Review: Alan Wake’s American Nightmare
Alan Wake's American Nightmare originally released on Xbox Live Arcade in February of this year. Now, three months later, the PC version of the game has just been released. We didn't review the game when it first came out, so how about we take a look at the game now? Read on to find out more.
- Worth The Time?Yes, to fans of the original game. Its price is for you to decide on.
- Things LovedThe gameplay is fun and addictive, the enemies have a nice variety to them, the music is great, it has high production values for a downloadable game, the graphics are good, the story is entertaining despite its silliness, with a survival mode included there's a solid amount of game content here.
- Things HatedIt can be really repetitive, the thrilling suspense from the original is completely absent here, there's almost no challenge, the story while entertaining does step on the great narrative of the original game a bit as its lighthearted and even silly, the dialogue doesn't match the original game.
- RecommendationIf you're a fan of the original game, then this game can just about, or come close to, justifying its price tag. It has a four to five hour campaign and an arcade survival mode, but beyond that it's nothing stand-out, and if Alan Wake's story was what captivated you the most, then you won't any of that thrilling suspense here. It's fun to play, but doesn't really make an impact.
- Name: Alan Wake's American Nightmare
- Genre: Action, Third Person Shooter
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC, XBLA
- Developer: Remedy Entertainment
- Publisher: Microsoft Studios, Remedy Entertainment (PC)
- Price: $14.99 (about R125)
- Reviewed On: PC, Xbox 360
I’m sure you must know of Alan Wake by now, as we’ve reviewed the original Xbox 360 game as well as its eventual PC release, both of which turned out great. Now, if you haven’t heard of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, then let me explain what it is, because it’s a bit of a strange one. The game is a downloadable follow-up to the original game, but it’s not really a sequel. It’s some kind of different reality in terms of its story, but the original game’s events have still happened. Alan Wake’s American Nightmare was originally released on Xbox Live Arcade back on February 22 of this year and now, three months later, on May 22 the PC version came out to play. So, how does the game measure up?
The plot of American Nightmare takes place two years after the events of Alan Wake, and plays out like the narration of an episode of the fictional TV show, “Night Springs,” which has a similar style to The Twilight Zone and appeared on TV screens in the first Alan Wake. American Nightmare starts out with Alan’s friend, Barry, asleep in some motel room. The narrator then explains that Alan is trying to find the herald of darkness, Mr Scratch, who is his evil doppleganger created by the darkness. This doppleganger wants to destroy Alan’s world by taking away all that he loves. Alan, named the champion of light, has the power to change things with his writing, but Scratch has other plans for him, trapping him in a time loop that will have him repeat the same events endlessly. Alan is trying to break free of this by attempting to change the outcomes in three Arizona locations, namely a motel, observatory and drive-in. Most of all, Alan Wake wants to destroy his evil doppleganger and reunite with his wife.
Before really going into it, I have to say that if you’re here because of the original Alan Wake’s excellent and captivating storyline, then you won’t find anything of that here. American Nightmare doesn’t pack the same suspense, thrills or compelling narrative as its predecessor. Instead it takes a more lighthearted approach, which plays to both its strength and weakness. The story often comes across as pretty silly, and isn’t really of the same spirit as the original game. It feels disjointed from it. That said, however, it still manages to be entertaining, and a workable scenario to carry the game. It’s presented through narrations and live-acted cutscenes, which look pretty great and help to give the game a distinctive feel, as well as Scratch’s taunts on TV screens and billboards. It’s by no means all that creepy, psychological or suspenseful like Alan Wake, and the dialogue doesn’t match up, but it’s a fun ride with a cool atmosphere that offers some interesting moments to fans of the original game.
As far as gameplay goes, not much has changed here. Your flashlight is still your main weapon, and you’ll need to shine it on the Taken to break their dark shields before you can gun them down. However, something positive is that there’s a nice variety to the enemies, even if the combat gets quite repetitive the longer the game goes on. American Nightmare does feel somewhat less linear because of the more open and expansive environments, but there’s hardly any reason to explore them other than to find ammunition or manuscript pages, which can open special weapon crates if you collect enough. The game has a rather simple formula, as you’ll basically spend your time running to the gold star objectives on your map, interacting with whatever object or switch you find, and then fighting the Taken. The gameplay is certainly fun, but for the most part it’s quite predictable and not much of a challenge.
There are some new weapons this time around, such as the carbon rifle, new handgun and uzzi, but the killing is the same. Not to mention that ammunition is aplenty, so you’ll never really have any problems in combat. Furthermore, your objectives are always pretty much spelled out for you, so there’s not much for you to think on other than killing Taken and doing what you’re told. Despite all this, however, the game’s distinctive style, addictive and fun gameplay and entertaining plot still manages to keep you hooked for the duration of the campaign, and the game’s high production values are something to admire and be impressed by. Sadly though, if you’re a fan of the original game’s story, you won’t find anything all that meaningful being added to it in American Nightmare. It’s just fun.
Once you complete the main campaign, which should take you about four to five hours in total, you can play the game’s mildly entertaining and somewhat addictive Arcade survival mode, which has you fighting it out against waves of enemies and trying to survive until the sun rises. You’ll make use of lots of weapons, build up your score and multipliers by stringing kills and avoiding damage and get to kill lots of Taken, so it’s good to drown a bit of time if you’re bored. There are a variety of levels, each with a great atmosphere, so the mode does add some value to the overall game, even if it isn’t that meaningful and is only a solo venture. Still, for a downloadable game it’s quite welcome, but it about sums up the entirety of American Nightmare, in that it’s just light entertainment and decent fun.
The game looks really good, graphically speaking, for a downloadable game, and one can appreciate its high production values, live-action cutscenes and well-presented atmosphere. The music is also great, and the voice acting is of a good standard despite the mishaps of the dialogue, which indicates a respectable degree of effort on the part of Remedy. It’s by no means the true sequel you’d want for Alan Wake, but as a stand-alone title it has merit, and I guess in the end if it kept me playing through the whole campaign has well as the arcade mode without really getting bored, despite its repetitiveness, then surely it can’t be all that bad. I’m honestly happy to have played it.
In the end, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is a decent enough game that admirably has high production values, but it’s mostly light entertainment that doesn’t add a whole lot to the original game. That said, you won’t regret playing it, and it manages to keep you occupied quite nicely.