Home > gameplay, newschool > Waking Nightmare (Part 1)

Waking Nightmare (Part 1)

February 23, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

I don’t know a right lot about Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. This is primarily because I stopped reading about it with a feeling of world weary resignation after hearing the early previews describing the deliberate design decision to prioritise action elements over the atmosphere and story experience this time around.

Alan Wake: American Nightmare

Not pictured: a deep analysis of how this encounter changed Alan as a person

I really enjoyed the first Alan Wake. It was flawed (almost every level is five minutes of exploring a new environment, followed by an hour of stumbling around in a dark forest at night, in the rain) but really interesting, and much like this Dear Esther thing, (which, if well written opinions are to be believed, is at once fascinatingly unusual and reasonably well executed), its exactly the kind of thing our beloved industry needs more of to arrest, or at the very least counterbalance those elements of it that are racing each other to genericise every game to the point of ridiculousness. (Yes, it is generally accepted there are only 7 stories, from which all others are derivative, but that doesn’t mean we only need 7 games endlessly reproduced with only the most minor variations.)

Anyway. Alan Wake’s convoluted story, unusual structure and faux-thriller/low level horror theme were a great experiment, and I will be genuinely disappointed if the only published ‘results’ of that experiment are ‘needs more action to sell more units’. What I feel Alan Wake needed was more exploration, and maybe some alternate paths to complete objectives – both making the most of the great atmosphere and taking advantage of the very interesting world that Remedy created (granted, they overused a small section of that world, but that rainy night forest was amazing the first couple of times). Additionally, allowing for more exploration means you have the option of requiring more exploration by further scarcifying (should be a word) resources, especially towards the later stages. The game was a lot tenser in the opening levels, when you really were scrounging for every flashlight battery and revolver round, and relatedly lost its way a bit once I had enough flares and flare gun ammo to Rambo my way through every encounter. What I don’t recall is anyone making an intelligent case for why a lack of action was at the heart (or even in the chest vicinity) of Alan’s problems – I say intelligent, because it is basically an action game – ‘lack of action’ is only a valid descriptor if we use the Gears of War series as a benchmark for our required minimum. (I’m not implying a correlation between intelligence and Gears enjoying, for the record).

So I switched off my attention on American Nightmare. By a quirk of fate (and an excruciatingly slow Sony PS3 repair process) I have developed a tiny window to play something not in my immense existing ‘to do’ pile, and this short expansion will fit that bill nicely. The other, more important motivation here is to hold my own angst up to some scrutiny, and see if its justified – if it turns out this addition is actually a better game for thinning out the story elements and replacing them with more chainsaws, well, I’ll have learned a valuable lesson about leaping to ill informed conclusions.

And if I turn out to be right, and this is one more disappointing step towards genre and series homogeny, well. We’ll have to clear some soapbox space around these parts, and settle in for some serious whining.

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  1. February 24, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Thanks for mentioning my post!
    I totally agree about Alan Wake, and I have the same worries about American Nightmare. Look forward to reading what you think, especially since I won’t be able to play it for a long time unless they release it for pc.

    • February 24, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      No worries at all! I’ll put up another post with my thoughts as soon as I’ve finished with it, hopefully this weekend sometime – the very small amount I’ve read since it was released suggests its a decent game, despite the change in focus, so there’s hope there yet.

  1. February 29, 2012 at 1:15 am

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