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TGS 09: Alan Wake on the Run

A new demo shows off the darker side of Wake's adventure.

2009-09-24
Microsoft and development studio Remedy trotted out a new section of Alan Wake for this year's Tokyo Game Show. Only shown behind closed doors, the new area is in the midst of production and had a few technical hiccups that are still being worked out. Regardless, it got the job done in keeping me excited for this action thriller, on tap for Spring of 2010. The scene shown today gave us a look at what happens in Alan Wake when you don't have a flashlight handy. The short answer is this: you run.

Alan Wake follows the story of a writer who goes to rural Bright Falls, Washington in the hopes of kicking a mental block that has prevented him from working. Shortly after his arrival, his wife disappears and he begins to find pages of a book he authored but has no recollection of. The scary stuff comes when his thriller starts coming to life before his eyes. Now his only hope is to find the missing pages of the book and save his wife before the spreading dark presence consumes him.


Sometimes it isn't a good thing to be in the light.

Light is the only real counter to the evil darkness that is tearing Bright Falls apart. Guns and other weapons won't have any effect on infected people and objects unless first given a dose of photons. A flashlight will do the trick, as will things like flares or street lights. What happens when you don't have a protective light? We found out today.

Alan Wake's arrival in Bright Falls kicked off a series of unfortunate events and that coincidence was not lost on some of the local authorities. One FBI agent named Nightingale thinks Wake is responsible for the whole ordeal and so he has marked Wake as a fugitive and instructed the deputies to fire on sight. Today's demo picked up with Wake in the woods and on the lamb. The fog is thick and the path is rocky, but surrounded by a pine forest. Search lights are scattered in the distance. While it normally is important to stay in the light, these ones are carried by people hunting for you and they spell doom.

For the opening moments of the demo, it actually looked a bit like a stealth action game. Wake moved deliberately through the woods, avoiding flashlights as they swept back and forth. At one point, he went under a bridge as lights cast down from above filtered through eerily. It all seemed to be going well until a flare lit up a tree, illuminating the entire area and giving away Wake's location. Gun fire began to rain down and there simply was no choice but to run into the darkness once again.

This is where Alan Wake started to earn its designation as an action thriller. The dark presence began creeping through the woods around Wake and the mood turned seriously sinister. It almost felt like the woods were alive and they truly became their own distinct character. I don't want to spoil what happens next because it really is looking like this story is one that will be worth the wait, but I will say that things end on a massive cliffhanger. Remedy clearly has an excellent grasp of what it takes to make a game thrilling and spooky.


Everybody is out to get Wake.

When the demo finished, Remedy discussed a bit about what to expect in the daytime sections of the game. These portions of Alan Wake are designed to counter the high tension of the night with some humorous and twisted character development and a little exploration. Of course, we were told you can expect to be forced into dark caverns and buildings even when it is light outside, so the daytime can still present some danger. We also were told to expect things done during the day to be reflected on the game later on, perhaps when you revisit a section during the night.

I have yet to play Alan Wake, so it's unclear exactly how well the camera changes and slow motion pans will work in practice. Still, this is clearly a game to keep tabs on. While many horror games have shifted towards action or grotesque imagery to attract players, Alan Wake is reminding us how cool a focused thriller can be.

©2009-09-24, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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