Alan Wake's American Nightmare is a survival horror third person action game developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Microsoft. The game was released on Xbox Live Arcade February 22, 2012. Does Alan Wake's American Nightmare live up to the quality set by the original?
Alan Wake's American Nightmare takes place in an episode of the Twilight Zone inspired “Night Springs” which is a series written by Alan Wake. The story takes place in small town of Night Springs, Arizona where Alan Wake is trying to defeat his evil doppleganger Mr. Scratch. Alan must stop Mr. Scratch by rewriting his reality in order to reunite with his wife Alice. I really enjoyed the full motion video cut scenes and the twisted Mr. Scratch monologues that showed up on television screens throughout the game. The story of the game really captured the quirky sense of humor found in the first Alan Wake. My only complaint will the story is that you motivations for completing the objectives are never fully explained and there is no context to the actions performed throughout the game.
If you are familiar with the graphics in the first Alan Wake, you will find the game engine and atmosphere that you are accustomed too. For an XBLA title this is probably one of the most polished experiences you can find on the market. At first glance this game may make you think this a direct sequel to the first Alan Wake even though it is a downloadable title. There are excellent lighting and particle effects but the game still has the stiff animations found in the first game especially when it pertains to Alan Wake running. My only complaint with the graphics is that there are only about three main locations and there is not enough variation between each location. While still impressive for a downloadable game, I would of loved to explore more sections of the map rather than revisiting the same locations multiple times.
The mechanics from the first Alan Wake remain unchanged in America's Nightmare. Alan Wake uses a flashlight to shine on enemies and uses his arsenal for firepower to take them out. This time though the combat is more action based and less of a survival game. Instead of having limited ammo and batteries leaving you helpless like the first game , the combat is more visceral with a wider variety of weapons and plenty of ammo. Alan Wake collects manuscripts throughout the entire experience which are used to unlock the various weapon boxes throughout the game. I loved that this system rewarded players for exploration. Your arsenal includes a wide variety of handguns, shotguns, rifles, and assault rifles. My favorite weapons of the game were the nailgun and the sawed off shotgun because they made Alan Wake fell like a badass rather than the scared little puppy he was in the first game. Besides guns, Alan Wake is able to use flares and a flaregun to dissipate multiple enemies as well. The dodge mechanic from the first game returns which slows down the game when Alan Wake moves out of the way of enemy attacks. I really enjoyed this animation as it gave me a similar feeling of satisfaction found in action games like Batman Arkham City when countering enemy attacks. The major downfall of the game is that you must revisit the same locations two or three times leaving the experience feeling vary repetitive in later segments in the game.
Besides the four hour single player campaign, Alan Wake features another mode called Fight Until Dawn. The Fight Until Dawn mode is similar to your standard wave based survival modes except Alan Wake is given a timer of ten minutes to complete each level. The mode carries the weapons you find from the single player which is an another great way of rewarding players who spent the time to explore the map during the single player campaign. In all the mode adds some great replay value to the game and brings great value to the overall $15 dollar package.
Alan Wake is a great experiment of how triple A games can create a independent story based game using the mechanics and technology from their original game. I would love to see more developers experiment with this model as a way to hold over players anticipating the arrival of a sequel. In all if you like Alan Wake you will enjoy American Nightmare. Besides the repetitive nature of the single player game Alan Wake offers the quality of a triple A experience wrapped into a short but sweet downloadable title.