REVIEW: Alan Wake’s American Nightmare

Developed by – Remedy Entertainment

Published by – Microsoft Studios

Number of Players – 1

Platform – Xbox Live Arcade

Release Date – Out now for Xbox 360

Genre – Third-Person Shooter/Horror/Action

ESRB – Teen

MSRP – 1200 Microsoft Points ($14.99)

Alan’s out of the forest, but not yet free of the darkness; continuing from the Writer DLC, Alan has written his escape, “The Return”, which forms the plot for Alan Wake’s American Nightmare.

As described by Alan in the game’s introduction, Cauldron Lake isn’t the only location where the boundary between our world and the space the darkness inhabits is weak. Alan exploits this fact by using a small Arizona town as the location for an episode of the Twilight Zone inspired Night Springs.

In line with being a TV show and not a book, where the only limitation is the writer’s imagination, American Nightmare feels as if it was developed with a very specific budget in mind. The first game’s driving sequences grounded you and made Bright Falls feel like a real location. In American Nightmare however, once you complete the tasks assigned in a location you are forcibly relocated, losing that sense of place.

You revisit the locations during your playthrough, which makes complete sense in regards to the story but gets a bit dry by the end. To alleviate some of this repetition your tasks are reduced with each visit and this is cleverly tied into the story.

Forcing your hand into returning to these areas is Mr. Scratch, Alan’s darkness empowered doppelganger. He was mentioned in passing in the main game, but is now out to usurp Alan’s life. He details his plans via live action video should you activate the televisions you find along you way. The radios also return and allow you to catch up with Alan’s friend Barry and his new career. Unfortunately Barry doesn’t play a larger part in this release.

There are no thermos flasks to collect this time around, but there are still manuscript pages. The pages further flesh out the plot and encounters, but also serve another purpose in the main story and new arcade mode.

Located around the three story areas and the new arcade arenas are locked weapons cases, ranging from SMGs to Combat Shotguns, these are unlocked by obtaining a required number of manuscript pages. As a fan of Alan’s narration when a page is read, this is a bonus and should provide incentive to collect and absorb them.

The arcade mode itself places Alan in one of the 5 combat arenas, 10 minutes away from Dawn and subjected to wave after wave of Taken. Killing the Taken and performing successful dodges will build up your combo meter which is essential for achieving a high score and unlocking further arenas.

Mr. Scratch has evolved the Taken since Alan last encountered them, their numbers now featuring variants that can turn into birds, throw grenades and multiply when you turn your torch to them. These add variation to the combat, but ultimately, the isolated areas in the story mode and the fact that you’re essentially running fetch quests in these areas before being moved on make the experience feel much less immersive than the original.

The odd thing is that it all fits in the narrative they’ve created, repeating areas, a doppelganger, more twisted creatures to fight all feel like TV show tropes, but Alan Wake to me is an experience I want in a big, engrossing book format. Driving between locations or just taking a walk through the forests grounded you in Bright Falls; the enemies being humanoid, except for the flocks of birds, again never stretched the thin layer of believability.

American Nightmare is a welcome return to Alan’s story and I really dig the concept, but ultimately if you’re only interested in more story content I’d wait for a price drop.

Story: 5 / Graphics: 4 / Audio: 4 / Gameplay: 3 / Overall: 4

About Daniel Byrne

Dan likes long walks on the beach, romantic eveni...nah, he likes Batman and naps. Whilst awake he can be found thinking about naps.

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