Flashlight + Nailguns = Awesome fun!
When Remedy announced that they were bringing Alan Wake back to gamers via an Xbox Live Arcade title, I was excited. Alan Wake was easily one of my favourite titles of the generation, and despite some flaws, really won a place in my heart. When I saw the trailers for what would be a more arcade affair, I was heartbroken, and I swore that the game was going to be terrible.
I'm so glad I was wrong. While it may offer a very different experience to that of the original, Alan Wake's American Nightmare packs a punch and provides one of the best XBLA experiences yet.
What Alan Wake's American Nightmare Got Right
Great change of pace - The original Alan Wake was a slow moving psychological affair that played out like a Stephen King novel. Alan Wake's American Nightmare throws that ethos out the window, adopting a fast-paced action approach to the proceedings. Players will be delighted to have the narrative prowess of the Alan Wake they know and love, matched with an intense and frantic combat element. It's a fantastic change of pace, that may not have suited a full-blown sequel, but fits in nicely with a short XBLA game.
Awesome arsenal of weapons - Assault Rifles? Check. Nailguns? Check. Combat Shotguns? You got it! Alan Wake's American Nightmare packs in an impressive arsenal of weapons to take out the darkness, all backed up by your trusty flashlight. Changing your weapons regularly keeps the action fresh, and really provides a great experience.
Encourages exploration - Manuscript pages are scattered throughout the game world (you think he'd buy a stapler), which will be enough reason for fans to explore. For those not sold on the crazy story of the Alan Wake universe, those manuscript pages are required to unlock weapon cases spread out across the environments. If you want to unlock the Combat Shotgun of devastating power, you will need to have collected at least 20 manuscript pages. It's an ingenious move by Remedy which prolongs the action and gets gamers out there and exploring.
Addictive arcade mode - The story mode will keep you busy for 5-6 hours, but then players will be treated to an addictive arcade mode. It's funny how much a scoring system can add to a game, as players face an onslaught of enemies and try to beat their own records.
What Alan Wake's American Nightmare Got Wrong
Backtracking through areas - We understand that this is an XBLA title, therefore resources are a fraction of a full release. Having said that, Alan Wake's American Nightmare has you backtracking quite a lot in each area. You'll meet a character in one area, they will send you on a quest to find something, you will return to them and then move on. It's not horrible, but it certainly isn't ideal.
Shallow puzzles - There are very few puzzles on display, but for the most part they are rather shallow. One puzzle in particular tells you to change the time and date for the end of summer. This is all well and good for American gamers, but for the Aussie gamer out there, you'll have to guess when the American summer comes to a close. Region specific puzzles are never a good thing guys.
Encounters are rather dull - As much fun as American Nightmare can be, if played for a prolonged time, the player will notice that the encounters are rather dull. Run through the desert until you arrive near your objective. Enemies will spawn, you will defeat them and then leave the area. As you approach the next objective the same will happen, and while it's not necessarily a deal breaker, it would have been nice to have a few more surprises in there.
The Final Verdict
Alan Wake's American Nightmare is a triumph for Xbox Live Arcade titles. It brings the polish of a AAA title for a fraction of the price, and through great storytelling and an addictive arcade mode, it should be enough to capture the attention of even the most casual fans. Having said that, it can be a little frustrating due to the constant backtracking through areas. If you're a fan of Alan Wake you'll want to pick this up, and if you're looking for something that is solid and has some excellent gunplay, this should definitely be your next purchase.
By Stephen Heller - Tweet @Heller_MMGN