Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August of Games: Day 13 - Alan Wake

Check out the other stuff from Finnish band Poets of the Fall through the music page, I tell their whole story there.
This song was debuted through the game actually, coming from their fourth studio album Twilight Theater (which is, from start to finish, a damn good album).
The music video here is the official one for War, and it features the motion actor for the Alan Wake character in real life, re-enacting several moments from the game in live action. It's pretty great, a high quality video.

Alan Wake
Developer: Remedy Games (Microsoft)
Genre (Setting): Modern, Psychological Horror
Genre (Gameplay): Third-person shooter, Survival Horror elements
What is this game: This is the game where you play as a seedy author with writer's block who, on vacation with his wife, writes a manuscript in a fever and it comes to life. His wife is taken by The Darkness, and he doesn't remember what was in the manuscript. He tries to stay away from The Darkness at the same time as trying to find a way to retrieve his wife. I won't spoil it more than that, as the plot is the driving reason to play this game.
The game has heavy motifs of light and dark, and is notable for being very in tune with the horror world. It is loaded with references to things like The Shining (among many other Stephen King references), along with a very heavy dose of Twin Peaks.
What's great about it: The game's gameplay is fun and somewhat different from a lot of other 3rd-person shooters, especially in that cover plays pretty much no role. The writing is excellent overall, though Remedy didn't seem to have a great way to deliver it to you, mostly using discovered manuscript pages for audio plot dump (a la Dead Space). The character animation and voice acting don't shine, but they're certainly not BAD either.

The most interesting thing about this game is something that gets me talking about game design as a whole. See, Alan Wake is a video game that doesn't want to be a video game. Alan Wake is a suspense television series adapted to novel form. See, this is one of those points where I'm a confused liminal gamer: what I want video games to be. See, on the one hand, the very obvious answer is that I want them to be video games, unique in their own way, performing things that are simply impossible for other mediums. So many games nowadays in the corporate and studio environment try to mimic the film industry, some in more blatant ways than others. Kojima's Metal Gear Solid obviously wants to be built as a movie (and Kojima is a huge film buff, so that makes sense), and everything by Quantic Dream (David Cage) is already a movie (Indigo Prophecy was very very blatant in wanting to be so). These are both examples of either putting the video game behind you in order to become movielike (Quantic Dream) or heavily segregating the game into movie bits and gameplay bits (MGS). The best performance, in my opinion, of a game straddling the line between games and movies without sacrificing the game's own merits throughout is Uncharted 2, which genuinely feels like creating a movie through game.
Anyway, my point is that in a lot of ways, much of the games industry is currently modeling itself on the film industry. While I'm not sure what I think about that trend, I do recognize Alan Wake as being an excellent example of taking the other-medium-through-games concept in a brand new direction, modeling ideas that aren't usually explored. One example is the episodic structure of the game - and it's a heck of a lot better at modeling "episodes" than the other big "episodic" games, the Half-Life 2 sequels.
So to summarize: Alan Wake is an enjoyable game to play but is even more significant in the way it interacts with the game design culture as a whole.
The soundtrack for the game is generally mediocre in its basic ambience, but the original stuff by Poets of the Fall (both by their own name on a couple radio recordings and under their fictional moniker Old Gods of Asgard). PotF actually debuted a bit of the music from Twilight Theater through the game!

I haven't played American Nightmare, so I won't talk about it.

How do I get it: It's on Xbox 360, PS3, and Steam. It's currently $30 on Steam, so take that as an indicator of the other prices. Not half bad for the game, but it might be worth looking for a pre-owned copy if you're just in it for the gameplay.

End Recording,

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