Alan Wake’s American Nightmare Review

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Remedy
Release Date: February 22nd, 2012
Price: 1,200 Microsoft Points (~$15)

Parent Talk: American Nightmare is rated T for teen because of strong language, violence suggestive themes and blood.  I’d also add scary images just in case you’re one of those that think the T rating is suitable for younger kids.  If you fail to follow the ESRB guidelines, it’ll likely be your children who will end up having nightmares.

Plays Like: If you’ve played the original Alan Wake you know exactly what to expect, as the core mechanics are largely unchanged.

Review Basis: Finished the story mode, and tried what amounts to a horde mode.

Alan Wake was something of a mixed bag when it was originally released back in May 2010.  We all agreed that the combat was interesting at the beginning, but quickly become stagnant.  The storyline was well written, and the setting was unique, but because the combat never evolved, the entire package suffered as a result.  Read through Justin’s review if you’re interested in all the finer details.  Now Remedy is back, and this time they’ve taken their hero down south, placed more emphasis on combat and made this a digital-only release.

The Great:

For an arcade release there’s certainly a lot of bang for your buck.  There’s a four to five hour story mode, and a Horde-style Fight Till Dawn mode where you take on wave after wave of increasingly difficult Taken for ten minutes.

The Good:

+ The same visual prowess the original game enjoyed makes its shocking return here.  The fact the same lighting, textures and character models were able to fit in this digital download is extremely impressive.

+ New open environments lose the claustrophobic feeling, but make combat much more engaging.  As do the new enemies.  New weapons can also be unlocked by finding manuscript pages scattered everywhere, which help add a little variety to the gunplay.

The So-So:

+/- The storyline no longer focuses on madness and terror, instead changing into a pulp novel of sorts.  While the change of pace is appreciated, the lack of continuity with the original feels jarring.  We’re not told why we’re in Night Springs, or why we’re trying to fix reality.

+/- The main gameplay twist in the story mode is having to replay the same sequence of events over and over again until Alan can fix reality.  While original at first, it gets repetitive fairly quickly.

+/- Fight Till Dawn mode would have been so much better with online coop.

+/- Previously on Alan Wake is no longer featured; meaning new players won’t understand what Alan’s current mind frame is.  Then again, because this is a side story it might not matter all that much.

The Bad:

– The great atmosphere from the original has been completely changed.  While there are certainly some creepy moments in the game, this is no longer a survival horror and because of that many will feel let down.

The Ugly:

At the end of the day, even with the refinements, the combat feels exactly the same as it did in the original.  You shine your light on enemies to knock down their defenses and then blast them away.  No matter what you do to enhance that, the core mechanics are always the same.

The Lowdown:

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is a fun arcade game, and for around $15 it’s certainly worth the price of admission for fans of the series, but it doesn’t do enough to help push the franchise forward.  The atmosphere and setting were the two best features from the original game, and those have been replaced with an emphasis on combat…the one area that never really came together.  If you love everything about Alan Wake you’ll really enjoy this one, but everyone else will likely be disappointed thanks to the genre change, the side story, and overall feeling this combat system never evolved as it should have.

Average Score Scale: 7.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 6.5/10 (Deflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: If you’re a really big fan of the series and loved the original combat system.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: If you really enjoyed the original’s setting and focus on storyline, you will likely be disappointed. 

Leave a Reply