Categories: Featured, Xbox 360 Reviews, Xbox Live Arcade
Written By: Seamus.CA
Remedy Entertainment is keen to let gamers know that Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is not a sequel to the 2010 game, it is a standalone downloadable title which can be enjoyed much the same way as Capcom’s Dead Rising 2 downloadable games Case Zero and Case West. The story begins by throwing gamers straight into gameplay with little introduction to characters and settings. The focus is on the world Alan is in now and as such the problem at hand; Alan is trapped in an alternate reality and must stop his evil doppelganger Mr. Scratch from destroying Alan’s own life.
As a standalone game it is welcoming to new players as a quest game but a little alienating if you want to be able to follow the story early on. The focus from the start is on the gameplay which sees Alan have a series of tasks to complete which generally take the form of “fetch quests,” for example – go to the Diner and find key to a Hotel Room and then return to the Hotel to search that room for a clue about the next location. Story is delivered through narration (which occurs during gameplay) and the characters Alan meets however the level of conversation Alan has with AI characters is optional as you don’t have to wait around hitting the “tell me more button” if you’re focused on completing the next quest. Like the fetch quests mentioned above, new characters almost always have something missing that they need Alan to collect however they do reward him with the extra information and background story if players did want to learn as much as they can.
Also on the subject of fetch quests are the missing manuscript pages that are available to collect. There are 50+ pages available to find in the 3 locations American Nightmare is set in. These are optional but each page collected reveals more about the setting, characters, relationships and the workings of the Alan Wake universe through one page of (narrated) text each. As a solid bonus, there are hidden cases throughout the game that contain more powerful weapons that are unlocked by finding a certain amount of manuscript pages. With such a high number to find and only 3 locations to explore gamers will be almost certain to find enough pages through main quest travel to unlock any cases they do come across but once again the bonus story detail is there for those that want it.
Combat in the game works fairly well. The unique aspect of combat in Alan Wake is that enemies first appear literally “shielded” by darkness. Alan must use his flashlight to “burn” the darkness away from his attackers and then shoot them as normal with his own weapons. It is a little clunky at the start but one or two rounds of the Arcade Mode will get gamers up to speed. Arcade Mode for American Nightmare is a take on Horde Mode. Gamers have to survive waves of increasingly stronger enemies until dawn appears and vanquishes the dark enemies. Each mode is set for 10 minutes and there are 10+ levels to unlock for people who enjoy it. It’s a fun enough mode and proves that the combat in the game is an improvement on the 2010 game.
For a game set in a dark alternate reality Alan Wake’s American Nightmare in not scary. This is largely due to the combat working so well and the availability of ammo which is never in short re-supply. That said there are bonus videos Alan can find that Mr. Scratch has pre-recorded and they are a little creepy if you choose to watch them (we have an example embedded below). Fetch quests in the game can be a little repetitive but they don’t drag the game down too much. Overall Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is good for a downloadable game and is an indication that the series is progressing in the right direction with an improved combat section.