Alan Wakes Up

It had been a long time since we last saw something of Alan Wake; two and half years ago we saw a tech demonstration at an Intel conference, and at the end of last year we saw a brief cinematic trailer. But over the four years that we’ve known about the game, there had been scant information as to what exactly it is. Finnish developer Remedy called it a ‘psychological action thriller’, which told us nothing about the kind of gameplay it entailed. What little else we could tell from the screenshots was that it was set in a picturesque, mountainous settlement and that it had a hefty graphical engine powering it.

However, this morning at Microsoft’s eventful E3 ’09 conference, Remedy finally brought us up to speed on the game and conveyed the essence of the gameplay all in one fell swoop. And it was the highlight of the jam-packed show. Stage demo footage embedded after the jump.


Alan Wake tells of the troubles of the titular best-selling novelist suffering from insomnia and writer’s block. At the behest of his wife Alice, the two take a trip into the mountains to a small town called Bright Falls, and that’s where the nightmare begins. Alice disappears, and Alan finds disturbing occurrences happening around him, somehow related to the very fiction he writes. Things he wrote in a thriller he doesn’t even remember writing start to become real, and he must find the manuscript in order to understand what is going on.

Before the demonstration today no one really had any idea exactly what the gameplay would be like. The nightmarish theme and moody visuals gave an indication at least that there would be some horror aspects, and the wide open outdoor environments suggested exploration and adventure elements. I’m not sure what I expected but I didn’t quite make a connection with Remedy’s previous work in the Max Payne games - and it seems the basic shooter mechanics have indeed been retained in Alan Wake.

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The character is clearly guided by third-person shooter controls, with a flashlight beam acting as a cross-hair. The overall feel seems to be reminiscent of Resident Evil 4, and the forest environments strengthens that impression. The enemies Alan faces are most certainly not zombies, though. Seemingly composed of darkness, the humanoid figures materialise from shadows and advance menacingly. Aiming the flashlight beam at them appears to deter them, and perhaps even makes them vulnerable to gun shots. Using light as a defense looks to be a major part of combat gameplay, with hordes of enemies requiring Alan to utilize crowd-control items like flares and generator-powered floodlights. Another feature ripped from the Payne games is some kind of bullet-time effect, though the actual trigger for it doesn’t seem to be clearly defined past the obvious cinematic effect of the moment.

Other points of note include a TV-like episodic presentation of the story, with a ‘previously on’ segment preceding the current chapter. Additionally, the protagonist narrates his story during the action, a signature of film noir. Evidently Remedy are employing various meta-narrative devices, reflecting the subject matter of the story.

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Concluding their presentation, Remedy finally gave a release date for the game, stating a Spring 2010 release window. Considering how long the game has been in development, it’s surprising to say the least. The developers will be showing the game off behind closed doors during E31, so expect a boatload of hands-on previews to appear at most sites in the coming days.

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