Chart­ing the ori­gins of to­day’s Net­flix-ifi­ca­tion of so­ci­ety and ask­ing: is Alan Wake re­spon­si­ble?

XBox: The Official Magazine - - EXTRA - Aaron Pot­ter

Poor Alan Wake. You’d think that, what with him­self be­ing a cel­e­brated writer of fic­tion and all, he of all pro­tag­o­nists would be the first to re­alise that he’s ac­tu­ally at the cen­tre of his own story. Here it takes the form of a miss­ing per­son mys­tery, one where the once best-sell­ing au­thor is caught in a race against time to res­cue his wife from the eerily spooky forces plagu­ing the fic­tional town of Bright Falls.

If this sounds like the mak­ings of Net­flix’s next hit se­ries, that’s be­cause these days it prob­a­bly would be. 2019 marks my first time play­ing through Rem­edy’s first stab at episodic sto­ry­telling within a videogame, and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it al­most ten years later through a mod­ern lens, I can’t help but ap­pre­ci­ate the amount of binge­wor­thy ma­te­rial on of­fer here. Alan Wake func­tions per­fectly fine as a third-per­son ac­tion-ad­ven­ture, sure, but whereas many games circa 2010 made game­play their fo­cus, the em­pha­sis on tone and nar­ra­tive here is what I find gives me the mo­ti­va­tion to ven­ture into the dark in search of a loved one.

It helps that Alan Wake doesn’t tread lightly when al­lud­ing to its source in­spi­ra­tions. Bright Falls es­sen­tially acts as a dead ringer for Twin Peaks, Alan’s para­noid por­trayal makes him a per­fect pal­ette swap for John Cu­sack’s char­ac­ter in 1408, and the su­per­nat­u­ral plot feels like it could have been lifted from an X-Files episode. These are all good things, by the way, and the type of ma­te­rial I wish more videogame sto­ries were will­ing to pay ho­mage to. Ref­er­ences may hit you with all the sub­tlety of a sledge­ham­mer, yet it’s done lov­ingly in a way any self-con­fessed fan of genre cin­ema will ap­pre­ci­ate.

I went in ex­pect­ing sur­vival hor­ror. But the deeper I got into Alan Wake,

“I can’t help but ap­pre­ci­ate the amount of binge­wor­thy ma­te­rial on of­fer here”

the more it re­sem­bled that of an old ghost story. Alan’s pri­mary means of fight­ing back against the hordes of dark ap­pari­tions is light. Armed with a flash­light and sidearm of choice, shin­ing beams into the face of threats sees them cower back into the dark of the Wash­ing­ton forestry. And should bul­lets start run­ning low, dash­ing for safety un­der the near­est lamp sat­is­fies the need to catch a breath. It’s in mo­ments like this where Alan Wake re­in­forces the idea of its hero as just your reg­u­lar Joe, rather than a tough ac­tion hero.

All talk

Also so­lid­i­fy­ing this is the con­stant mono­logu­ing that punc­tu­ates Alan Wake’s long stretches of ex­plo­ration, whereby voice ac­tor Matthew Por­retta hams it up just enough so that Alan re­mains earnest and never cheesy. Less for­giv­able, how­ever, is the game’s hokey char­ac­ter mod­els, which must have looked a bit iffy even in 2010. Cutscenes that seek to de­pict a se­ri­ous tone kept pulling me out of the con­spir­acy, as janky an­i­ma­tions see the game sw­erve into full B-movie shlock. They haven’t aged well to­day, but still they’re a tes­ta­ment to Rem­edy’s am­bi­tion.

Alan Wake’s moody at­mos­phere, un­pre­dictable story and in­sis­tence in sep­a­rat­ing it­self into six in-game episodes re­mains charm­ing and ad­mirable. And as we fast for­ward to to­day, where the de­mands of the stream­ing-ob­sessed gen­er­a­tion are forc­ing cre­ative tal­ent to re­think their ap­proach to sto­ry­telling, it’s hard to deny that Rem­edy was def­i­nitely onto some­thing in this weird mish-mash of TV show and videogame.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.