PC gamers were lucky enough to receive an amazing port of the original Alan Wake at the beginning of the year. Simultaneously, Xbox 360 owners were treated to the XBLA title Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. Gamers were happy with the port of the original Alan Wake on PC, but when it appeared for pre-order on Steam, PC gamers became anxious to sink their teeth into the mysterious world of Alan Wake once again. New Gamer Nation rated the original game for PC a fantastic 8/10, praising it as being a beautiful game that included all the previously released DLC. However, it was too linear and the replayability suffered. This held it back from being perfect, which begs the question: how does this change the saga? Where would American Nightmare take the player, and what kind of bad luck would Alan have to deal with this time around? Read on to find out.
Upon starting up Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, players are greeted by a brilliant, eerie opening sequence. The scene is instantly set, as an episode of Night Springs, the creepy TV show from the original Alan Wake, tells you the story of the new adventure. Shifting away from the fairly repetitive woodland town and into an American Southwest desert, the map is noticeably smaller than the original but offers more freedom to explore. Alan Wake presented itself as a giant explorable world with a strong narrative, and it kept the player immersed by offering some freedom to branch off the path. However, this model diluted the strong narrative. What American Nightmare does is maintain the story but in a more subtle way, allowing for more exploration without the story being affected. In the original game, manuscripts were scatted around the game world and these fleshed out the backstory. Now there are scattered weapon crates that contain unlockable guns, but each crate requires the player to have collected enough manuscripts to retrieve the weapons inside. This gives the player a huge incentive to explore and take in the beautiful scenery.
The story still plays out as a story that Alan wrote, and you’ll need to recreate scenes by interacting with the environment to make what’s written down come to fruition. The thin line between reality and the darkness’ effect on the world is still very much present, however, it is now ruled by Alan Wake’s doppelgänger Mr Scratch, a crazed serial killer who wants nothing more than to see Alan go insane. You may remember him from his appearances in the original game. He plays a central role in American Nightmare and there are some great moments where you can watch Mr. Scratch talking to you while murdering others on TVs around the world. Mr. Scratch is notorious and it seems that he has influenced everyone in the small desert town. You’ll often be mistaken for him, and the residents give off a negative reaction to you. You will have to gain their trust by completing various objectives for them that for the most part are more interesting and fun to play than you’d expect.
There was a limited yet realistic arsenal of weaponry in the original Alan Wake, because you’re not likely to find anything other than basic pistols, shotguns and flair guns in a woodland town, right? Well, in American Nightmare things get a makeover and Remedy has injected more variation and ultimately fun into the mix. The weapons from the original game have returned, but Alan also now has access to submachine guns, nail guns, and crossbows, to name a few. The way you use these weapons should be familiar to veterans of the series, and it feels better than ever. You’ll notice tweaks have been made to the gameplay to allow for a more seamless experience, with hopefully less frustrating moments. You’ll still be needing to shine your torch at your foes to take down their shields of darkness, allowing you to finish them off for good with your gun. It seems like you don’t need to replace the batteries in your light sources nearly as much as in the previous Alan Wake, which is a good thing, and flares and flashbangs can still be used to get out of sticky situations when you’re being overwhelmed. When you look at the weapons systems in this game and the previous one, the new system is much improved with more variety, offering a better gameplay experience as a whole.
As you explore the world and meet NPCs, you’ll take on objectives such as simple fetch missions or clearing an area of enemies, and Remedy has managed to take these tasks and make them feel interesting and exciting. Between the updated environment, improved gameplay and new weapon varieties, it just feels better. The original Alan Wake had a distinct lack of replayability, and this is something Remedy has addressed in the form of an arcade mode. Essentially, this is a horde-style mode across various maps, where all you have to do is fight until dawn. You have 10 minutes to survive the waves of various enemies, and you’ll need to keep your wits about you and watch your back, as the small maps don’t allow you to keep running away. Weapons, ammo, and health regeneration spots are scattered across the map, and right from the beginning you’ll find this mode more challenging than the story. In fact, this whole survival game type was Remedy’s inspiration when creating American Nightmare and it shows.
Alan Wake’s American Nightmare still shares some of the problems seen in the original game, such as some unfair, frustrating moments during combat, and these prevent this game from being considered elite. The story doesn’t have the same impact as the first game, but this was a sacrifice that needed to be made given the budget price. This sacrifice was also a way to allow the exploration to not affect the narrative. Overall, it’s not as dark, but it’s just as fun. The game looks and sounds as phenomenal as the PC version of Alan Wake released earlier this year. For the money, it’s one of the best and most polished games available, and after seeing what Remedy has done here you should be more excited than ever for more Alan Wake. If you are even slightly interested in the original Alan Wake, just pick this up.
This review is based off a retail version of the PC version of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare by Remedy Games