It's Thanksgiving today! Or, the American Thanksgiving at least.
Another special day of the year to only think of video games. Because friends and family are overrated. You don't even always have them readily accessible via your living room TV or your pocket. Video games are always there for you. Really, life in general, for the most part, is pointless and inconvenient. Technology is the reason we're happy.
On top of that, video games pacify one's urge to kill. Admit it: You're thinking of killing someone right now. But, it's okay. Video games understand. I love them so much. One of them, more than any other.
Thankfully, I didn't have to do much thinking to nail down which game that is. It's a game I periodically find myself gawking over. Even when I'm not playing it, and even though it isn't necessarily my favorite video game (although, it is up there). It's just the one I can't stop thinking about. And to say that I, of all people, have happily beaten this game twice is saying a lot.
Is that what they call "love"? [He/She/It] might not be the best-looking [guy/gal/thing] I've ever seen, and [he/she/it] isn't perfect, but somehow... [he's/she's/it's] perfect for me.
That is how I feel with Alan Wake.
The moment I first started up a New Game, the game's main protagonist spoke and I was instantly hooked.
Alan Wake, voiced by the awesome Matthew Porretta and modeled after dreamboat Ilkka Villi, has a voice that is immediately likable, yet a voice that is without an equal. How this man sounded was an incredibly important aspect to nail given the game's focus on not only story, but narration. And they fucking nailed it.
He's no Nolan North or Troy Baker-type, he stands out. And accomplishing that with a voice that's also easy on the ears is one the game's many fantastic qualities.
Not to waste such talented actors on drool dialogue and/or amateur storytelling, every other aspect of Alan Wake's story is exceptional (a few minor missteps aside). It's filmic, yet, unlike a lot of modern AAA releases, it feels sincere. It had one hell of a story to tell, it likely had some very talented cinematographers on the team (I just love this shot, though be wary of spoilers), it keeps at a lovely pace (it's episodic format has been understandably praised greatly), and it's all up for interpretation to this day.
"Steven King once wrote that nightmares exist outside of logic and there's little fun to be had in explanations. They're antithetical to the poetry of fear. In a horror story the victim keeps asking why, but there can be no explanation and there shouldn't be one. The unanswered mystery is what stays with us the longest and is what we'll remember in the end." - Alan Wake
And, most surprisingly: It doesn't sacrifice the "game" in "video game" one bit.
People have often complained about the repetitiveness in Alan Wake's gameplay. However, even though it does become somewhat of a problem in the game's final couple hours, I am someone with a very high threshold for that sort of thing (I'm a huge fan of Serious Sam, Dynasty Warriors, Left 4 Dead, and Dead Rising).
At least they went through the trouble of having the game control brilliantly and keeping the combat engaging. Smooth movement, clean dodges, intelligent AI, great audio/visual punch, solid gunplay, an all-in-all very satisfying gameplay experience.
One under-appreciated aspect of the game throughout the last few years, I feel, has been the game's AI. It's ferocious, yet efficient with flanking. A good handful of the combat takes place in open forest, and they will either use the many trees, plants, and bushes to blend their dark bodies into the environment or simply take advantage of said openness with their nimble nature.
Even in enclosed spaces, groups hardly (if ever) come at you in a straightforward manner.
Alan, himself, ain't so nimble. And it's quite tense trying to juggle between 2 or 3 or more spaced opponents. Not because of the controls, but because of the AI and the player having to work alongside the game's sensible mechanics. Sometimes, especially on Nightmare difficulty, running is a valid option. So if even Nightmare difficulty can tend to overstock your ammo supply, it can feel very "survival horror".
But fuck those birds.
Another one of the game's most underrated points of interest has got to be the visuals. I've always felt that video games have hardly ever really nailed the "nighttime" look, often merely looking like someone just switched color palettes rather than it feeling like a natural change in light and shadow. Or it just simply looks way over-stylized.
This game still has the most natural-looking night visuals I've ever seen. The fog, lightning, clouds, shading, moonshine, everything looks just right. And it all lends very much to the game's occasionally very oppressive atmosphere. When that wind starts kicking up, and enemies begin to appear from nowhere out of the darkness glazed against the moonlight, it's something special man.
At the risk of sounding like a mass-friendly back-of-the-box quote, this game truly does feel cinematic.
Must I also mention the game's original music? Even the licensed stuff is all great and incredibly fitting. There's a whole slew of things to appreciate about this game.
Even American Nightmare, for all it's problems, is a game that I just can't, for the life of me, stop thinking about. It's Alan Wake. I'm always on the verge of either playing it or the original Wake. Though, legitimately, it has some amazing-looking locales very different from the core Alan Wake and one crazy awesome villain. And an arcade mode pulled off surprisingly well considering Alan Wake's usual focus on story.
Proving just how good Alan Wake's gameplay can be, and proving how strong the allure of Alan Wake is for me. Remedy could actively attempt to make a bad Alan Wake game, and it'd still likely be pretty alright.
"You wanna know the real difference between you and me? .... I'm not afraid to be the center of attention."
Props to the actors and the rest of the team for properly syncing up two acts for one character. And to Destructoid for making it into the video!
I'm trying to make this as condensed, yet informative as possible. To accurately describe why Alan Wake means so much to me. When, really, I guess it's just indescribable. Like love between two humans, I love Alan Wake even more than the sum of all of it's fantastic parts. I treat it as if it were more than perfect, yet I know it totally isn't.
I could keep typing about the game's individual qualities and why they're as good as they are, but there's an outer layer of appreciation that I can't put into words.
On the real, Thanksgiving is about appreciating your friends and family more and more each year. I don't get to see my family too often, so I'm looking forward to some conversation, a big dinner, and perhaps some fun with my ADORABLE little cousins. However, that doesn't mean we can't also say thanks for some of the things less meaningful to us that just make life a little more entertaining and fulfilling.
Alan Wake, more than any other video game, I just fucking love.