This week, I moved back to my trusted xbox 360…. It has been a long while since it played any games, but after having Khinjarsi round and playing Minecraft, I decide to have a look through my collection and see what caught my eye. On this visit, I looked into Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. Having been a big fan of the first game, I was always intrigued to dabble with the Arcade sequel. I remember trying it once and not getting very far, though I think this was to do with a distinct lack of sleep and a poor mindset for starting a new game. This theory was supported when I fired up the game. The game started up and I was hooked immediately.
For those who haven’t played the original game on Xbox360 or PC, this article may contain spoilers.
The game starts with you seeing Barry asleep in front of an episode of Night Springs. The camera moves in as you see the episode is written by Alan Wake, before seeing our “Champion Of Light” on screen. You soon find out that since the end of the previous game, Alan has been moving through the dark place looking for an escape. During his ventures, the darkness has created a new beast to try and deal with Alan. After a short amount of time, you discover this is Mr Scratch; Alan’s “Dark Half.”
The story revolves around you helping Alan to “Rewrite Reality” to find a way to escape from the Dark Place. This is a new power that Alan has developed for himself. By finding pages and discovering how a scene is supposed to play out, Alan has realised that if he can change the events, he can slowly take hold and reshape the Dark Place to his will.
As you continue on your adventure, you encounter a handful of new characters, though the real scene stealer is Mr Scratch. He is the focus of the story and he is also the main weapon the Dark Place is using against Alan, so it seems appropriate that everyone in the Dark Place is talking about him to flesh him out. I like the direction the game takes and the story it tells, but it does feel like this should have been included in the main game as it really is the conclusion of the story.
The rest of this article is going to delve into more details of the game and spoil some of the story.
To start, I like the direction the game takes with it’s level design. Unlike the previous game, which featured winding, linear progression, American Nightmare drops you into large open maps, with multiple areas of interest. As you complete your objectives, you explore the map and each area features something of relevance. This made the world feel a little more lived in as you can find abandoned vehicles, damaged properties and little relics of previous lives. The problem with these levels occurs when you realise there are only three of them. As in the previous game, Manuscript Pages are a collectible which flesh out more of the story and can give you little hints at what is to come. If you are in the mindset to collect these pages, you will explore the whole map. After finishing map three, you find out that Mr Scratch creates a time loop and sends you back to the start of the game. The levels are all littered with new pages to find and you have to explore the maps fully, a second time, if you want to get all them all. Oh, then there is another time loop and you revisit all three locations for a third time… I’ll admit I got pretty sick of it after the second time loop and took a break from the game…
This leads in to my biggest gripe with the game. The narrative kind of supports the idea of the time loop and the first time it is quirky and intriguing. The second time round, it feels tedious. The game does well to hurry along the actions you perform, because you are expected to complete the same objectives, with a slight variance. The third time you visit the locations, the game wants to rush you through, but if you wish to get all those manuscript pages, it is going to take just as long as the first time.
This being said, I enjoyed the gameplay. The combat is the same as the original title. You focus your torch on the enemies to break their barriers of light and then you gun down the exposed bodies. American Nightmare manages to mix up the combat with a plethora of weapons ranging from nail guns to combat shotguns. The game also mixes up the enemy designs offering normal taken, big taken, bird taken, splitter taken, beefy taken and spiders… They each have a little introduction and then get shuffled in amongst the rest to keep combat dynamic and varied.
Being an xbox arcade game, American Nightmare also includes an “Arcade mode” which takes the form of “Horde Mode.” You have ten minutes to survive and rack up the highest score possible. You multiplier increases as you quickly killed enemies and dodge attacks, but resets if you take a single point of damage. It works as a little time sink, but I wasn’t overly enamoured.
American Nightmare is a perfectly legitimate entry in the Alan Wake series, even if it feels like it should have been part of the original title. For fans of the series, they should check it out. If you aren’t familiar, I would advise the original title first as this will wash over you like the light of a swinging ceiling lamp…
Ellen has been taken.
Ellen totally took these pictures from google and claims no ownership of them. All images depicted show the work of Remedy software and all sources have been attributed with their picture. You can take that light out of my face now; I told you the truth, alright?! =O
Completed on 21/07/15 on the Xbox 360.