Remedy Entertainment's Alan Wake was an Xbox 360 exclusive that far too many gamers ended up sleeping on. An underwhelming marketing campaign didn't do it many favors, and it ended up relegated to bargain bins, followed up with an underwhelming Xbox Live Arcade installment and little else. It (rather unfairly) languished in obscurity for the last few years, until one recent announcement: It's going to be pulled from Steam and Xbox platforms due to a few expired music licenses.
After May 15, it will no longer be available for purchase via any digital storefront, so if you missed it, it's a good idea to get it while the getting's good.
If you've never experienced Alan Wake, you've been missing out on 2010's best psychological thriller. One of the sleeper hits of its release year, Alan Wake was a suspenseful thrill ride that wasn't so much a detective story as a survival horror trip. Unraveling the mysteries was part of the fun. Following author Alan Wake, it wove a kitschy yet satisfying tale that took players through the strange little town of Washington's Bright Falls as he takes a bit of a sabbatical from his work in an attempt to break a particularly nasty case of writer's block.
Shadowy forces begin to permeate Bright Falls, particularly one that appears to drag Alan's wife into the very lake surrounding the cabin they planned to stay in during their trip. Alan has to work toward finding his wife, figuring out what happened to her and what's going on with the “Taken” townspeople who suddenly have a strange aversion to light and a black haze surrounding them. It's all very Twilight Zone-esque fiction with a twist of Twin Peaks, littered with homages and references science fiction and horror fans will eat right up.
Featuring live-action Night Springs segments that can be viewed on televisions throughout the game, a hedge maze taken straight from The Shining and plenty of Stephen King references for eagle-eyed fans to discover, it's a mishmash of sci-fi tomfoolery and a love letter written to the likes of King, Bret Easton Ellis, Neil Gaiman and Mark Z. Danielewski.The world of Alan Wake is just normal enough to feel like it could happen in the real world but enough of a fever dream to ensure players are always keenly aware they're in a game.
It's the type of game that we just don't see much of anymore, beyond that of the cult hit Deadly Premonition. It was a different climate nearly ten years ago when Alan Wake broke onto the scene, and it's not a sure bet that it'd even receive a warm reception in the current state of gaming. But it deserves much more attention than it got originally.
If you didn't already grab it, get it any way you can. It's got a unique brand of humor and self-aware storytelling that seems to be a dying breed. But don't bother with American Nightmare. Trust me on this one.