Alan Wake's American Nightmare [Review]

  • Platform: Xbox 360 Arcade
  • Published by:Microsoft
  • Developed by:Remedy
  • Genre: Survival/Horror
  • ESRB Rating: T For Teen
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Release Date: February 22nd, 2012
  • Price: 1200 Microsoft Points

When the original Alan Wake released in 2010 it came out up against some tough competition, namely Red Dead Redemption. Alan Wake was a game that was highly publicized and a lot of people were looking forward to it, Microsoft put up some big money to keep the game exclusive and to maintain publishing rights. Looking back, I think Microsoft was probably hoping for Alan Wake to be the next big franchise for them, the problem was that survival horror is more of a niche genre and it’s tough for new IP’s to break through, especially when games like Red Dead Redemption are releasing at the same time. Eventually Alan Wake earned Time Magazines Game Of The Year award and the game went on to sell well over a million copies. Alan Wake was also one of the most pirated games ever on the Xbox 360, so it’s clear people were interested in the game. Since its initial release there has been a lot of interest in a possible sequel, then we finally got word that Remedy did indeed have a new Alan Wake in the works, but this wasn’t a full retail release, rather a Xbox Live Arcade title.

If we are to believe the rumors, Remedy is working on a full retail release of Alan Wake 2, but it’s for the next Xbox console. Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is supposed to tide us over and keep Alan Wake on the radar. I’ve heard quite a few people complain about the digital release as opposed to a physical copy, but digital is cheaper and I believe this is a litmus test to see what the demand is for this series. After completing the game I think this is a game that’ll tie into the next full game, Alan Wake 2.


The first thing I’ll talk about is the story, while it is true that the game is not a full sequel, it is obviously taking place after the events of the first game. I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t played the first game, but this game has quite a few Easter Eggs from the first game and even has some cameos from some of my favorites from the first game, including Barry the agent and the very funny Old Gods Of Asgard, the hippie metal band from the first game make an appearance on a radio show. Yes, the radio makes it’s return, you can find them throughout the game in various locations. You play as Alan Wake, he is in a deadly duel with his evil alter ego Mr. Scratch. Mr. Scratch has Alan Wake caught up in Night Springs, he’s caught in his very own Groundhog’s Day loop that repeats over and over until he can finally figure out how to stop his nemesis.

The game takes place in a totally different setting then the first game, this one takes place in the desert of Arizona. There are actually only a few locations that you play through, the motel, the observatory and the drive in theater. While it’s not a full open world, you can actually go quite far off the beaten path to explore. You need to collect manuscript pages, much like in the first game. You use those manuscript pages to unlock different guns that are locked in cases throughout the game. Alan Wake’s American Nightmare seems to have addressed the issues some people had with the first game, a larger variety of weapons, larger variety of enemies and overall smarter A.I. The enemy or “The Taken” as they are called, are vastly smarter and can come from anywhere, luckily the controls are just as tight as the first game and you can still dodge the bad guys as they try to pound you. In the game you have to keep going through the loops as you try to rewrite what happened last time, it’s not the most original story but it’s done really well. While it’s true the game is now 2/3 action and 1/3 story, the game manages to keep it’s scary and eerie edge.


The graphics are hands down the best of any Xbox Live Arcade game, the game looks brilliant and all the fantastic particle effects are back and better than ever. The detail on The Taken are better than ever as well, the game uses in-game motion capture to perfection. Usually games that use real actors come across as cheesy, but this works great in American Nightmare. I think they went in this direction for a couple of reasons, mainly it saves time but it’s probably also a space saver. American Nightmare clocks in at 1.3 gigabytes, which is pretty small, but the game lasts around 4-5 hours, which is on par for lots of full retail releases these days.

I actually wouldn’t be surprised if we see more episodes like this in the future, even though they tied the story together pretty well by the end, this is the world of Alan Wake and nothing is ever like it seems. Once of the best things in this game is the narration, which sounds very much like the original Twilight Zone, this is a fantastic touch that adds a new angle to the game. The videos you find in this arcade game are also very interesting and you definitely need to watch all of them, the way Mr. Scratch acts in the videos is eerie, scary and kind of funny. It’s little details like this that make this a truly unique Xbox Live Arcade game.


A new edition to the Alan Wake franchise this time around is the arcade mode, where you have to survive wave after wave of Taken until the dawn. This is a fantastic addition and it’s positively addicting. This mode screams for online co-op or some sort of multiplayer, especially since the Xbox 360 has Xbox Live to take advantage of. In the end, there is no multiplayer or co-op, which is one of the few drawbacks of this title. There is a full plethora of levels to play through in the arcade mode however, including a creepy cemetery and trailer park. There are some online functions like scoreboard, where you can compare your scores with your friends or everyone else over Xbox Live.

At the end of the day I reviewed Alan Wake’s American Nightmare as an Xbox Live Arcade title, maybe some reviewers had a problem reviewing the game like that. Personally I think the Xbox Live Arcade has a ton of fantastic games, this is truly one of the best ones and if the game had an online option I’d definitely score it a perfect ten, but I feel like it’s best to nitpick a little bit. The game can also get repetitive after you go through the same story for the second and third time. The price is pretty good considering everything you get, 1200 Microsoft points or $15 is a bargain that you just don’t find these days. The game isn’t perfect, but I think people need to support it and generally I think everyone will find some enjoyment out of it. If your one of those people who think Microsoft doesn’t cater to core gamer’s, then this is your chance to get Microsoft to realize core games can and do sell. This is one of the best new IP’s this generation and this game is definitely one of the best to ever grace the Xbox Live Arcade.



No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Sound Off!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: