Giant Bomb Review

58 Comments

Alan Wake's American Nightmare Review

3
  • XBGS

Alan Wake's downloadable debut features a neat story with a clever twist, but one that sadly outstays its welcome.

If you enjoy Alan Wake's combat, there's plenty of it for you here!

When the credits rolled on Alan Wake’s surprisingly excellent add-on The Writer, my first thought was not “more combat, please.” Combat in Alan Wake, a one-two punch of weakening enemies with a flashlight and pumping them full of lead, was fine but outstayed its welcome. More combat and a bit more story is exactly what Remedy Entertainment has delivered with Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, a downloadable expansion that, sadly, fumbles by stretching what little story it does have much too far.

There is no longer a big world for Alan Wake to run around in. Instead, American Nightmare limits players to three big-ish environments: a motel, observatory, and drive-in theater. While Alan does “drive” to each location, the player has no control over that part--it happens during loading screens. American Nightmare is a much more guided experience than Alan Wake, a result of the limited narrative scope.

If you’re interested in knowing what happened after Alan Wake, there are clues that paint a picture of recent events. This is not Alan Wake 2, however, and know that before going in. When the first location in American Nightmare wrapped up after about 30 minutes, it seemed my time in Night Springs would be awfully short, but then Remedy pulled a pretty clever narrative twist out of its hat. There is a reason for players to explore the game’s environments three times to bring about the story's ultimate conclusion.

On paper, it works. The narrative trick fits the weirdness of Alan Wake’s world, and the first time it happens, it’s actually pretty neat. The second time, it proved too much. Not enough substantively changes on subsequent trips to justify cycling through the three environments all over again. The game seems to acknowledge this issue by eventually spawning Alan much closer to objectives, preventing players from having to traverse the entire map all over again. You do spend less time in each location on follow-up visits, though, and some of the padding simply comes from whether or not you want to keep looking for TVs with FMV clips (do it) and manuscript pages. If you successfully journey through the night, however, you will be treated to several full-screen FMV sequences, nearly worth it on its own.

In order to collect everything, you'll have to search high and low on each trip around the block, as some manuscript pages are only available during rounds two and three. Fortunately, finding the pages is much easier in American Nightmare, thanks to a near-obnoxious increase in each page's sparkly nature, and a question mark that briefly appears on the mini-map, suggesting you should investigate.

It’s all too bad, really, because American Nightmare's story is fun, goofy and self-referential. For once, characters will immediately start challenging Alan about the absurdity of his situation, and while most end up coming around to believing and working with him, convincing them leads to some great dialogue. The way Remedy completely leans into the Night Springs conceit from the original game (Alan Wake’s version of The Twilight Zone) works wonderfully, complete with “Written by Alan Wake” credit in the opening cut-scene. The Rod Serling imitation is pitch-perfect--different but not too different.

This big ol' guy will take plenty of bullets to finally take him down.

Combat itself hasn’t changed very much in American Nightmare, except that you’ll never worry about running out of ammunition again. There are plentiful ammo drops, and catch-all refill stations scattered about. I was one of those weirdos who enjoyed the survivalist aspect of Alan Wake, though, and trying to fix Alan Wake’s combat issues by making ammo a non-issue is a poor solution. A couple of new creatures have been introduced to change things up. One enemy splits into weaker versions of itself several times over, another can transform into a flock of crows and will often surprise you from behind, and there’s a gargantuan dude lumbering about with a mean chainsaw. For some reason, there are also tiny spiders everywhere.

Once the mystery in American Nightmare is solved, what’s left is Arcade Mode, Alan Wake’s wave-based survival mode. Things play out exactly as you’d expect, with Alan dropped into various nighttime settings and forced to fend off wave after wave of shadowy creatures until dawn arrives 10 minutes later. Alan Wake’s flashlight combat has a pleasurable rhythm to it, but there’s not enough nuance to sustain interest over more than a few 10-minute sessions. Collecting manuscript pages unlocks different tiers of weapons, which provides an incentive to hop back into the story mode again, but if you already played through the story, that’s now four times venturing into the same three environments.

Expecting an experience as ambitious as Alan Wake in a downloadable release may have been unrealistic, but Remedy set expectations unreasonably high with The Writer, which was utterly fantastic and ambitious. American Nightmare contains just enough story to justify a download for players invested in the fiction, but if you’re new to Alan Wake, there are games with wave-based modes featuring superior combat, and buying a brand-new copy of Alan Wake wouldn’t set your wallet back very much.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
58 Comments
  • 58 results
  • 1
  • 2
Edited by Cyrisaurus

Would be cool of the 'horde mode' had multiplayer.

Edited by gla55jAw

Patrick needs a review avatar, preferably one in a hot dog suit.

Edited by Klei

I disagree with Patrick. Especially when he expresses that The Writer was the best part of Alan Wake, which, in my opinion, wasn't. I didn't particularly enjoy it when the game turned bat-shit on itself during the two DLC campaigns and prefered when it had a footing in reality.

Posted by Meltbrain

@gla55jAw said:

Patrick needs a review avatar, preferably one in a hot dog suit.

Yes.

Posted by scnj

I'm fine with this review. It's more Alan Wake, and I liked what I saw in the QL, so I'll be buying anyway. I really want to support Remedy and this franchise. Some of the best written games out there.

Posted by cstrang

@Meltbrain said:

@gla55jAw said:

Patrick needs a review avatar, preferably one in a hot dog suit.

Yes.

Agreed.

Also, not really surprised by this review. It seems the combat was the thing that a lot of people disliked, err... got tired of, rather; it seems like an odd choice to make a downloadable based on that.

Posted by Coreymw

I've not played American Nightmare, but I will disagree with you about the combat. I must be the only individual who enjoyed it. Enemies bearing down on me while I reloaded my gun or put new batteries in the flashlight conveyed a sense of urgency that I appreciated. I guess not everyone played the way I did.

Posted by WJist

Only makes me more excited for Alan Wake 2! I really really hope they lean more into the story for that game; this seems like a snack between two more filling games.

Edited by DeF

@Coreymw said:

I've not played American Nightmare, but I will disagree with you about the combat. I must be the only individual who enjoyed it. Enemies bearing down on me while I reloaded my gun or put new batteries in the flashlight conveyed a sense of urgency that I appreciated. I guess not everyone played the way I did.

You're not. I enjoyed the combat a lot! It was intense, refreshingly different and had me on edge the whole time whereas other games just have you "shoot dudes in the head". Having to aim your light beam at an enemy until you "burn" the darkness away before you can shoot him was an immensely tense experience.

For me, there were no combat issues so that argument is nullified in my purchasing decision :)

@cstrang said:

@Meltbrain said:

@gla55jAw said:

Patrick needs a review avatar, preferably one in a hot dog suit.

Yes.

Agreed.

I even emailed Dave about the missing avatar situation, hoping they'd make one for him as a Christmas present ... but nothing yet :(

Maybe for his 1-year anniversary?

Posted by NewfieBullet

Probably the first disappointment for me this year from all the reviews I've read about this game. Boooooooo

Posted by tadros

Bummer, I was actually going to get this. Now I'm not so sure.

Posted by Ghostiet
@Cyrisaurus said:

Would be cool of the 'horde mode' had multiplayer.

Exactly. Even 2 player. The notion of one person carrying flares and a flashlight and the other having the guns is actually quite exciting - I enjoyed that bit in Chapter 2 of Alan Wake.
Posted by MEATBALL

If you ask me the game feels a lot more open than its predecessor did. Alan wake mostly had you just following a linear path with a little room to wander in search of weapon caches and collectibles. American Nightmare's environments feel more like miniature open worlds. I also think that, mechanically, Alan Wake has some of the best Third Person combat available, it was always just let down by a lack of enemy and weapon variety - something that American Nightmare seems to address quite well. The game seems like a really cool addition to the series so far, but I'm not too far into it yet so I guess we'll see how it goes.

Online
Posted by GunstarRed

I have just started the third go-around and I am having bunch of fun despite it being really, really, really easy. the enemies are pretty much always dead by the time they reach you as the guns are so powerful. Not a bad thing at all, but I do miss a little of the tension from the main game.

The FMV is amazing, like so, so good and really is almost worth the price of the game. Theres one featuring a set of weapons which had me giggling like an idiot.

Posted by Rhombus_Of_Terror

@cstrang said:

@Meltbrain said:

@gla55jAw said:

Patrick needs a review avatar, preferably one in a hot dog suit.

Yes.

Agreed.

Also, not really surprised by this review. It seems the combat was the thing that a lot of people disliked, err... got tired of, rather; it seems like an odd choice to make a downloadable based on that.

buzz_click did this, so it's a possible avatar (I think it should); http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/buzz_clik/hot-dog-patrick/30-90989/

Posted by MormonWarrior

This is one of those games I'll still check out just because of my serious appreciation for the 2010 game...

Posted by fox01313

Good review, still going to pick this up as it looks good though if nothing else I'll watch the sales on XBL & grab it then as it looks great for what it is (minus the horde mode).

Posted by Curufinwe

Still no avatar for Patrick? How odd.

Posted by Dad_Is_A_Zombie

Combat was the huge blemish on the otherwise terrific original game. Building another game focused on that weakness? Ugh... no thanks.

Posted by xyzygy

It baffles me when people say the combat in AW is bad. At least it's not another cover shooter.

Posted by Brendan

@Curufinwe said:

Still no avatar for Patrick? How odd.

The staff plans to drop the avatars altogether, so its weird that they're still existing in this middle ground.

Online
Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

I second the review avatar. Someone out there should be able to make 5 of them, it should be a competition,

Posted by derFeef

I don't get the comments about the combat. First the combat in Alan Wake is great .. second AWAN is not really focused on it, the story and exploring really overweights the combat for me.

Posted by HadesTimes

I bought it, and I'm at the second round. I've really liked it so far. Especially for 1200 MS points.

Posted by Scodiac

I'm really enjoying it. It certainly feels like an arcade version of Alan Wake with there being no world to travel around in but it hasn't detracted from the experience. The levels are well made and there are certainly some big cinematic events to be had. I found the combat from the first game satisfying and the weapons they've added here are awesome making it even better. The collectibles unlock weapons and they fill out the story rather nicely.

The arcade mode seems pretty cool so far. It can get quite frantic running around the level, hunting ammo, and trying to get to lighted areas to heal yourself. It's definitely a challenge. The nightmare levels are probably insane. Overall, I think it's one of the better arcade titles I've bought in a long time and, I think, any Alan Wake fan will enjoy it. Well, you should probably be a fan of combat too though.

Posted by Redbullet685

@xyzygy said:

It baffles me when people say the combat in AW is bad. At least it's not another cover shooter.

Exactly. The combat is refreshingly different. I can't wait for my download to finish.

Posted by Yorkin

How did they get those screenshots with no jaggies? Makes the game look so much better than how it does on my TV.

Edited by CptBedlam

@xyzygy said:

It baffles me when people say the combat in AW is bad. At least it's not another cover shooter.

Yeah, the combat is pretty good actually. It has a nice flow to it and feels different from anything else out there.

Anyway, I'm really enjoying AN so far. I especially like that it feels quite a bit more open than any of the (basically) linear levels of the original game. Great atmosphere, too!

Edited by Humanity

More surprised than this review outcome, I'm shocked at how fondy people talk about the original Alan Wake in relation to the new one. The original game was basically ALL combat with bits of story sandwiched between arduous forest runs and getting endlessly assailed by the same three basic enemies. While the game did feature a few cool set pieces the ending was pretty unsatisfying and even though I had the code for the DLC and even had it downloaded - the thought of diving back into those woods to run from A to B while the camera slo-mo'd and panned to enemies spawning in every 50 feet completely kept me from playing it.

Posted by Masha2932

I really hope they release a complete edition with all the DLC packed in.

Posted by Wampa1

Why do people keep talking about missing the open world in Alan Wake? I remember that game being really linear..

Posted by CookieMonster

You can't read the subtitles on the main page due to the ps vita background...

Posted by Jeust

I'll eventually buy it. I also liked the combat in Alan Wake. It was repetitive, but it blend well in the story, and made a consistent game world. I enjoy it.  
 
This iteration while plot-wise makes little sense to me, I find it really interesting. I want more Alan Wake. There is no game quite like it.

Edited by bybeach

I feel like dealing with this review exactly like the one for syndicate, with impersonal non-accusatory suspicion. Not of some implied negativity, just not reflecting...something. But in terms of American Nightmare i will do the final test, leastways for myself. I got it first thing this morning and played a short hour..wasn't wearing out it's welcome yet! Maybe if Patrick had tried the herbal supp..naw I'll drop it.

Edit, Maybe I'll see Pat's point, but it just wasn't ammo (which one learned about and became efficient with in Alan Wake). You for example get an auto weapon early, and wow! Already that was a huge difference for me in app from Alan Wake. Maybe they don't vary this enough or do enough (larger bands or simutanious groups of taken), but having different weapons could improve tactical choice and be satisfying also.

Posted by gla55jAw

@RhombusOfTerror said:

@cstrang said:

@Meltbrain said:

@gla55jAw said:

Patrick needs a review avatar, preferably one in a hot dog suit.

Yes.

Agreed.

Also, not really surprised by this review. It seems the combat was the thing that a lot of people disliked, err... got tired of, rather; it seems like an odd choice to make a downloadable based on that.

buzz_click did this, so it's a possible avatar (I think it should); http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/buzz_clik/hot-dog-patrick/30-90989/

Yeah, I remember seeing that, I just didn't remember where. What a great picture haha.

Posted by locolukah

@xyzygy: This.

I loved the tension in the combat in AW...looking forward to trying out AN.

Posted by Phatmac

Shouldn't Patrick have a comic avatar by now?

Posted by Gusj

I don't get the Giantbomb hate for the combat in Alan Wake. It might just be that it worked better with a mouse than a joystick, but when I played through it last weekend on my PC it just felt exciting all the way through.

Posted by streetrider

Alan Wake's combat is awesome; it provides some really great tension. Also, Alan Wake never really had a big world to run around in; the game was set in a big world but it was really linear - although you could drive and some paths were pretty broad, there was mostly only one way to get from A to B.

Posted by Viking_Funeral

@gla55jAw said:

Patrick needs a review avatar, preferably one in a hot dog suit.

I can see a limp wienie for lower scores, but what would the top score be?

Posted by gla55jAw

@Paul_Is_Drunk said:

@gla55jAw said:

Patrick needs a review avatar, preferably one in a hot dog suit.

I can see a limp wienie for lower scores, but what would the top score be?

A BBQ grill.

Posted by Fram

I don't quite understand Patrick's love for the "Writer" dlc. It felt like just the Signal to me, at least in terms of stretching the narrative as close as possible to breaking point without providing any real payoff or closure. It wasn't Prince of Persia Epilogue bad or anything, but it felt just as unnecessary.

The fiction is the major reason why I loved the original Alan Wake so much, and I'm prepared for the fact that American Nightmare leans more towards combat. That said, the combat in Alan Wake was no slouch either, and after the Sam Lake moment on the tv in the first game, I'm contractually obligated to purchase any and all things that Remedy puts out there.

Posted by maskedarcstrike

Just finished the story portion of the game. I agree with a lot patrick comments on. Specifically the repetitive nature of the game due to limited environments. It doesn't help the game either that it heavily relies on combat but doesn't have any of the cool scripted combat moments like the first Alan Wake. There's no shootout at the Old Gods of Asgard stage or anything like that. There's some moments where music is played during combat sequences which is kinda cool but it's kind of out of context with the situation.

Edited by ptys

It's a shame they didn't make something special here as I think Alan Wake is a good poster boy for the Xbox brand, kind of like the whole Major Nelson thing, older guy, apeals to a wide audience. I still haven't even played 'The Writer' so I guess I'll give this a pass.

Posted by flanker22

does anyone feel like this game is sorta being held to an unfair standard? what i mean is that this game is almost being reviewed as if it were a $60 retail game, but this is a xbla $15 title and honestly compared to anything lately it far exceeds the 3/5 that it was given imo. 

Posted by CyborgDuo

Y'know, this may be blasphemy, but I liked the original Alan Wake more than I ever did Twin Peaks. I think I just liked the increasingly dark tone.

Posted by Sgtpierceface

I'm proud of you guys, Giant Bomb community. I once thought that I was one of the only people who liked Alan Wake's combat, but you proved me wrong.

In case somebody reading this is still on the fence about purchasing American Nightmare, let me say this. If you played through Alan Wake, play this game. It is exactly everything I, and you, wanted it to be.

Posted by spilledmilkfactory

I was gonna write a review of this, but this review and score so accurately sum up what I think of the game that I don't know if there'd be a point anymore.

The first time the time travel thing happened, I thought, "Okay, this could be kind of cool." The second time it happened, I was like "The fuck Alan Wake?" and went off to play Syndicate.

Posted by Ulong

How come brad didn't do this review? This isn't some anti-patrick post, there's just a nice continuity to having the same staff member review the sequels and such, at least in my mind.
 
 
 
The best thing I've discovered in American Nightmare so far is sometimes when you clear a survival level the narrator will say "Because you won, I am speaking in a dramatic voice!"

Edited by CptBedlam

@Wampa1 said:

Why do people keep talking about missing the open world in Alan Wake? I remember that game being really linear..

I was wondering about this, too. The Diner-Environment in American Nightmare is way more open than any environment in the main game.

@Fram said:

I don't quite understand Patrick's love for the "Writer" dlc. It felt like just the Signal to me, at least in terms of stretching the narrative as close as possible to breaking point without providing any real payoff or closure. It wasn't Prince of Persia Epilogue bad or anything, but it felt just as unnecessary.

Yep, I found both DLCs for the main game to be very weak. AN is quite bit better than either of those.

  • 58 results
  • 1
  • 2