By jakob187 9 Comments
When Alan Wake's American Nightmare was announced, I got giggly with excitement. While many bemoan the combat of the original game and others herald the atmosphere and story that this "franchise" offers, there was a part of me that simply got excited because of a simple idea: more Alan Wake. The first game ranked at #2 for me in my 2010 Top 25 Games. It was the mixture of atmosphere, story, characters, pacing and most importantly a constant sense of mystery that made Bright Falls a wonderful place to visit.
It's all of these things, however, that American Nightmare truly lacks, particularly in the first three of those aforementioned fields. It's something that will drive any Alan Wake fan absolutely batty. Sure, you can say "well, what did you expect from a $15 downloadable game", and I will reply with "a lot...because it's a proven formula".
Take a look at Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, a perfect and shining example of how to take the core game and bring it down in size yet still capture everything that the full game could potentially be. It's about being a bite-sized chunk while making sure it's a truly satisfying experience. Granted, I never actually PLAYED Dead Rising 2 because there was not a single friend of mine that could recommend it, and that is rarely a good sign to purchase a game. Regardless, that little $10 downloadable was fucking excellent. In turn, why couldn't Alan Wake's American Nightmare be the same?
I don't want to say that the atmosphere isn't there, but little details that made the atmosphere work correctly are missing. There's no darkness fog that gets thicker as you walk into areas you shouldn't be in. Instead, you have invisible walls. The game isn't all that dark anyways, so you never feel like there is something out there you can't see. Even something as small as just pushing X to reload your weapon rather than mashing that button to reload faster makes a massive difference. The sprint lasts longer before exhaustion kicks in. The checkpoints are frequent. The enemies are too basic and non-threatening. Ammo is readily available at all turns, so much so that there is a box which will automatically give you full batteries and full ammo on your guns. The guns are incredibly powerful, basically handing you carbines and submachine guns and shotguns as if they were water: always flowing and never drying up. The characters (what few of them exist) are wooden statues with moving mouths, not the active and meaningful types you found in Alan Wake proper. Even then (***SPOILERS***), they rarely survive long enough to be meaningful anyways (***END SPOILERS***). The mini-map gives too much information.
Essentially, Alan Wake's American Nightmare is hand-holding in the most egregious way possible. If anything, it's downright insulting to what Alan Wake was all about.
Why? What possible notion would make Remedy say "let's take out all the things that made Alan Wake unique and what it was supposed to be?". Was it sales numbers? Was it to try being like everyone else? Yeah, yeah...we know. It's "not a sequel" and they "focused on action" and blah blah blah. That's fine, but they could've left plenty of those things I mentioned above in this game instead of sacrificing them on an altar of sales numbers and mainstream popularity. Hell, even the DLC for Alan Wake was able to hold onto all of those elements while also introducing new ones and STILL remain more compelling than American Nightmare.
With American Nightmare, we get something that's not even quite a watered-down Dr. Pepper. We get that glass of lemonade that has been sitting around at room temperature for about six months while we've just been walking through a desert for two hours. We'll take it because it's what's there, but it doesn't mean the taste is what we want.
Unfortunately, this is a double-sided blade. We as consumers are supposed to vote with our dollars, right? Here's the dilemma that Remedy has created for themselves. If we vote by buying American Nightmare in droves, we are saying "we want a watered-down experience of hand-holding". However, we already voted on Alan Wake, a game that eventually became profitable but did not see the sales that Microsoft or maybe even Remedy was hoping for when it came out. In short, we've more than likely doomed Alan Wake already no matter which way we go.
Until next time, piece.