Remedy Entertainment brings us back into the shadowy world of Alan Wake, going from a retail edition to a smaller arcade game this time around. It has been two years since we last saw Alan Wake take the plunge into the darkness of his own mind, fighting shadowy beings and even his best friend. Now, Alan has written himself into an episode of Night Springs in an attempt to finally free himself from this maddening nightmare. Mr. Scratch, Alan’s doppelganger, has different plans for Mr. Wake however. Can Remedy wrap players back in the world of the famous writer or does the transition from retail to downloadable hurt the game? Hit the jump to read my full impressions.
American Nightmare has taken the combat mechanics of Alan Wake and tightened them up. They paid close attention to the wants of fans and added a new depth to the just flash and shoot. The addition of a handful of new enemy types makes you have to change up your strategy if you don’t want to end up in a mosh crowd of angry men wanting to chop your head off. There are spiders, enemies that turn into crows to get behind you while you are distracted and the splitters. The Splitters had me cursing, in a good way, multiple times because when you flash some light on them, they split. There were multiple times where I had a group of enemies bum rush me and my first instinct was to just shine my light on them to slow them down. That really only hurt me because in the middle of that crowd were two splitters as I called myself stupid.
The game has also seen the addition of a few new weapons as well. They new damage dealers are a Nail Gun, Crossbow, Uzi, Sawed Off Shotgun, Combat Shotgun and Assault Rifle. You unlock the more powerful weapons by collecting a certain amount of Manuscript Pages and finding their case. The cases are littered around the environment, making the eager collection hunter search every corner of the map. These guns pack a big punch against vulnerable Taken but maybe to a fault. When I had the Uzi and Combat Shotgun, I had no problem wiping the Taken out of my path even when I was numerously outnumbered. The original Alan Wake was about picking and choosing your battles while it seems American Nightmare is about killing everything. It is also a little awkward seeing Alan run around with a large Assault Rifle in one hand with just a flashlight in the other.
The main story takes around five to six hours to complete but is a blast to play through. However, I can tell one glaring problem that may turn someone off of the game. Throughout the game only play three levels, multiple times. While the story does a good job explaining why you have to do this, I can still foresee a lot of complaints arising from that alone. Other than that problem, I can safely say that the structure of the story is action packed and is a memorable experience as you travel from a small town to an observatory to drive in movie theater.
American Nightmare introduces us to a horde mode as Fight Till Dawn. If you really want the challenging combat, this is where it is. With limited ammo, guns and health around map, you must survive for ten minutes. This mode is what I remember fighting in Alan Wake was, running around and throwing down flares to give you some breathing room while you find some ammo or reload. Fight Till Dawn has five maps, ten if you count the nightmare levels, that are structured in small squares to keep you running in circles. This mode truly is thrilling as you will run out of ammo and your only option is to run as you hear the footsteps of your attackers right behind you.
[+New Enemy Types] [+New Weapons] [+Fight Till Dawn] [+Five to Six Hour Campaign] [*Repeating Three Levels] [*A Little Too Easy]
The story of Alan’s desperate fight seems to be a little more understandable this time around. Mr. Scratch wants to keep Alan locked away in the darkness. He plans on taking over his life and ruining everyone that was ever close to Alan. There are other small story threads through radios that you find which describe what the other characters have been up to. Barry is now the manager of the Old Gods of Asgard and Alice… well, I won’t spoil that one for you. The story overall is welcoming to new people that want to jump into American Nightmare but it also gives quite a few nods to the original.
The visuals of American Nightmare surprisingly hold up pretty strong. I dare say they are almost on par with the original Alan Wake. From the misty shadows that surround the Taken to the dimly lit streets of the small town. However, I did have a couple moments where the game stuttered due to the action on screen. The cut scenes are mainly in game now but they the characters during them seem to be a bit stiff. The cut scenes that have Mr Scratch and Alan Wake interacting are usually all real life actors. These cut scenes really add a layer of style to the game, making the characters seem more real rather than the stiff in game ones. The televisions you find in the world of American Nightmare always bring an interesting scene with Mr. Scratch. With superb acting, Remedy really sold me that Mr. Scratch in the definition of a psycho. The voice acting of some of the other female characters you run into, on the other hand, seem to fall pretty flat. Only one of them seems slightly likable while the others seem to not have a personality of their own.
One of my favorite parts of the original Alan Wake was the licensed music they got for it. Remedy was able to bring back Poets of the Fall to do two more tracks as their alter persona, Old Gods of Asgard. They add an additional adrenaline when you hear the guitar riff kick up as a swarm of Taken rush at you. While there aren’t any moments like the rock stage from the original, there is a moment that tries to reach the same level of that epic fight.
[+Understandable Story] [+Mr. Scratch] [+Surprising Visuals] [+Great Licensed Music] [-Flat Acting from secondary characters] [-Stuttering] [-Stiff Characters]
Is American Nightmare worth 1,200 msp ($15)? I can say that it easily is. With a campaign as long as most retail games are seeming to be lately, American Nightmare definitely has the upper hand on price there. Not to mention the replayable Fight Till Dawn mode has a leaderboard function that lets you compete with friends scores. While it may not be as long as the original, American Nightmare was a great and memorable experience that is a must play for Alan Wake fans. Just to see the demented Mr. Scratch alone is with worth the price of admission. You have spent fifteen dollars of worse things.
[+Decently Long Campaign] [+Fight Till Dawn] [+Must Play For Alan Wake Fans] [*Leaderboards]
The original Alan Wake stands as one of my most favorite games of all time. I can safely say that American Nightmare is a worthy spin off to the great writer. I would have liked to have explored more places and have seen more familiar faces but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the tight gameplay and great narrative that Remedy brought along. The transition from retail to digital seems to have taken a slight toll of the game however, I will keep coming back to make sure I stay on top of the Fight Til Dawn leaderboards. Without hesitation I can say “This is a must download title if you own an Xbox 360.”
[+New Enemy Types] [+New Weapons] [+Fight Till Dawn] [+Five to Six Hour Campaign] [+Understandable Story] [+Mr. Scratch] [+Surprising Visuals] [+Great Licensed Music] [+Decently Long Campaign] [+Fight Till Dawn] [+Must Play For Alan Wake Fans] [*Leaderboards] [*Repeating Three Levels] [*A Little Too Easy] [-Flat Acting from secondary characters] [-Stuttering] [-Stiff Characters]