I’m a big fan of the survival horror genre. Ever since I first loaded Alone in the Dark onto my 486 PC from multiple floppy disks I’ve been hooked. Since then there have been some real highlights such as Silent Hill 2 on the original Xbox and the truly superb Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube. And then there’s the Fatal Frame series that relied heavily on spooky atmosphere rather than action and gore. All that said, it has been quite a while since there’s been a great survival horror game that wasn’t part of an existing series – okay, Dead Space was good, but its spaceship locale and alien bad guys made it feel more like the thinking man’s Doom.
All that is about to change though with the impending release of Alan Wake on the Xbox 360. Not only is Alan Wake a completely new entry to the survival horror genre, it’s a game with such a strong pedigree that it has got gamers waiting with baited breath for its release, myself included. For those of you who don’t know (there may be one or two of you), the team behind Alan Wake previously brought us Max Payne, so there is a heavy weight of expectation associated with the new game and its titular protagonist.
One of the things that made Max Payne such a joy to play was the incredibly strong narrative that drew you into the game and made you want to uncover the next clue or plot twist. Alan Wake is set to take videogame story telling to the next level, with an intricate plot that unfolds with each level of the game. Remedy has based the structure of Alan Wake on a TV show, with each level presented as an episode – you even get a “previously on Alan Wake” recap at the beginning of each new episode!
Although I’ve been following the development of Alan Wake for many years, the preview event that Microsoft Game Studios held earlier this week was offered up my first opportunity to actually play the game. I’m always wary of making definitive conclusions when playing preview code, but if the build I played on Wednesday is an indication of the final game, Alan Wake is going to be good, very good.
The game kicks off with Alan (a best selling author with writer’s block) recounting a nightmare that he’s been having, where he’s driving at night and knocks down, and kills a hitchhiker. The hitchhiker then comes back to life and starts to hunt Alan. In reality this level is a short tutorial to help you get to grips with the game mechanics and controls, but it also throws up a few clues to what’s in store – the big one being that the mysterious hitchhiker is actually a character from one of Alan’s books.