After playing Alan Wake a year and a half ago, I had mixed feelings about the game. I enjoyed the story, but hated the fact that you needed the DLC afterwards to explain just what was going on in the convoluted and enigmatic story. I loved the visuals; the flares and flashlight in the night time atmosphere, but hated the combat and the blatant advertisement that permeated the game from beginning to end. Alan Wake: American Nightmare takes the aspects of the original that were done poorly; like the combat against the shadowy figures of The Taken, and revamped it, making it more fluid and more enjoyable; gotten rid of all the advertising, and is even more visually appealing this time around.
Everything Alan Wake did wrong, American Nightmare does right, and while familiar, is a different experience. American Nightmare takes place after the events of the second DLC that was available for the full title, entitled “The Writer”, however, if you played the full game and didn’t give into the extortion of paying an additional price on top of the full game to get the whole story, you may not know exactly what is going on – just like I didn’t.
Throughout Alan Wake, there was a television show comparable to- or rather an obvious rip-off of The Twilight Zone- that was played on television sets called “Night Springs.” American Nightmare comes across as an episode of that television series, even taking place in the Arizona Desert with road signs that point to a town called Night Springs. Whether or not the game is just an “episode” of Night Springs or an actual sequel to the full Alan Wake title remains to be seen and is never really addressed.
At the beginning of the game, Alan awakes at the wreckage of the cabin in Cauldron Lake, but quickly comes across a motel that is located a hop, skip, and a jump away in the middle of the desert. After talking to the lone inhabitant there; a woman named Emma, it seems that there is something odd going on and all signs point to Alan’s evil doppelganger, which was mentioned briefly at the end of Alan Wake; the sinister Mr. Scratch.
As you stumble about in the desert, trying to find your way back to reality, it seems that Mr. Scratch has been up to no good and loves to taunt you with that fact via live action videos that are played on television screens throughout the game. The videos are one of the greatest highlights of the game and the snarky, devil may care attitude is the perfect counter to Alan’s somber, and brooding constant commentary. The character of Alan Wake does a fantastic job in the voice acting department, as well as the live action sequences, as both himself and Mr. Scratch, although every other character in the game doesn’t quite reach the same level, and some can be downright horrible.
As you track down Mr. Scratch, finding manuscript pages that help to explain the previous game as well as what is happening during American Nightmare, and try to thwart his plans for you and your wife Alice, you only visit three areas throughout the entire game. While you will pass through each area a multitude of times, it seems a bit of a cop out to lengthen the 5ish hour game.
In addition to the campaign, there is also an additional horde style survival mode called “Fight Till Dawn” which pits Alan against wave after wave of enemies in areas varying from a cemetery, to caves, to a ghost town. The object is to survive until the time runs out and the sun comes up, while earning stars that will allow you to unlock more difficult areas. American Nightmare did improve upon Alan Wake’s combat, but giving the game a separate mode based solely on its combat is a little unwarranted and quite frankly, unneeded.
For just about everything that American Nightmare does, it does well and is a game that is worth the price of admission, even with the limited number of environments. The story is well paced and at times can be creepy and intense, while intertwining morbid moments of humor. American Nightmare is more of the interesting storytelling that the main game was about and if future Alan Wake games take this approach, it could be a fantastic way to keep the series going for a long time to come.
Title:Alan Wake: American Nightmare
Release Date: February 22nd 2012
Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
Retail game purchased for review