
Alan Wake is not just a survival horror game. It is more than that. It’s a piece of work that is conscious of its heritage that can be found in videogames, the movies and television – and translates that into a type of experience that combines narrative and gameplay together, not relying on cut-scenes initiated with action, but instead combining the two.
Alan Wake is a writer who is suffering from a creative block, his wife convinces him to take her and flew to the Pacific North Western town of Bright Falls. Before long though, Alan starts finding torn pages of a novel with his name written on them, but he has no recollection of writing it. And then the horror enclosed within its pages starts to come true.
The game has a bit of Hitchcock in there, certainly an echo of Twin Peaks in Bright Falls. Ala Steven king, Hakkinen enthuses while the game’s music plays quietly in the background. In the game you’ll see a hedge maze – from The Shining noticeably. There’s are some moments where you’ll say ‘OK, I’ve seen this somewhere else’. What happens with that is that it resonates really well, and you can’t quite put your finger on why you’re scared, or what emotions that it’s pulling out of you. You’ve seen it somewhere else. It can be the music or it can be the way we use the camera, it’s more like ‘the knife on the table, then you pull away, go back and there’s something missing.’ You only realize it’s the knife when the action unravels. So we take a lot of influences from popular culture like that.’
It’s not all narrative thinking and atmosphere, though. Alan Wake has also some serious gameplay mechanics to back up its style, and when Alan Wake is attacked by the nasty forces of darkness, he’s forced to look to the light. Charging up a torch beam and pointing it on your foe will weaken them temporarily for a quick pistol shot to the chest, and the way Remedy has designed the battle really suits the action and the setting.
We’re not expected to line-up headshots with pinpoint accuracy, but just remain calm enough when the adrenaline is pumping and the heart is racing to focus that torch, and then make sure we’ve got enough ammo to finish one of these specters off. It’s the proper way of doing things, but it’s also extremely effective.
Obviously, with this being Alan Wake, even the details of combat have been given cinematic flair, as Hakkinen explains: ‘We want to use some of the things we have learned about camera work and how to use those in a thriller. We have ‘thriller moments’, like a bit on a bridge where you’re attacked by birds, so we pull the camera away here so we can get that moment of ‘hunter and hunted’. You’re still in control of the player, so it gives you a little more time to relax, but it also gets your pulse racing because we pull the camera back. There are cinematic moments as well, for example if an enemy is just about to hit you with an axe or whatever weapon… If you dodge out of the way it activates a ‘cinematic moment’.
And indeed it does, as the camera pulls in close and the action slow down while our Hero rolls out of the way of an incoming axe blow during our own hands-on play. During the first episode of Alan Wake’s TV structured tale, this was one of the tamer things that happened to our poor frayed nerves. With cars falling out of the sky and crashing through bridges, different faces flashing up on the screen and making us jump out of our seat, and one of the eeriest American diners outside of a David Lynch movie, it was one of the more intense press play tests in recent times. Don’t worry about staying awake, because after this, you won’t be able to sleep.