Near the end of last year, I got the chance to finally play the critically acclaimed third-person action-thriller Control and it was an experience, to say the least. From the incredible abilities at your disposal to the sheer fun of taking on multiple enemies, it’s a game that I continue to recommend to this day.
But, one of the things that stood out to me during my playthrough was the fact that Control took place in the same universe as another critically acclaimed action-thriller, Alan Wake. A game that I’d always heard of and seen but never gotten the chance to experience myself.
I knew from the moment they mentioned Alan’s name in Control that it was only a matter of time before I played this game myself and since it’s about time for Alan to leave Xbox GamePass and make way for other great titles, there’s no better time than now to join the titular character in uncovering the mystery of Bright Falls.
As you can expect, a lot of new games have been released since Alan made his debut almost 2 decades ago and the genre as a whole has made some major improvements so does Alan Wake still hold up today? Does it still deserve the same praise all these years later? Without further ado, let’s see if Alan Wake is still good in 2021?
So, What’s It All About?
As the name suggests, you’ll be playing the game as the main character, Alan Wake. A professional author struggling to pen any new ideas and desperate to live up to the reputation of the last successful book he released. Together, Alan and his wife, Alice, travel to the sleepy town of Bright Falls to escape the pressures of New York and have a relaxing vacation.
Upon arriving in the town, Alan tries to retrieve the key for their cabin from a local man at the diner but, instead, he meets a mysterious old woman that claims she has the key they’re looking for with instructions on how to get there. Little do the pair know they’re headed for danger.
On their first night in the spooky woodlands, the couple has a small argument causing Alan to leave the cabin in frustration. While outside, he hears Alice scream and, before he can return to her, she is taken into the lake by the darkness and lost to the depths below. It’s up to Alan to uncover the mystery of Bright Falls and save his wife.
Now, true to the action-thriller formula, Alan doesn’t go off facing the darkness without some handy backup. Bright Falls and many of the residents within have been consumed and turned by the living, breathing darkness. So, Alan’s best weapon against these enemies is none other than pure light.
Throughout your adventure, you’ll be relying on Alan’s torch to help light the way and weaken enemies to make them more vulnerable to revolvers, shotguns, and hunting rifles. And, if the torch isn’t enough, Alan can also use road flares, flashbangs, and even flare guns to do some serious damage.
— Stevius Maximus (@SteviusM) May 11, 2021
So, What’s Good About It?
Despite the fact that there aren’t a lot of horror elements in the game, I can’t call this a pure action adventure either. There are definitely a few tense moments that are filled with suspense as you traverse through the spooky forest but I never got to the point of feeling absolute terror like in real horror games.
I did find myself treading cautiously in certain places but that was mostly because enemies had a tendency to sneak up on me if the game didn’t make me absolutely aware of the fact they had spawned. I had to rely on the sounds and ambiance around me to detect them and that helped to create some artificial tension.
The guns that Alan gets to use also feel really good. Each shot felt like it had an impact, especially since ammo was limited and you really want each shot to land successfully when you’re in a fight. Plus, it’s a cool touch that you can spam the X button to reload faster, simulating the frantic action of trying to reload a revolver one bullet at a time while in a pinch.
The overall presentation of the game is a standout as well since each chapter, is delivered like an episode in a TV series you find on Netflix with a cliff-hanger at the end and a brief recap of what you just played told in the ‘previously on…’ style of modern series. It’s a unique story-telling method that I was excited to see.
So, What’s Bad About It?
Now, despite Alan Wake have some satisfying weaponry to use, the combat itself has to be one of the most frustrating elements of the entire game. The over-the-shoulder camera view limits Alan’s peripheral vision and so I was constantly getting attacked by enemies I had no idea even existed until they smacked me in the head.
There’s no warning besides their audible footsteps and when you’re hearing 7 different footsteps, including your own, it can get a bit tough trying to keep all the enemies within your line of sight. And don’t even get me started on Alan’s movement within the game.
I get that he’s just a 30-something author from New York and not some hyper-athletic combatant but his movements are so slow and his dodge mechanic has got to be one of the most ridiculous dodges I’ve ever used. By the time I got a handle on it and could use it effectively, the game was over.
And the award for the most obvious problem in a videogame has to go to the facial animations in every cutscene. I played the Xbox 360 version on Xbox GamePass and it was insane seeing some of the most heartfelt or tense moments get destroyed because every character looked like they were in the middle of having a stroke.
— Stevius Maximus (@SteviusM) May 11, 2021
What kept me going throughout my playthrough has to be the story itself. uncovering the mystery of Bright Falls and the darkness within was enough to get me to the end credits and I can confidently recommend it to any fan of action-adventure games.
You might be a bit put off by the dull color palette but, in a game that mostly happens at night, you can’t really expect to be blown away by dazzling colors so it’s kind of expected. Overall, you can’t go wrong playing it on Gamepass while you can or fishing it out from your local bargain store.
Have you played Alan Wake? What did you think of the spooky actin-adventure game? let me know in the comments section below.