One of the must see? games from E3 this year was Alan Wake. There wasn't a playable version on the floor, but people willing to wait in line could catch a demo being shown at regular intervals down at the ATI booth. A flash of my press credentials got me an earlier showing. Although I definitely got some glares from the fans dutifully waiting in line, I have to say that what I saw made it all worthwhile.
This psychological action-thriller is being developed by a 10-year-old Finish company, Remedy Entertainment, best known for Max Payne 1 and 2. They are currently able to self-fund this title, so they have been able to take the time necessary to build what looks like it will be a phenomenal game. The author and the director of development were to be our tour guides through the world of Alan Wake, and as the lights dimmed in the tiny cubicle, they opened us to a whole new world.
Alan Wake is a competent horror writer who has never gotten the breaks necessary to propel him into the best-selling category. After beginning a torrid romance with a woman who soon becomes his fiancÚ, Alan suddenly finds that he is having amazingly vivid dreams at night, and his books soon reflect this new development. They shoot up the bestseller list, and Alan couldn't be happier. Then his fiancÚ disappears. As he searches to find her, he begins to have terrifying nightmares, even more vivid than before.
He tracks her to a small town in Washington state, but other than a sighting of a strange woman that looks somewhat like her (but isn't), the lead ends in a quiet community. Alan is sure the clues to find her can be found here, but the longer he stays the worse the dreams become. And even more frightening, things during the day are worsening. The seemingly quaint town hides terrible secrets, and as the sun goes down, Alan's dreams move from the realm of sleep into his waking life. Will he find the woman he loves or will he be swallowed by the horrors that are immerging from all around him?
First and foremost, the visuals in this next generation game are stunning. The town is detailed and highly interactive, and the surrounding environment is vast. I was amazed at the differentiation of every pine tree in the forest and the way the light cast shadows through them onto the mountain roads. The light and shadow as day turned into night were incredibly realistic, and Alan Wake has some of the best weather effects I've seen to date.
Second, the storyline is set up to be a wonderful mix of mystery, horror, and adventure. It's a third person game, so you can really bond with the character of Alan as he goes through each new twist and turn. It reminds me quite a bit of the ethos of Twin Peaks, and I'm sure from all that I've seen, the story is going to be just as compelling as the eye candy.
Finally, the musical score really impressed me. Although we had limited exposure to the game during the viewing, I loved the quality of emotion the music alone could evoke. It ran the gambit from spooky and soulful to urgent and frenetic. I believe this is going to be one of those games where the score itself is of such a quality that it could stand-alone, and possibly rival many film scores.
I am really excited about this game, with its stunning visuals, eerie storyline, and a to-die-for musical score. It is coming out for next-gen consoles and PC, but the date of release has yet to be set. I can tell you one thing, though? this is a title I will be waiting in line for when it's finally released.