Alan Wake


Alan Wake
Alan Wake
The cover of Alan Wake shows the game's logotype with the Alan Wake character holding a flashlight. The text "A Psychological Action Thriller" is prominently displayed.
The game's cover features the Alan Wake logo with the protagonist holding a flashlight.
Developer(s) Remedy Entertainment
Publisher(s) Microsoft Game Studios
Designer(s) Mikael Kasurinen
Writer(s) Sam Lake
Mikko Rautalahti
Composer(s) Petri Alanko
Engine In-house engine, Havok and Umbra Occlusion Booster[1]
Platform(s) Xbox 360
Release date(s)
  • EU 14 May 2010
  • NA 18 May 2010
  • AUS 20 May 2010
Genre(s) Third-person shooter, action game, psychological thriller
Rating(s)
Media/distribution DVD, digital download
System requirements

1.65 MB for saving; Xbox 360 hard drive for DLCs and the digital download version

Alan Wake is a story-driven action game in the psychological thriller genre, developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Microsoft Game Studios, released for the Xbox 360 video game console in 2010. The plot follows bestselling thriller novel writer Alan Wake, as he uncovers the mystery behind his wife's disappearance while both are on vacation in the small town of Bright Falls in the Pacific Northwest, where he experiences blackouts and visions of characters and ideas from his latest novel, which he cannot remember writing, coming to life. Darkness plays a significant role in the game, and the core combat gameplay of Alan Wake consists of "fighting with light".

In its pacing and structure, Alan Wake is similar to a thriller television series, with episodes that include plot twists and cliffhangers. The game itself consists of six episodes, and the fiction is continued by two special episodes, titled "The Signal" and "The Writer", that were made available as downloadable content (DLC) within the same year of the game's release. Together, they make the first season of a possibly longer story. Additionally, a six-episode live-action web series called Bright Falls acts as a prequel to the game, and a number of related books also expand upon the Alan Wake story.

The Finnish studio Remedy Entertainment is known for creating the critically acclaimed Max Payne (2001), and its sequel, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (2003). Chiefly written by Sam Lake (writer for the first two Max Payne games), Alan Wake is the studio's first game since Max Payne 2, and took over five years to create; an unusually long development time in the game industry. The game received positive reviews from critics, and is often revered for its narrative, pacing, and atmosphere. Alan Wake has been awarded the first spot in Time magazine's list of the top 10 video games of 2010.[4]

While no plans have been announced for a sequel (or "season two") for the game, it has been confirmed that a new Alan Wake title will be released on the Xbox Live Arcade service. The new game will be a full stand-alone title, but it is not a sequel or a DLC. More information about the new game will be revealed at the Spike Video Game Awards on December 10, 2011.[5][6] The first screenshot and a teaser trailer of the new game was released in November 2011.[7][8]

Contents

Setting and gameplay

A screenshot of Alan Wake, showing the player's character aiming his flashlight and handgun at an enemy, in an exterior environment.
Alan Wake is set in a Pacific Northwest town, and its main combat gameplay involves "fighting with light".

Alan Wake is a third-person shooter, described by its developers as a combination of "the mind of a psychological thriller", and "the body of a cinematic action game".[9][10][11] In interviews, the game's creators hold that the game does not belong squarely in the survival horror video game genre.[11][12] The game is primarily set in the fictional idyllic small town of Bright Falls, Washington. The main gameplay happens in various areas of Bright Falls – such as the forest, a national park, or a farm – during the nighttime; these are punctuated by calmer, non-combative sequences set during the daytime.

While controlling the protagonist, Alan Wake in the dark, light plays a significant role in gameplay. For example, human enemies possessed by darkness, called the "Taken", are initially impervious to attack; they can only be killed or injured with a firearm when exposed to light, which burns away the darkness shielding them. Therefore there is significant emphasis on flashlights and other hand-held lights being used in conjunction with conventional weapons, such as a revolver or a shotgun. The beam of these lights acts as a reticle. Such hand-held lights can be boosted, which destroys the darkness faster, but also reduces the battery level of the light. Therefore, besides the conventional shooter gameplay need for reloading ammunition, the player also has to insert fresh batteries into the flashlight when they run out, or wait for it to recharge slowly. Moreover, the player is often encouraged to take advantage of environmental light sources and placing, and to use other light-based weapons and accessories, such as flare guns, hand-held flares and flashbang grenades. Besides the Taken, the player has to combat other possessed enemies with light, such as flocks of ravens, and animated poltergeist objects. Streetlights and other light stands can provide a "Safe Haven", which the Taken cannot enter, and will regenerate the character's health very rapidly. Otherwise, health regenerates slowly with time, when not taking any damage. In certain sections of the game, it is possible to use a car to traverse between locations in Bright Falls. When in a car, the player can run down Taken on the road, or boost the vehicle's headlights to hurt them.

A major element of gameplay is the optional discovery and collection of manuscript pages from Alan Wake's latest novel, Departure. Wake does not remember writing this book, but it seems that its storyline is coming to life around him. These readable manuscript pages are scattered around the game world, out of chronological order; therefore, they often describe scenes that have yet to occur and act as warning and instructions for proceeding through the episodes. Other optional collectibles include coffee thermoses scattered around the game world, as well as discovering television sets which show different episodes of the fictional Night Springs series, radios airing talk and music from Bright Falls' local radio station, and textual signs around the town. The radio shows and signs provide a deeper understanding of the town's history and culture. The game's downloadable content episodes introduce other collectibles, such as alarm clocks, and video game boxes.

Plot

Main game

Bestselling thriller writer Alan Wake is suffering from a two-year long stretch of writer's block. Alan and his wife Alice travel to the small, idyllic rural town of Bright Falls, Washington for a short vacation, hoping to recover his creative flow. Alan retrieves keys and a map to their rental cabin from a mysterious, veiled, old woman in black standing in for the cabin's sick owner Carl Stucky at their scheduled meeting place. Along the way, Wake meets a few of the friendly local townsfolk, including young waitress Rose Marigold, Park Ranger Rusty, and two retired former rock stars, the Anderson Brothers. The couple then drives to their cabin, which sits on an island at the scenic Cauldron Lake. As they unpack their supplies, Alan discovers that Alice has set up a typewriter for Alan in the cabin's study, hoping that he would be able to start on his new work. Angered by her persistence, Alan steps outside for a walk, knowing that Alice is very afraid of the dark. As he makes his approach back to the cabin he hears Alice's screams as the power goes out. He realizes something has dragged Alice from the cabin into the lake, and he comes to the rescue, attempting to dive in after her.

Suddenly, Alan regains consciousness in his car, wrecked by the side of a lonely highway in the middle of the night. Disoriented and suffering from a concussion, he starts to make his way to the town's gas station through the thick woods, subsequently encountering murderous forms of Bright Falls' citizens including the formerly mentioned Carl Stucky covered in living shadows known as the Dark Presence; Alan discovers that light is the only weapon in which he can use against these figures of darkness. He also comes across a ghostly apparition of a deep sea diver, which drops pages of a manuscript for Alan to recover. Alan recognizes the pages as his own writing (for an unfinished novel named Departure) but does not recall writing them. Once in town, he calls the local police and discovers for the first time that seven days have passed since his arrival at Cauldron Lake. Sheriff Sarah Breaker arrives to investigate Alice's disappearance, but she refuses to believe Wake when he explains that he spent his first night on an island in the lake. At Alan's insistence, the sheriff takes him to the place the next morning, and, to his horror, the cabin and the island have vanished. Breaker proceeds to explain that no island has ever existed on Cauldron Lake since the 1970s after a earthquake seemingly sunk the island and the cabin. Barry Wheeler, Alan's friend and agent, soon arrives from New York City to help Alan cope with Alice's disappearance, and the case has also attracted an FBI Agent, Robert Nightingale, who suspects that Alan is behind Alice's disappearance.

Barry Wheeler helps Wake find new lodgings at the local Elderwood National Park, managed by Rusty, the ranger, whom Alan has taken a particular liking to. Wake is also interrogated by Sheriff Breaker on the details of his wife's disappearance, although he chooses not to mention the nightmarish night he spent in the woods with the ghostly diver and murderous, darkness-driven, townsfolk; knowing she wouldn't believe him.

A man claiming to be Alice's kidnapper then lures Alan away from the FBI; both are pursued by loggers and hunters possessed by the Dark Presence at the park. A strange force of destruction also attacks Elderwood's Visitor Center and mortally injures Rusty. The dying park ranger reveals to Wake that he had uncovered a page from the Departure manuscript, in Alan's writing, foretelling his own death. Alan comes to the conclusion that this story he had never remembered writing is coming true, and has turned into a horror novel.

After being forced to kill Rusty when the ranger is turned into a living shadow by the Dark Presence and attempts to murder him with an axe, Wake catches up to Alice's kidnapper, who arranges for them to meet again elsewhere. Oddly enough, the kidnapper in question does not demand a ransom for Alice's safe return; he simply wants Alan to give him the Departure manuscript. However, Alan knows that his manuscript is incomplete and he must somehow find the rest of the pages if he is to get his wife back. Rose Marigold, the waitress, then telephones Wake the following day to inform him she has stumbled upon the remaining writing and wants him to pick it up. Alan goes to see her, and is accompanied by Barry, who observes that many strange happenings have occurred in Bright Falls over the years. For example, the island on Cauldron Lake was owned by a famous author, Thomas Zane, who was also a renowned deep sea diver. Zane was devastated, however, when his girlfriend Barbara Jagger drowned in the lake, and shortly afterwards the island sunk in an earthquake, taking Zane with it. Alan is able to deduce that Zane is the apparition who has been giving him the pages of his manuscript, and Jagger was the old woman who gave him the keys to the cabin when he and Alice first arrived in Bright Falls.

When Wake and Wheeler arrive to see Rose, they discover that she is in fact being unwittingly manipulated by the Dark Presence stalking Alan, and she drugs them into unconsciousness. Alan fails to recover until hours later; Barry is still out cold. The sheriff and FBI Agent Robert Nightingale promptly show up at Rose's trailer park, as concerned neighbors had become worried when Alan appeared to be spending the night in the young woman's home. Nightingale opens fire on Wake when he tries to run, and the writer escapes into the nearby forest, pursued by the law. The mysterious darkness again chases Alan, but in the process drives away the FBI and the sheriff's deputies, allowing him to get away safely.

Alan meets Alice's kidnapper for the final time on a bluff overlooking Cauldron Lake. The kidnapper reveals he did not take Alice but instead needed to tell Alan about an evil "Dark Presence" that inhabits Cauldron Lake and can engulf people in its shadows, turning them into mindless killers known as the "Taken". The man explains to Alan that the Dark Presence has the ability to turn fiction into reality, and has used Wake's writing to create a means to escape and wreak havoc. The Darkness, suddenly taking the form of a black vortex, then appears and consumes the supposed kidnapper; Alan is able to fight his way out using a flare before falling into the lake.

A few days later, Alan awakes in Cauldron Lake Lodge, a private mental institute managed by the somewhat shady Dr. Emil Hartman. Alan reacquaints himself with the two old rock musicians, the Anderson brothers, who are also patients at the Lodge. They understand the Dark Presence and try to tell him that they have left him clues at their nearby farm, which will teach him how to defeat the darkness. The Dark Presence subsequently appears at the Lodge in the form of a sudden thunderstorm, destroying it. Dr. Hartman persists in trying to convince Alan that the Dark Presence is little more than his own fiction, but Alan comes to the conclusion that Hartman has been trying to manipulate him into writing the rest of the Departure manuscript from the beginning to control the power of the Dark Presence for himself. The doctor is left to die as Wake breaks out of the hospital with Barry's help, escaping from patients and staff who have been turned into the Taken.

Alan and Barry make their way to the Andersons' farm. There, they discover that the Andersons' clues are hidden in a song they wrote back thirty years ago, entitled the "Lady of the Light". They are in fact referring to a Bright Falls hermit, Cynthia Weaver, whom they believe has a weapon that can defeat the Dark Presence. Wheeler and Wake spend the night at the Anderson farm drinking homemade moonshine. In his drunken stupor, Alan is somehow able to recall the events of the missing week before the car wreck, being forced by Barbara Jagger to write out a story which will allow the Dark Presence to be unleashed on the world. However, Alan's subconscious, guided by the spirit of Thomas Zane, inserted elements into the story which allow him to escape the cabin on the island, including recreating the spirit of Zane in the form of the ethereal diver. Wake ran from the darkness, fleeing in his car from the island. However, the week Alan had spent writing without sleep took its toll on him, causing him to crash.

When Alan wakes up the next morning, he is confronted by Agent Nightingale and the police, who have tracked him to the Andersons' Farm. He and Barry spend the next day in custody, but when night falls the Dark Presence begins to tear apart Bright Falls in search of Wake. In the ensuing chaos Nightingale is swept away, but Alan, Barry, and Sheriff Sarah Breaker make a daring escape from the town via helicopter. In light of what is happening around her, the sheriff finally begins to understand the situation. At Alan's request, she lands at the abandoned hydroelectric plant where Cynthia Weaver lives. Cynthia greets the group and takes Alan to the Well Lit Room, where he finds the weapon that can defeat the Dark Presence: an old light switch, known as "The Clicker", that Thomas Zane has written into Alan's story years ago.

Leaving Barry, Weaver, and Breaker in the safety of the lit plant, Alan returns to Cauldron Lake alone, and faces off against the Dark Presence, using the Clicker to defeat it. But Alice has yet to resurface, and Alan realizes that for a balance to be maintained, he will have to return to writing Departure to allow Alice to escape. After Alan throws himself into the lake, Alice emerges from the water the next morning, making her way safely to shore. However, the island is still gone. In the final scenes, Alan is seen at the typewriter inside the old cabin somewhere under Cauldron Lake, writing out a new story which will free him as well. His last words to the player are, "It's not a lake; it's an ocean...".

Special features

The Signal

Continuing from the end of the main game, Alan finds himself in a surreal version of Bright Falls, and realizes he is still held under the lake. Zane directs Alan to follow a signal through a cell phone in order to focus and guide himself out of the Dark Place, the realm where the Dark Presence came from and where the written word can become reality. As Alan continues to avoid and defeat various Taken, he encounters several television screens that show a more maniacal Alan ranting about upcoming events, forewarning Alan of what is to come. He also encounters an ethereal version of Barry, a figment of his subconsciousness, who also helps to guide Alan safely across the abstract landscape.

Zane's signal leads Alan to a sawmill, but as he explores it, he finds himself back in a setting of his city apartment. Zane appears, and tells Alan that it is himself—the maniacal figure on the televisions—that is keeping him in the Dark Place. Alan refuses to believe that he is trapping himself, but soon faces a monstrosity of several televisions with the maniacal Alan on them that tries to kill him. Alan is able to defeat the crazed version of himself, waking up back at the cabin in the lake, and realizes that he is still trapped.

The Writer

Still trapped in the Dark Place, Alan regains consciousness to find his memories of Bright Falls merging; after leaving an amalgamation of the Cauldron Lake Lodge and the Andersons' farm, Zane tells Alan he must make his way back to the cabin via a lighthouse. The environments start to become exceedingly surreal and Alan follows Zane's path, avoiding increasing numbers of Taken. Zane warns Alan that the unstable Alan is still inside the cabin, controlling the Dark Place, while he himself represents the rational part of Alan; the rational Alan must regain control of the dream for any chance of Alan to escape the Dark Place. The irrational side of Alan attempts to stop him by creating delusions of Alice, extinguishing the lighthouse's light, and sending armies of Taken after him, but with Zane's help, Alan eventually reaches his goal, passing through the lighthouse to reach the cabin.

As he nears the cabin, imaginary Barry appears and tells Alan that he will have to reject all the illusions before he can face off against the insane version of Alan, including the apparition of Barry. Alan is ready to accept that, forcing Alan to fight Taken illusions of Dr. Hartman, Barry, and the Andersons, defeating them all before he is able to reenter the cabin. His crazed side is in a paranoid state on the cabin floor, and when Alan touches him, the two are made whole again. Alan realizes that he cannot let himself fall into a delusional state again for fear of never being able to escape, and returns to the typewriter to start a new story--"Return".

Cast

All the characters featured in Alan Wake were based on real life models, Ilkka Villi and Jonna Järvenpää models for Alan and Alice Wake respectively are the only Finnish models in the game, all other models were American.[13] Voice overs were provided by Native actors from Japan, America and Finland for their respected regions.[14][15]

Character Model English VA Finnish VA Japanese VA
Alan Wake Ilkka Villi Matthew Porretta Shunsuke Sakuya
Alice Wake Jonna Järvenpää Brett Madden Yuko Kaida
Barbara Jagger Kate Weiman
Barry Wheeler Fred Berman Wataru Takagi
Carl Stucky Gary Swanson
Cynthia Weaver Linda Cook
Doc Nelson Clark Warren
Dr. Emil Hartman Bruce Katzman Mark Blum
Robert Nightingale Timothy McCracken
Sheriff Sarah Breaker Jessica Alexander
Deputy Sheriff Mulligan William Buell
Deputy Sheriff Thornton Bill Lobley

Development

After shipping Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne in 2003, Remedy Entertainment spent some time "recovering from the crunch",[16] and started coming up with different concepts for a new project. Among these was the concept for Alan Wake.[16]

The game was announced at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) for "the next generation of consoles and PCs", and was shown to the press behind closed doors in the form of a tech demo.[17][18] In 2006, Remedy partnered with Microsoft Game Studios to publish the game exclusively for Microsoft's Xbox 360 video game console and then-current Windows Vista PC operating system.[19][20] The first screenshots depicted the character of Alan Wake in much different attire, as well as a different layout for the town of Bright Falls.[21]

Originally, Remedy planned Bright Falls as a free-roaming, sandbox-style open world city, similar to those seen in the Grand Theft Auto series. After trying this idea for six months, the team decided to scrap it, because it interfered with the pacing and storytelling they intended to deliver in a thriller game.[22][23][24]

After four years of having repeatedly demonstrated the Windows version, in 2009, Remedy confirmed that at that point the game was being developed exclusively for the Xbox 360 and the decision to make a PC version was in Microsoft's hands.[25] After the game's release in 2010, Remedy said that bringing the game to the PC is "not on the cards at the moment."[26]

The game was announced as "done" and undergoing final polishing in August 2009.[27] The game eventually went gold on April 7, 2010, and was released in May.

Influences and allusions

Top: A screenshot from the game, with the game's protagonist looking at an ax that is being smashed through a door from the other side. Bottom: A similar-looking picture from the movie The Shining, where a woman is witnessing the same situation.
Alan Wake includes many references to works of popular culture. This cutscene directly alludes to a famous scene from the film The Shining.

Alan Wake was influenced by and often alludes to certain films, TV shows, and books, as well as paying homage to a number of artists and works. Remedy has explained the shared themes and ideas between the game and other existing works of popular culture as "taking something familiar to people as an element, and building something of your own, and hopefully something [that is] unique in games, but still familiar from other forms of entertainment."[28]

Bestselling author Stephen King was a major inspiration for Alan Wake. The main character as a writer whose work is coming true is a theme that has been explored by King in a number of his works.[29] Wake's narration directly alludes to King on several occasions, including the game's opening line, in which he quotes a Stephen King essay.[30] The game also pays homage to the film The Shining (based on King's novel of the same name) with a hedge maze area similar to the iconic maze in the film, among other references.[28][31]

The game's setting, Bright Falls, draws inspiration from the early 1990s TV show Twin Peaks, which was set in the titular town; both fictional small towns in the state of Washington.[29] Alfred Hitchcock is also cited as an inspiration, with the flocks of birds that often attack the protagonist being influenced by his classic horror film The Birds.[28][32]

In the game there are also a number of television sets that can be found around the town in different places. They can be switched on and a short episode of the fictional series Night Springs will be played, which is influenced by the television series The Twilight Zone, created by Rod Serling in the late 1950s.[33]

Episodic format

Alan Wake episodes

Main game:

  • Episode 1: Nightmare
  • Episode 2: Taken
  • Episode 3: Ransom
  • Episode 4: The Truth
  • Episode 5: The Clicker
  • Episode 6: Departure

Downloadable content:

  • Special 1: The Signal
  • Special 2: The Writer

In its structure, the story of Alan Wake plays out similarly to a mystery television program, where each episode brings another piece of the puzzle to the main ongoing story, yet have a distinct plot of their own.[28] As such, Alan Wake is organized into episodes, which include narrative and plot devices normally used in TV, such as cliffhangers at the end of the episodes. A prominent borrowing from the TV world are the "Previously on Alan Wake..." recap sequences that open the episodes, and serve to "refresh the player's memory and point to things that will become relevant shortly."[28] A different song plays at the end of every episode, imitating certain TV shows that feature different music during each episode's closing credits.

The main game itself is divided up into six episodes. Additionally, two "special features", titled "The Signal" and "The Writer", have been released throughout 2010 as downloadable content (DLC). Together, Alan Wake and its DLCs constitute the "first season" of a bigger story. The main game is designed to have a satisfactory ending with the main character reaching his goal, while the DLCs form a two-part special that further expands on the game's story by "[continuing] the fiction and [serving] as a bridge between seasons."[24][34] While the game's developers have expressed interest in following Alan Wake up with a season two (i.e., a sequel),[26] no plans have been announced about this.

Remedy Entertainment chose the TV series storytelling format to establish a certain stylization and pacing. The developers felt that watching episodes of certain TV shows – such as the heavily serialized series Lost – in the form of released box sets, at the viewers' pace, was a "natural way of 'consuming media'", and that this episodic format was a better fit for a long game.[28][32] Remedy lauded Lost for its pacing as a thriller TV show.[31]

Product placement

A number of real-life brands and products appear in Alan Wake. The game's developers have expressed that they tried to "be very conservative and attentive towards gamers" with their use of product placement, and that they aimed "to make the world feel more real rather than put ads in-your-face."[35]

Examples of such marketing include collectable Energizer batteries and lithium batteries to insert into the player's hand-held lights. The phone service provider Verizon Wireless is another prominent brand in Alan Wake: besides Verizon branded mobile phones appearing on screen, there is also a 30 second Verizon commercial viewable on one of the game's interactive TVs, as well as an allusion to the company's famous advertising line "Can you hear me now?" during a phone conversation in "The Signal" DLC. Additionally, billboards around Bright Falls advertise both Energizer and Verizon. Ford and Lincoln automobiles are also featured in the game.

Several Microsoft related brands also appear in the game. Alan and Alice Wake's car shows that it has the Microsoft-powered Ford Sync in-vehicle entertainment system. An Xbox 360 console can be seen in one section of the game, with the box of the fictional Night Springs video game next to it. (Such boxes are a collectible item in "The Writer" DLC.) In multiple sections of the game, Microsoft Tag bar codes can be seen; these can be scanned in real life by the user with the appropriate software on their mobile device. When scanned, these tags redirect players to a phone number with the voicemail from one of the game's character, or to a Verizon-sponsored web site where users gain access to exclusive Alan Wake extras for their console.[36] (This functionality is available in the United States.)[35]

Soundtrack

The game's score is composed by Petri Alanko.[16] The soundtrack features the song "War" by Poets of the Fall, from the band's fourth studio album, Twilight Theater. Sam Lake said that the song "...is a prominent part of the Alan Wake soundtrack and the theme also links strongly to the game's storyline."[37] Poets of the Fall also perform two original songs, "Children of the Elder God" and "The Poet and the Muse", under the name Old Gods of Asgard. The band also wrote the ending theme to Remedy's previous game, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, called "Late Goodbye", which is based on a poem written by Lake. "War", however, was not written specifically for Alan Wake. Haunted by Poe plays at the end of the second episode. Space Oddity by David Bowie plays over the end credits. Anomie Belle's "How Can I Be Sure" is also featured in the third episode. On July 20 an official soundtrack consisting of 18 tracks was released.[38]

Episode specific songs

Episode Artist Song Year released Length
Episode One Roy Orbison In Dreams 1963 2:48
Episode Two Poe Haunted 2000 5:20
Episode Three Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Up Jumped The Devil 1988 5:16
Episode Four Poets of the Fall (as Old Gods of Asgard) The Poet and the Muse 2010 4:18
Episode Five Poets of the Fall War 2010 5:05
Episode Six/Credits David Bowie Space Oddity, (Alabama Song EP version) 1980 5:15
Special One Anna Ternheim No, I Don't Remember 2009 3:56
Special Two Depeche Mode The Darkest Star[39] 2005 6:42

Other songs that were considered

Episodes two and three originally had alternate songs planned. For episode two, "Lovely Head" by Goldfrapp was a placeholder because of its "eerie feel". "Dear Darkness" by PJ Harvey and "Lilac Wine" by Jeff Buckley were also candidates. For episode three, "Sea of Love" and "Don't Go into That Barn" by Tom Waits were possible choices, as well as The Verve's "Sit and Wonder" and "Wake Up" by Arcade Fire.[40]

Marketing and release

Bright Falls web series

A promotional live-action tie-in web series/miniseries titled Bright Falls was made available a few weeks before the game's release on the web[41] and the Xbox Live service. The six episodes of Bright Falls were co-written and directed by Phillip Van,[42] and they serve as a prequel to the game, set in the titular town before Alan Wake arrives there. The main character in the series is Jake Fischer (played by Christopher Forsyth),[43] a newspaper reporter who visits the town on business.

A number of characters are shared between Bright Falls and Alan Wake, including Rose (the diner waitress), Dr. (Emil) Hartman, and the voice of radio host Pat Maine, who all show up in the game and the mini-series as themselves, reprising their roles. Ilkka Villi, the model and actor for Alan Wake in the game reprises his role in the series, at the conclusion of the last episode in the series, arriving with his wife, Alice.[43]

Plot of Bright Falls

Jake Fischer arrives in Bright Falls to interview Dr. Hartman on his new book, an assignment from his publication agency. After a series of encounters with local townspeople and finding a place to stay, Jake soon finds himself the victim of long periods of lost time and black outs. He finds himself waking up in the middle of a forest and other locations where he had not been previously. He also develops an aversion towards lights and daytime. The longer he stays in Bright Falls, the more violent his behavior becomes. When he realizes this, he tries to duct-tape himself to a refrigerator and recording videotape himself in his sleep to see what might be causing the behavior. It is implied that he is being completely taken over by the Dark Presence to the point of murdering several people. He then vanishes, just before the arrival of Alan and Alice Wake.

Release

Alan Wake was released exclusively for the Xbox 360 video game console. The game was scheduled to be released on May 18, 2010 in North America, and on May 21 in Europe. When the game went gold on April 7, 2010, the European release date was moved up a week. Therefore, the game was released in Europe first, on May 14, 2010, and then in North America on May 18, as originally scheduled.[44][45][46][47][48] On November 23, 2010, Alan Wake was released on the Games on Demand service of Xbox Live, costing 4200 Microsoft Points.[49]

Alan Wake was also released in a limited collector's edition, packaged in a case resembling a hardcover book. The collector's edition contains the game, a book titled The Alan Wake Files, and an exclusive soundtrack CD. It also features a developer commentary, and lends access to virtual items for Xbox 360, such as themes and Avatar clothes.[50]

Downloadable content

During 2010, two "special feature" episodes of Alan Wake were developed and released as downloadable content (DLC) on the Xbox Live service, which serve to bridge the gap between the game's ending, and a possible sequel. The first of the two, titled "The Signal", was released on July 27, 2010.[51] The second episode, "The Writer", was released on October 12, 2010.[52] Both DLCs cost 560 Microsoft Points.[53]

Books

The limited collector's edition of the game includes a 144 page book called The Alan Wake Files, which expands on the fiction of the game.[50] A novelization of Alan Wake was written by Rick Burroughs.[54] An art/making of book, entitled Alan Wake: Illuminated[55] is also available. An official Alan Wake game guide was released by Prima Games.[citation needed]

Reception

Critical response

 Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 83.65% (72 reviews)[56]
Metacritic 83 (100 reviews)[57]
Review scores
Publication Score
1UP.com B+[58]
Computer and Video Games 9.0/10[59]
Eurogamer 7/10[60]
Game Informer 8.5/10[61]
GamePro 4/5[62]
GameSpot 8.5/10[63]
GameTrailers 8.6/10[64]
IGN 9/10[65]
Official Xbox Magazine 9/10[66]
Awards
Entity Award
IGN Editors' Choice Award[65]
Time No. 1 video game of 2010

Alan Wake received generally favorable reviews. Michael Plant from The Independent gave the game a perfect score of 5/5. He praised Alan Wake for its "flawless pacing", which "ensures a compulsive experience". The editing and plot were also received very positively, making the game "the kind of experience the current console generation was made for."[67]

The Daily Telegraph rated the game 9/10 with editor Nick Cowen being impressed by its "stunning" look, stating the town of Bright Falls and its surrounding environment to be "authentic" in terms of architecture, vegetation, weather and lighting. He described the atmosphere as being able to "...turn on a dime from feeling safe and serene to one of choking menace and foreboding...". Combat mechanics and plot were also praised with the first making "the player feel constantly under threat." and the latter being described as one of the game's "strongest assets". Criticism included the quality of the facial animation and the relatively short length of the game.[68]

Dirk Lammers said the game kept "players on the edge of their seats", giving a final score of 4 out of 4 in his review for the San Francisco Chronicle.[69]

Matt Greenop from The New Zealand Herald rated the game 5/5 and praised the game's "excellent pace" due to its episodic format. He also praised the "chilling" storyline, "brilliant environments" and concluded the game to be "one of the most innovative and entertaining titles so far this year."[70]

William Vitka from The New York Post graded it B+, praising the game for its "scary atmosphere", music, graphics and "surprising level of complexity" in combat, but commented negatively on the game's animation and storyline.[71]

Brian Crecente, editor-in-chief of Kotaku.com, praised the general use of light as a gameplay-mechanic. He commented on the episodic structure, saying it made the player feel satisfied even after short gameplay sessions. He also praised the overall storyline, having played the final episode thrice in a row, saying: "For the first time in my life, I have experienced something that plays like a game but has the impact of a movie... Alan Wake is a powerful ride, an experience bound to leave you thinking about it and wanting more for days after its completion." He criticized the game for not providing enough information about Wake and his wife, despite being "packed with memorable people", but concluded that the game "redefines interactive storytelling".[72]

Tom McShea criticized the game for lacking "surprising, memorable gameplay moments" in his review for Gamespot.com, but hailed it for its "fresh" story-telling, great original as well as licensed music, "subtle" lighting effects, which, along with the soundtrack, "create a disturbing atmosphere", "satisfying" combat system and "clever" inclusion of collectibles, giving a final score of 8.5/10.[63]

IGN's Charles Onyett scored the game 9/10, providing it with the "Editors' Choice Award". He described it as "hard to put down once you have started", and appreciated the game for its episodic structure, "interesting" story-telling mechanic, lighting effects, soundtrack and combat system, which he described as "fast and responsive", but criticized the writing as "uneven". The game received high marks for its "strong atmosphere", "fun gameplay", and "great visuals", but lost some due to its "weak ending".[65]

Tom Orry from VideoGamer.com also awarded a score of 9/10, praising the game for its "clever narrative", "incredible atmosphere" and soundtrack which he described as "one of the best and most memorable I've ever heard in a video game".[73]

GameTrailers gave the game an 8.6/10. The review praised the game's presentation for "selling you completely on its twisted nightmare", and providing a "genuine sense of dread".[64]

Eurogamer's Ellie Gibson awarded a score of 7/10, stating that although she didn't consider the game to be very original, she found it accessible and undemanding, with a "neat combat mechanic".[60]

Awards

Alan Wake has received a number of nominations and awards for its achievements in video gaming in 2010. Editors of Time magazine rendered Alan Wake the best video game of 2010.[4] In its Best Xbox 360 Games of 2010 list, IGN awarded Alan Wake "Best Horror Game",[84] and also nominated it for "Best Story,"[86] "Coolest Atmosphere,"[87] "Most Innovative Gameplay,"[88] and "Best Character" (for the character of Alan Wake).[85] The game was nominated in the "Best Xbox 360 Game" category at the 2010 Spike Video Game Awards, and received three nominations at the 2nd Annual Inside Gaming Awards in the categories "Best Narrative," "Best Sound Design" and "Most Compelling Character" (for Alan Wake).[94][95] Gamespot's Best Games of 2010 Awards featured seven nominations for the game, including "Best Story" and "Best Writing/Dialogue," and won the reader's choice award for "Best Original IP."[96] IGN ranked it #61 in their "Top Modern Games" ranking.[97]

The game's soundtrack has won Best Score – European at the 2010 Annual Game Music Awards, with the panel stating "Breaking composer Petri Alanko's expansive score for the critically acclaimed Alan Wake captured the hearts of gamers and stand-alone listeners alike with its intimate orchestrations and psychological explorations."[75]

Sales

Alan Wake debuted at #2 on the charts in the United Kingdom.[98] NPD Group stated sales for the first two weeks reached 145,000 units.[99] According to a report, Alan Wake is the second most pirated Xbox 360 game of 2010, with more than 1.1 million downloads.[100]

Sequel and new Alan Wake title

Developer Oskari Häkkinen has spoken out that there is a possibility for Alan Wake 2, as the first title is only "Season 1" and the DLC will "bridge the gap to what we're working towards."[34] However Häkkinen added that the idea is currently in 'limbo' while Microsoft is focusing on downloadable content for the first game.[101] Writer Mikko Rautalahti adds the story is "bigger than one game" and the sequel would be "weird and wonderful".[102]

On May 10, 2011, Remedy revealed they are working on a new Alan Wake game, after some information leaked out about the project before an official announcement. Remedy noted that it is not Alan Wake 2 and neither is it downloadable content. At the time, the company gave a Fall 2011 estimate for the release.[6] In November 2011 it was announced that the new Alan Wake title will be available on the Xbox Live Arcade service, and will be revealed at the Spike Video Game Awards on December 10, 2011.[5][103]

To date, few details have been revealed about the new Alan Wake title. It is rumored that the game will be titled Alan Wake's Night Springs.[104] The first screenshot of the new game appeared on GameInformer on November 7.[7] The screenshot shows Alan Wake in a different attire, with a flannel shirt and jeans, next to a road sign that says the town of Night Springs is 15 miles away.[7] Night Springs is a fictional television show in Alan Wake, and is the setting of said show. On November 10, a short teaser trailer was unveiled.[8] In their announcement, Remedy said, "Are you ready to become the Champion of Light?"[5] During the days leading up to the publication of the first screenshot, Remedy employees made a number of comments on the official Alan Wake community forums about the new game. It was shared that the new title is "structured like a full release complete with a pretty damn impressive storyline that expands the originals in some interesting ways."[105] Although no specifics were revealed, Remedy responded to fans who were worried that being an Xbox Live Arcade game meant that the amount of content in the game would be too small. Remedy claimed that there will definitely be enough "value for money" for the players of the game,[106] and that fans "will be blown away by the proportion of things pretty soon".[107]

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  104. ^ Jackson, Perry (November 3, 2011). "Alan Wake XBLA title to be shown at the Spike Video Game Awards". xblafans.com. http://www.xblafans.com/alan-wake-xbla-title-to-be-shown-at-the-spike-video-game-awards-30243.html. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
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  106. ^ User "MikkiRMD" (November 4, 2011). "Re: New Alan Wake at the Video Game Awards 2011 !" (Forum post). Alan Wake Community Forums. http://forum.alanwake.com/showpost.php?p=130810&postcount=89. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  107. ^ User "samivRMD" (November 5, 2011). "Re: New Alan Wake at the Video Game Awards 2011 !" (Forum post). Alan Wake Community Forums. 

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