Alan Wake's American Nightmare Round-up

By Mark Delaney, 5 years ago
When Remedy Entertainment's Alan Wake was announced at E3 2005, gamers grew rightfully excited. The console gaming market was transitioning into the current generation of high definition graphics and bloated budgets where the only limits seemed to be the developers' imaginations. From the beginning, it seemed Alan Wake's key features were the colorful imaginations and unique storytelling abilities of the men and women at the same small, Finnish game studio responsible for the critically-acclaimed Max Payne series.

However, as years came and went, it became apparent that Alan Wake was trapped in Development Hell, a place where few games ever escape, and if they do, the results usually aren't worth remembering. Somehow, this game was different though. When Alan Wake finally did release in May of 2010, the game quietly began receiving stellar reviews. Critics praised the storytelling, pacing, and atmosphere of Remedy's "psychological action thriller". Still the game wasn't perfect. Some criticisms of the game were its repetitiveness and lack of differing environments and enemies, since most of the game has you running through very similar woods being chased by the same shadowy figures.

Worst of all, with less than inspiring sales figures, the future of the Alan Wake story seemed to be in jeopardy. Anyone who has played the game knows there are lingering mysteries abound surrounding The Dark Place and the quaint little town of Bright Falls. Motives for characters like Dr. Emil Hartman and the ghostlike Thomas Zane have still been left unanswered and fans had grown weary that they may forever be left that way.

Fortunately, Remedy has announced the highly-anticipated (albeit unconventional) follow-up to Alan Wake with https://www.trueachievements.com/Alan-Wakes-American-Ni....htm. Since the Video Game Awards reveal earlier this month, some new details have emerged about the next venture in Wake's twisted world and crumbling psyche. Warning: this preview will contain Alan Wake spoilers. Do not continue if you do not wish to know details from the first game.

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Alan, wake up

The story of American Nightmare is said to take place two years after the events of the first game, though it's not guaranteed that it has been two years for Alan. For all we know right now, time might move at a different pace in The Dark Place. The setting has now moved out of the fictional and eerie Bright Falls, Washington and into an undisclosed Arizona town where Alan seems to still be struggling to find his way out of the darkness. In fact, he is trapped inside an episode of Night Springs, the in-game homage to The Twilight Zone which Alan himself wrote for early on in his career.

Many of the characters from the first game make an appearance, like Alan's comic relief agent, Barry Wheeler. Strangely, Barry has moved on to now represent The Old Gods of Asgard, also known as the Anderson brothers' band, and he refuses to discuss his past relationship with Alan, whom the outside world believes to have disappeared. This is strange because the Andersons are very old and seemingly senile. It's likely this is all part of Alan's muddled and bruised state of mind.

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The game's main driving focus is going to be Alan's continued search for his wife, Alice. She was freed from the darkness at the end of Alan Wake after Alan sacrificed himself by appeasing the Dark Presence with a replacement. Alan knows he can't last much longer in this world - he is already teetering on the brink of madness.

To make matters worse, Mr. Scratch, his mysterious, and now seemingly malicious doppelganger, is roaming the real world and racing to beat Alan to his vulnerable wife. Remedy describes Mr. Scratch as a sort of urban legend, akin to Bloody Mary or The Candyman. Young people gather around the campfire to tell the story of the writer who vanished and returned as a serial killer. As things in Wake's world have a history of coming to life, Mr. Scratch is literally thought into existence by such storytellers and now he is on the loose, taunting Alan every step of the way.

In darkness, fight with light

Much of the game's core gameplay will remain the same, which is a decision that will probably be welcome by fans who were worried about the XBLA format of the game. You'll still have your flashlight. It will still need to be recharged with (Energizer) batteries, and after you burn away the darkness, you'll finish off the Taken with firearms. You'll still be able to find Safe Havens under any lamp posts and you can dodge the enemies with style, too. With American Nightmare, however, Remedy has made a conscious effort to address the first game's criticisms.

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As you already read, this semi-sequel will move out of Bright Falls, which should make for a fresh experience. The environments will also be slightly less linear, but don't mistake it for a Grand Theft Auto game. This decision was made because of the tweaking to the game's collectible manuscript pages. Like the first one, you'll find pages scattered all across the game world. Where it differs now is that what you read on the page may only come true if you make it come true. This could lead to you literally writing in your own supplies, or maybe even enemies if done the wrong way. If the page says you are speeding in a car and blasting the radio, you have to do those things to synchronize the story and, ultimately, you'll be able to control the flow of your own story. With the exception of the Oh, Deer Diner coffee thermoses, the collectibles in Alan Wake were worth finding because they added a lot to the story. This game will utilize that same method of providing backstory through its collectibles.

Another criticism of Wake was the lack of enemy evolution. There were the Taken, which were townsfolk shrouded in darkness and were slightly class-based. They made up most of the action. The only other enemies were flocks of birds and poltergeist objects. Remedy has already shown off a few of the new game's improved enemy types. One of them will surely get you to rethink your "fight with light" strategy. As you use the 'boost' mechanic of your flashlight, you will actually cause the massive Splitter enemy to split into two enemies, and each time that you do it from there will continue this pattern. Do you want to face one large brute whom you must defeat slowly, or many smaller, quicker enemies all at once? It's up to you to plan out your strategy. Another enemy can morph between a humanoid figure like the Taken and the clouded flock of birds who swoop in and overwhelm you.

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The weaponry is going to be more robust as well. The first game's firearms consisted of a simple pistol, a hunting rifle, and two different shotguns. American Nightmare will offer some of these more traditional weapons, but if you want to eliminate the darkness in style, you can use a variety of automatic weapons, submachine guns, or maybe even a nailgun.

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It's not a lake...it's an ocean

Remedy also recently revealed how this semi-sequel came to be. After the aforementioned criticisms were heard, the folks back in Finland created a small game world where they tested out new enemy and weaponry types, for future use. The game became so much fun among staff members as they competed for scores, that they thought they may have a new spin-off on their hands. However, Remedy is never one to let the opportunity for a good story to slip away and the very public face of Remedy, Sam Lake, submitted the idea of not just making it an arcade shooter mini-game, but giving it a fully-fledged story as well. This is how Alan Wake's American Nightmare, much like The Dark Presence, was willed into existence.

They didn't scrap that dev team favorite, though. American Nightmare will include a survival/horde mode called "Fight till Dawn" that will have you running around varied maps like a cemetery or a ghost town, searching for supplies as you thwart off the increasingly more difficult Taken. Can you survive to see the light of day?

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If the premise and title sound reminiscent of a certain Tarantino film, well, it should. Just as Remedy has repeatedly stated that their inspirations from the first game came from Stephen King novels, LOST, and Twin Peaks, this game is inspired by grindhouse Tarantino-esque movies. Alan's brooding inner-monologue (a favorite of Remedy's) will be replaced with a Rod Serling-like narrator, as the "episode" of Night Springs unfolds, and licensed music will also make a return -- one of the most enjoyed features of the first game's presentation.

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While the game is meant to be more action-oriented and appealing to a larger audience, Remedy also assured concerned fans that the story is considered canon and will contain important information for those looking to resolve some of the mysteries so far. In total, they said the game should take about five to six hours to complete, including the collectibles (radio shows, TV programs, and manuscripts). Of course the arcade mode and leaderboards should also make for continued replay value among fans. They haven't released specific pricing information, but they stated it will be priced similarly to other XBLA titles (1200 MSP seems likely).

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If you missed the extended edition of the American Nightmare debut trailer, check that out, too. Alan Wake's American Nightmare can be downloaded into existence sometime in early 2012.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a lifelong gamer and current Assistant (to the) News Manager on TA. When not playing games, he can be found cheering for a bad football team, playing Batman action figures with his son, or going to concerts with his lover. Days where he does all of those things are his favorite.