Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Yesterday after posting about Alan Wake I decided to install the sequel and see what was happening to poor Alan. Well, four hours later I finished that game so I hesitate to really call it a full game. On the plus side it does have an 'arcade' mode where you can fight a horde of monsters for 10 minutes with no plot involved at all if you like the combat and don't want more story. I wouldn't be surprised if the arcade modes with their online score leaderboards actually gave a lot of extra game time to people who like the combat, so I guess it's a bit harsh to deny that this is a full game. It's just not a full game for me.

Alan Wake's American Nightmare actually had more enjoyable combat for me than the original did. They added a ton of new weapons and changed the way ammo boxes work in a very good way. Now instead of needing to find lots of little piles of ammo and being worried about running out you get full ammo for both of your weapons and your flashlight any time you hit an ammo box. On top of that ammo boxes are marked on the mini-map and recharge over time, so there was never any worry about running out of bullets. The special weapons like grenades were more limited so I hoarded those like there was no tomorrow, though! It also ot rid of most of the trash mob fights. I think that may be an atmosphere thing though... It's hard to paint a good horror picture of despair when you're stuck in the woods if you escape after two minutes and a boss fight. Things feel more real when you have to run 20 minutes through a forest getting ambushed along the way. More real, but less fun.

On the downside the story was significantly worse. Ok, maybe worse is the wrong word there. It was significantly different. The original game was all about crazy stuff going on and a desperate search to figure out what was happening and why. It was horror all the way, and it was very good at it. In the sequel I never really felt like I didn't know what was going on. I don't want to go into details without spoiling the first game, but what you learn over the course of that game is used in this one, but nothing interesting is really added to it. It felt more like a fantasy story where the crazy stuff was already spelled out for us and we just needed to see where it would lead. And it lead exactly where I thought it would go. I didn't feel like I needed to keep playing in order to see what was going to happen like I did in the first one. But at less than a third of the playtime I never really reached a point where I felt I should stop but couldn't because I HAD to keep playing.

It does make use of what may be my favourite story device, though: Groundhog Day! I need to play more games with this device. I remember playing a PS2 game my brother owned when I was visiting from University once that made great use of it. What was that game called? A search on Google for 'PS2 groundhog day guitar' brought up Ephemeral Fantasia and the cover looks right.

At any rate, I'm still happy I played Alan Wake's American Nightmare. It was worth playing, but I think it really pales in comparison to Alan Wake. Which may be saying more about how awesome that game is, actually...

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