So, you can see why it took me far too long to get into Alan Wake, despite my gamer friends; insistence that it was "a The Mike game" and "right up my alley." I finally went ahead and got the game sometime last November, but it still took me forever to actually get into the darn thing. When I did, I kept thinking more pansy thoughts, like "Man, this would be great if I didn't have to PLAY it."
I suppose backstory is important - the backstory of the game, not the boring exposition into my boring life that I already gave you - so here's Alan Wake in a nutshell. Famous writer
First off, there's the most obvious thing I love about Alan Wake, which goes against a lot of thinking in both the horror genre and the video game world: There's pretty much ZERO blood in Alan Wake. I don't know about you guys, but I rarely have nightmares that are as gory as a Fulci film or a crappy modern horror remake or anything in between. I have nightmares that don't make any kind of sense but creep me the heck out and seem like endless struggles against whatever evil is out there. That's what Alan Wake feels like.
There's also that big elephant in the room about Alan Wake that it really took me a while to "get". Alan Wake, the character - or, to put it more simply, the guy we're forced to spend 8-10 hours controlling - is kind of an annoying dude. He's all emotional, he's totally monotone sometimes, and he spends a lot of time sounding like he really isn't capable of dealing with his predicament. He's not exactly a whiner, but he's not a hero. Basically, I didn't want to like Alan Wake. So, I'm running around, being to Alan Wake what Cusack was to Malkovich, and I'm not really caring. But again, it's one of those things that just kind of happened as the game went on. Alan Wake works as an anti-hero, even if we don't like him personally, because we care about his plight. We get so invested in the journey, and the film reveals more and more about what Alan's up against, and we start to "get" Alan Wake - both the game and the character.
Now here's what I'm hear to really say. I think, as bad as video game adaptations usually are, that Alan Wake might actually work better as a TV series. As I mentioned earlier, the game is specifically designed to look like a TV series, segmented out into six episodes, each of which have their own story arc and each of which tie back into the bigger plot. I'm not gonna go all the way and say that the thing wraps up everything by the end of Episode Six - there are two more DLC Episodes and a stand-alone Arcade game that I hear add to the Alan Wake universe - but the way things tie back together shows that the folks who put together Alan Wake had a greater vision than they sometimes let on. It's absolutely fascinating to me when I realize that I've seen very few video games with a better narrative tale than Alan Wake - because I can't believe that someone allowed a video game to tell that much story while being a horror tale.
I know that comparison of a video game to three of the best voices in modern horror sounds cray-cray, but I honestly kind of believe it. Despite my efforts to the contrary, it turns out that Alan Wake is exactly the breath of fresh air (OK, it's a two year old breath of air now, I TOLD YOU I WAS SLOW) that I needed in the horror scene.
Well played, Xbox 360. Well played.
Oh, and the soundtrack kicks tons of butt.