Games Meet Metal: Alan Wake: The Riff Review

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Alan Wake: The Riff Review

I always liked the idea of being a well established fictional author. Work from home, your own office, and easy access to the fridge or the crapper. Hell, if you're lucky, you can have the fridge and crapper at the same time! Unfortunately, being a writer of fiction is a pipe dream for me as I can't write make-believe for the life of me. Every time I try, it always begins and ends the same way: somebody armed to the teeth with enough guns to make the NRA blush, then it ends with some poor guy's ding-a-ling getting chopped off via nefarious means. So, yeah, the fictional stuff is better left to those who can do it some proper justice.

Now, thanks to Alan Wake, I can now at least vicariously live the life of a successful author.... who has writer's block.... and who uses guns a lot. Okay, so no access to the fridge or crapper, but they have part of it right. Alan and his wife are on vacation in the U.s. northwest's getaway, Bright Falls, to help with his writer's block. Then his wife is kidnapped by mysterious forces, Alan wakes up inside a crashed car, and shadowy baddies are after him. Oh, and you also keep finding pages of a manuscript that you wrote that you have no recollection of ever typing out.

The main gameplay takes place at night in very expertly and creepily created forest scenes as the shadowy baddies try to re-enact my horrible my horrible fiction endings upon Alan's wee willie wonder. However, you can't just plug a few slugs in the noggin. First, you have to burn away their shadowy exterior through the power of light, be it from the many types of flashlights you acquire, or from well placed floodlights. You also get a nice collection of guns to help dispatch your foes, as well as flares and flashbangs. These may seem inconsequential at first, but the flares and flashbangs can act as grenades against the light-fearing baddies. And let's not forget the flare gun, which is now an enemy clearing nuclear strike. the combat doesn't really change too much through the game, with the addition of the oddball inanimate object coming your way or the speedy and teleporting semi-bosses, which can feel repetitive at times. The real thrilling battles are against possessed gigantic forest equipment like plows and tree cutters.

While the combat is entertaining, I do have a few complaints about how the story gets told in the game. The story itself is compelling, as Alan tries to piece together the mystery of Bright Falls, as well as how he wrote a manuscript and doesn't remember it. The problem comes in the voice acting, which isn't of the greatest caliber. It's doubly bad when the acting doesn't match up with he lip syncing of the in-game characters much. Alan's wife falls prey to this the most. There is one gleaming ray of sunshine here, and it Alan manager/buddy Barry Wheeler. Barry's the comedy relief, and is easily one of the most likable characters in the game. Barry, a New Yorker who deals with the shadows his own way,and that's usually through large bouts of very verbal frustration. But he always makes it work, and becomes his own powerhouse later in the game through the most silliest of ways.

So, should you try this game out? Yes! If you can look past the shoddy voice acting, you'll have yourself a fun and atmospheric action/suspense game that will have you wondering how the story all pans out. Just don't believe that all authors are aces with guns. Except maybe Hunter S. Thompson. But his final gunshot was to his own brain, so maybe he's a bad example.

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