Alan Wake’s American Nightmare isn’t a sequel to the original game, it’s more of a spin off -a one time thing – where Alan must defeat his evil nemesis Mr Scratch to reach the safety of sunrise. Given that this is an Xbox LIVE release, rather than a full blown retail release, we were curious to know if it offers the same quality and levels of tension, that made the first game in the series such a classic.
American Nightmare swaps the misty blue forests of Bright Falls in the first game, for the dusty red landscape of the Arizona desert. Starting off overlooking a rundown motel where Barry Wheeler (Alan Wake best friend) has fallen asleep watching TV.
Focusing in on the TV, the familiar program Night Springs from the first game starts to play, it is within this world that we find Alan Wake himself.
To accommodate the size of a downloadable game, Remedy has opted to create three large levels in which to roam around. Although they could never be considered sandboxes, with no obvious walls or barriers blocking your path the environment, it instead gives the feeling of a never ending desert. The first area is the Motel, the second is the observatory and the third a dilapidated drive-in movie theatre. This parallel to the damp pine forests of the North West perfectly sets the scene and gives it its own unique identity.
The combat has been improved from the first game with less long range camera angles to show new enemies approaching. This adds to the tension of the game as you must always watch your back. Other minor changes include the flashlight only doing damage when zoomed in; this again ensures that the tension levels are running high when you are surrounded by several Taken. Overall the combat feels smoother and enjoyable.
The story takes around 5 hours to complete depending on how thorough you are. The game is structured in an interesting way and is not entirely linear.
American Nightmare also features some new enemies and weapons to fight with that improve combat system. Firstly, there’s the spiders, which are horrible to fight as they come in large numbers and have the ability to jump at your face. The Splitters are also a new addition; these Taken are able to split into two when direct light is shone onto them. There is also a range of mini bosses which are terrifying when in the heat of battle.
Although there is a new range of weapons from the nail gun to the Uzi or the rifles, the system of shine light to remove darkness then unload on the Taken to kill is still present. American Nightmare is not likely to change the minds of those who didn’t like the system of killing founded in the first game.
Those who played the original Alan Wake will recognise the familiar manuscript pages, radio and TV shows. These all play a part in bridging the gap between Alan Wake and American Nightmare, the manuscripts also help those who never played the original to understand some of the key items within the game such as the Taken, the darkness and other features.
After the story mode is done and dusted there is still the addition of an arcade mode called Fight til Dawn. Following a similar blueprint to Hoard mode in Gears of War, Alan Wake must survive until dawn. The arcade mode has a twist as surviving is not just the goal, you must go out and start killing and dodging incoming attacks to increase the points multiplier to have a chance to reach a top place on the leaderboards.
In conclusion, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is a must have for those who enjoyed the first game, with its improved combat system, interesting environments and good story line. American Nightmare is one of the best presented XBLA games around at the moment and with the addition of the arcade mode and collectibles there is plenty of replay-ability value. Those who did not play the first game or on the fence should at least check out the demo and make a decision based on that.
Rating: ExcellentReview Policy(version tested: Xbox 360)
Alan Wake’s: American Nightmare is available now via Xbox LIVE. Why not buy some instant LIVE Points from ShopTo and save yourself some cash on this and other games.