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Game Review | Mostly harmless

Game Review | Mostly harmless
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First Published: Fri, Jun 18 2010. 07 39 PM IST

In his wake: The game requires you to assume the title role and search for the protagonist’s missing wife.
In his wake: The game requires you to assume the title role and search for the protagonist’s missing wife.
Updated: Fri, Jun 18 2010. 07 39 PM IST
Game Review | Alan Wake
Six years in development limbo. Seven years since their last title Max Payne 2. Countless delays. Finnish game developers Remedy Entertainment are presumably a little rusty, and it shows in their new Xbox 360 title Alan Wake.
You play a best-selling suspense author from New York, Alan Wake (think of him as a Finnish Stephen King), holidaying in the fictional town of Bright Falls with his wife Alice. Staying in a conveniently isolated cabin in the woods, the writer attempts to free himself of a two-year-long writer’s block. But his holiday doesn’t go as planned. His better half goes missing. The characters from his manuscripts start coming to life. Wake, unfortunately, penned fiendish monsters and not rom-coms, and is, therefore, forced to spend a large part of his holiday wandering through woods, fighting monsters and trying to locate his wife.
The gameplay is engrossing, the entire game cleverly plays with light and shadow, leading to some impressive levels and scenarios. Each level begins with a “Previously On” tab, quite like recaps on television shows. All episodes start afresh sans items you may have collected in the earlier levels. Wake encounters mysterious human silhouettes known as the Taken. Though ostensibly “dead”, these creatures have to be dodged and dealt with using the flashlight (provided at all times in the player’s left hand). The Taken are weakened instantly by the light—this provides the time to evade them or kill them with the variety of guns made available. The combat system is solid and fun—but repeating the formula throughout the game makes it tedious and frustrating.
Optional collectibles such as coffee thermoses and mugs help build the story. Clues are also provided through abandoned radio and television sets.
The game shows an unknown helper scattering pages from Wake’s manuscript, allowing him to interpret what may just happen to him subsequently.
In his wake: The game requires you to assume the title role and search for the protagonist’s missing wife.
Wake narrates his story throughout the game, which is broken into a six-episode structure. Even though features such as this lend a smart look to the game, the predictable nature of the plot is somewhat disappointing. Wake is an unsympathetic protagonist, cold and distant, and much of his interaction with people in the town as the story builds fails to resonate.
The graphics of the game are brilliant—a tired Wake can often be seen sweating or dragging his feet. He also dodges the Taken in slow motion, displaying spectacular graphic detailing. The music keeps the pace going, and is suitably atmospheric. The game also features some rather unsubtle, mostly jarring product placements—from Verizon mobiles to Energizer batteries.
At a stretch, the game can be completed in around 5-7 hours, if played at “Normal” difficulty level (the easiest of three). Alan Wake is a good attempt by Remedy Entertainment. It delivers a competent experience and can be plowed through over a weekend.
But was it worth a five-year wait? Not really. While it’s obvious that a lot of attention to detail has gone into the title, the intricacies never quite add up to the sum of their parts. The larger details—the plot, the experience of the game as a whole—are lacking. At best, Alan Wake is a game you’ll enjoy, but not really remember.
Alan Wake is available for the Xbox 360 for Rs2,399. It can also be purchased online directly at www.microsoftstore.co.in
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First Published: Fri, Jun 18 2010. 07 39 PM IST