Review

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare

Reviewed on Xbox 360.

If I should fall to stormy weather, Wake me.

Harry Bandell

Harry Bandell

Contributor

on March 19, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Chapter One:

The herald of darkness is close but frightfully out of reach, an elusive force wielding nothingness surrounding me as a potent weapon. I cast empty words out into hollow space while frantically casting a thin beam of bright light around the dark; I run purposefully forth with heavy breaths and steps, this single strip of golden glow my only comfort and source of solace in a shrouded place. Mr. Scratch taunts me in the distance, a clean-cut but sinister reflection of myself standing tall and confident in jet black suit and tie atop a broken car.

He looks to step out of the proverbial mirror and become the me I seem to cannot be, sending his minions forth to destroy the me that stands in his way: I steady my nerves and aim my torch squarely at them before lining up a shot with the pistol procured earlier. Only my torch and gun together are enough to halt and kill these accursed creatures that haunt my every move.

Up ahead lays the scraps of a town and perhaps people that aren’t looking to kill me. The shining lights emanating from the buildings are a comforting sight to behold; I sprint my very hardest and find a woman, Emma Sloan, in a garage parked in the middle of a motel. She recognises me but we’ve never met. I have to assure her that I am not my doppelganger. There is more there than she wants to tell me but I feel like this won’t be the last time we meet.

Chapter Two:

Emma’s garage is lit up but that initial comfort feel is replaced by anxiety: are these lights enough? She tells me that the horde of evil can be held up if I perform a few tasks and help destroy an oil tower nearby that is spewing forth from the ground foes I have to face. She hands me a page of a manuscript that I can use to alter reality: suspension of disbelief is important for me to continue, as I remember where I am and what is happening.

Mr. Scratch looks to scratch out the sun from the sky. As I race towards the tower and set about bringing its destruction I can’t help but think that my priors dealing with the darkness has led me to slight indifference. I still aim my light source true and fire rounds into those which were people before: is it wrong that I no longer feel that rush of fear and adrenaline anymore? Little time to think about that now: a satellite tears through the ozone and crashes into the tower below.

Fire springs forth all around, Kasabian’s ‘Club Foot’ rattles out from radio speakers as an oddly fitting accompaniment to the chaos. I sprint more towards what is now my haven, darting around walls of fire and taking shelter in the motel. The fight isn’t finished yet: there are more people out there for me to meet, more tasks – some prosaic, some inventive – and more fights to fight my way through.

Chapter Three:

Welcome distractions on my travels find me taking a breather, watching my evil self on televisions address me through a camera spouting his own words of wisdom and putting on a show for the amusement of himself more than mine. I flick radios on when found to listen to new segments of a broadcast show I recognise from before.

It doesn’t take too long for me to reach an impasse. I have the chance to end Mr. Scratch’s reign of terror through the reality-altering manuscripts that lay scattered around the place yet my story is not over so quickly. Time rewinds; I return to where I started, confused but determined to finish the fight. I re-enact scenarios, more prepared for what’s to come. Events play out slightly differently; a task involving an observatory and a scientist I ran across earlier is drastically cut short by foreknowledge. I return to the impasse with a fresh outlook and reinvigorated determination to succeed… yet it is not enough.

As Mr. Scratch taunts me on a drive-in movie theatre screen I fail once more and return again to the start of my nightmare. Determination turns into apathy; I shift more lazily around, talking to those I’ve talked to plenty before and killing those I’ve killed before. I do know my nightmare is soon to end but I now feel indifferent about it. What I have experienced up until now has not been enough to quell my unappeased yearning for exhilaration. I may be the hero of light but I walk forth I feel more like a passenger, the challenge not quite great enough, my doppelganger now less a tyrannical overlord and more an ignorable presence. I reach the inevitable end of my journey as the saviour of only a few.

Epilogue:

My nightmare continues as I play idly around in new places, surviving for as long as I need to while shooting the many hordes that attempt to keep me in the dark. This extension is like the piece missing from the somewhat contrived story that I had previously dreamed about. This nightmare has been an interesting experience but has left me wanting more of what came before. I don’t wish to return to Night Springs, Arizona any time soon.

I leave my American Nightmare behind longing instead for a chance to relive the terrifyingly terrific nightmare that took place in Bright Falls years ago.

C+

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