Alan Wake's American Nightmare ReviewBlake Anglin
A good story can go a long way to endear me to a game. While it took a while to pull me in, Remedy eventually spins an engrossing yarn, pairs it with fun combat and a fantastic bad guy, and hopes you'll stick around for the ride. It has got its fair share of ups and downs, but American Nightmare is a unique and enthralling title well worthy of a download.
If you're a Stephen King fan, you will find a lot of familiar elements. If you are Stephen King, you may want to consider a lawsuit. Remedy puts their own spin on things, but they obviously had their copies of The Dark Tower series, The Regulators and, most clearly, The Dark Half, close to hand, even referencing the latter title multiple times.
That's not to say it's a bad thing. The story of Alan trying to overcome his evil doppelganger Mr. Scratch is well-written and filled with interesting moments. I loved the live-action cutscenes and optional video recordings Mr. Scratch leaves lying around for you. Also spread throughout the world are over 50 manuscript pages, written by Wake and left for himself, that flesh out the story, and more importantly, unlock various gun cases around the world.
I don't want to ruin anything, but you'll likely have the story figured out if you're familiar with any of the aforementioned books. As impressive as the story is, the setting for it is lackluster. The three locations you'll visit are visually impressive and well-designed, but they are small, and before you see the credits roll you'll see each of them multiple times. It makes sense from a narrative standpoint, but by the third time I cleared out the observatory I was sick of seeing it.
While wandering around these locales finding pages and conversing with the one female in each location, you'll listen to the cheesiest narrator in history, and also occasionally run into assaults by the darkness-possessed Taken. As much as the narrative was a draw for me, it was the combat that powered me through the game. The melee weapon-wielding Taken are your main foes, and they are terrifying. Constantly running at you and attempting flanking maneuvers, each shootout is a tense affair that has you shining your flashlight on them to remove their darkness shield, opening them up for firearm assaults. A slick dodge mechanic and other various enemy types shake up the system, and I never got tired of taking down groups of Taken.
Thankfully, I never had to quit. An Arcade Mode is included in American Nightmare, that basically works like a Horde mode knockoff, but is quite fun. There aren't but a scant four maps, but each is well-designed for the wave based challenge of staying alive until dawn. I'd recommend playing through at least some of the story before tackling it, because some of the best weapons are locked until you gather enough manuscript pages. I like the difficulty of keeping your multiplier, and the risk/reward scenario that occurs as result of having a successful dodge up your multiplier. I had a lot of fun with Arcade Mode.
It started rough, but I had fun with the title as a whole. Some of the fetch quests are a little tedious, especially when you're repeating them multiple times, but overall the story was worth it. Alan Wake's American Nightmare isn't the great American novel, but it is an entertaining short story.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.