There is a small, but loud, community that thinks that Alan Wake is one of the best games of this past console generation. We are right, too. Available on the Xbox 360 and PC, this is the finest psychological horror game I have ever seen. Borrowing heavily from Twin Peaks, Stephen King, and about a dozen other sources, the game tells the story of novelist, Alan Wake, as his vacation to the Pacific Northwest goes horribly wrong. The two things I most want to do right now are tell you every detail of this story and let you experience the story all on your own.
The thing that works so well here is that the game is built like a season of a TV show. There are six episodes that help break the game into smaller chunks, but the real genius is in the beginning of each episode. Each episode starts with a “previously on . . . ” to help keep you invested in the story. They are easy to skip if you are mainlining the game, but if you had to take a week off because work was just crazy and you just never got around to it last week, these recaps can keep the story fresh in your mind.
I should mention that the story here is the best part of the game by a lot. The action is great, the setting is phenomenal, but the story is something special. It is, at turns, hilarious and fun, claustrophobic and frightening, and often just weird as hell. I think that this video game might be my favorite Stephen King novel. (Editor: Ben, you know that this wasn’t written by King and isn’t a novel, right?) There is even a web series prologue that feels like a perfect David Lynch series (that wasn’t written or directed by Lynch). Thanks to the power of the internet, you can watch that here. Seriously, there are six episodes at about five or six minutes each; go back and click there.
There is one problem with this game that I should mention. The facial animation can be distractingly bad during cut-scenes. There is a simple fix for this. Put on subtitles. You will thank me. Seriously, though, go and play this game; it is super good.
Ultimately, while I might have had more “fun” playing something like Halo or Batman, this is the only game I’ve played that has an incredible plot. Even if you don’t like to play games, you should find someone who does and watch them play it. There are moments in this game that stack up against any episode of The Sopranos or Lost. This is something everyone should experience.
Remember rule #1: never go out at night.