Alan Wake’s American Nightmare
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 8

American Nightmare offers more action and less atmosphere than the original game, but it is still a compelling addition to the series. With only three locations to explore, it lacks the depth of the first game, but the story is still very interesting. It is important to remember that this is not a sequel but a bite-sized addition to the Alan Wake saga.

Gameplay: A more action-oriented approach than the original game.

Graphics: Good, but the wide-open areas make it less creepy.

Sound: Overall good, but some of the voice acting could have been better

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Alan Wake’s American Nightmare

Developer: Remedy Entertainment | Publisher: Remedy Entertainment | Release Date: 2012 | Genre: Action / Adventure / 3rd Person Shooter | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

As the proud owner of a limited collector’s edition of Alan Wake, I was immediately interested when I heard about American Nightmare. Instead of being a sequel or DLC, this is an action-oriented side story that pits Alan against his most fearsome foe yet, himself.

Fans of the original game will remember the “Night Springs” show that is played on television sets around the game world. American Nightmare takes place as an episode of this show with Alan racing to stop his evil doppelganger, Mr. Scratch, from creating havoc. While Night Springs is a fictional town, it appears that Alan has managed to write it into existence in the middle of Arizona as the battleground for his showdown with Mr. Scratch. It has been two years since he disappeared from the real world, and it looks like he has become a lot more adept at dealing with the “Taken.”

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare was initially released as an Xbox Live Arcade title, so do not expect the same in-depth adventure as the original game. Instead, you have the “Story” mode, a four-to-five-hour scenario set in Night Springs and its surroundings, and an “Arcade” mode, a ten-minute battle for survival in various arenas. The story mode has only three major locations: the town, Observatory, and drive-in, each with only one non-player character who sends you on various fetch quests. It feels very cut-down in comparison to the original game, but the story is still a fascinating tale. Mr. Scratch makes regular appearances on the television dotted throughout the game and taunts Alan about what he will do with his friends and loved ones. These clips and some of the other cut scenes in the game use full-motion videos of real actors, adding to the game’s cheesy late-night sci-fi show feel.

The gameplay still consists of collecting manuscript pages and battling shadowy enemies known as the “Taken,” but the suspense has taken a back seat to the action. The locations are wide open and lack the claustrophobic feel of the woods in the original game. There is no shortage of ammo and batteries, so no more desperate sprints towards a distant light source with snarling enemies snapping at your heels. Instead, you can stand your ground and dispose of foes with weapons like shotguns, hunting rifles, machine guns, crossbows, and even a nail gun. You can only carry two weapons at a time, plus a flare gun, flares, and flash-bang grenades, but plenty of ammo and refill stations are dotted around. New weapon crates are unlocked by finding manuscript pages scattered about the landscape.

Combat still involves “burning” the shadows off ordinary townsfolk before disposing of them with your weapons, but there is a bit more variety this time. New enemies include a behemoth wielding a circular saw, a grenadier that lobs projectiles at you from a distance, spiders, and even a foe that splits into weaker halves when you shine your flashlight on it. The annoying black birds also return, but this time they change into a human when they combine. You will also have vehicles flung at you every now and then, but the number of memorable set-pieces is definitely less. There is also a certain amount of repetition as you traverse the three locations multiple times. The ample checkpoints and overabundance of ammo make the game a lot easier than the first, but there is a “nightmare” mode to kick things up a notch.

The game’s PC version is a quality port and thankfully did not take two years to arrive. The graphics and animations are very good, and the locations are nicely detailed. The audio is also pretty good with some solid voice acting, barring a wooden-sounding line or two. The music is of the usual high standard, and they have even woven the Kasabian song “Club foot” into the narrative. The radio shows are also back and this time features an interview with the “old gods” who should be familiar to fans of the first game. I missed the “episodic” feel that the original game had, but it makes sense that it is not present for this stand-alone title.

Players unfamiliar with Alan Wake might have a tough time figuring out what is going on, and even fans could have some trouble for the first 30 minutes or so. Things soon fall into place, however, and while the story isn’t terribly original, it does provide players with a good reason to go blasting some “Taken.” Mr. Scratch also makes for a very interesting villain. Overall, the game does not take itself as seriously as the original, which might appeal to some fans. I enjoyed playing the game, but it definitely felt like something was missing. Hopefully, it will not take too long for us to find out where Alan’s journey through the dark will take him next.

*Review originally published May 2012.

System Requirements

  • OS:Windows XP SP2
  • Processor:Dual Core 2GHz Intel or 2.8GHz AMD
  • Memory:2 GB RAM
  • Graphics:DirectX 10 compatible with 512MB RAM
  • DirectX®:10
  • Hard Drive:8 GB HD space
  • Sound:DirectX 9.0c compatible
  • OS:Windows 7
  • Processor:Quad Core 2.66GHz Intel or 3.2GHz AMD
  • Memory:4 GB RAM
  • Graphics:DirectX 10 compatible or later with 1GB RAM
  • DirectX®:10
  • Hard Drive:8 GB HD space
  • Sound:DirectX 9.0c compatible

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