Games For 2008: Alan Wake

By Jim Rossignol on January 16th, 2008 at 2:11 pm.

Ah-haaa! Sorry, wrong Alan.
Well, it’s probably coming out in 2008. Rumours report it looking finished this time a year ago, so hopefully all those additional months are polishing the game up to a glowy sheen. Alan Wake is one of those projects that has rumbled along beneath the gaming radar, without ever revealing much in the way of content or planned release schedules. Nevertheless it’s a significant release: the game that the Max Payne team, Remedy, did next, and a title that Microsoft has pegged as “Vista Only” in an unsubtle attempt to nudge more gamers out of XP and into the latest operating system.

Not only that, but what we have seen of Alan Wake so far suggests it could be a genuinely interesting survival horror, mixing up the action of Max Payne with a freeform world and Resident Evil-style frighteners.

The story, such as is it, lands Alan Wake firmly in StevenStephen King territory. Alan, the titular hero-avatar, has moved to a wilderness town to be treated for the insomnia he’s been suffering since the mysterious disappearance of his ladyfriend. He’s a horror author by trade, and his lack of sleep has meant a lack of precious scary sentences. Needless to say, the move to Bright Falls changes things somewhat and meeting the missing lady’s double, combined with having scary nightmares, puts Alan back in the mode for writing horrifying tales. The tales then come to life, with weirdness infesting Alan’s new hometown. Action ensues, with the environs getting overrun by gloom-hugging baddies.

The fact that Alan’s nightmare-monsters-made-real are harmed by light is one of the few mechanistic elements of the game that has so far been revealed. For the most part, Remedy have reported, your flashlight will be a more significant weapon that a sidearm. There’s talk of light-based traps you can set up for the monsters, and the whole idea of playing with light and dark in an engine that has totally dynamic lighting certainly suggests some possibilities for play that we might not have seen before.

The Remedy trailer certain puts the focus on the light issue, and if Alan Doesn’t use that lighthouse to explode some giant nightmare beast at the end of the game I shall be mildly disappointed.

Visually the game looked pretty impressive two years ago, and we’re expecting it to demonstrate some pretty hefty 3D-card humping effects when it arrives. Having seen how easily scaled Crysis was for lower end machines I have to admit that I’m a little dubious about the game being intended for Vista-only. Perhaps there’s something in the cross platform ease of testing for both 360 and Vista simultaneously, but I’d be hard pressed to see a genuine reason why XP gamers should be excluded.

Anyway, this two year old tech demo at IDF shows off the wide-open environments and other clever stuff like a physics-inducing tornado:

What’s perhaps most interesting is Remedy’s claims about the scope and scale of the world. While their intention seems to be to create a more scripted, narrative driven experience than something like the GTA games, they’re nevertheless talking about “living world” and “exploration” stuff for the wider Bright Falls area. They’re aiming to complete that with weather effects such as dynamic fog, storms, or that tornado. Detail is going to come in the form of Half-Life 2 styled comprehensive physics, and plenty of physics-based puzzles in the world for you to deal with. Physics won’t be, Remedy claim, just the wobbly-scenery eye-candy that they were in the Max Payne games.

Despite the comparative lack of hype, or perhaps because of it, Alan Wake is one of the games for 2008 that I am most anxious to see. Like Stalker last year it has made a number of promises about its world and its action that I want to see in the digital flesh. Psychological horror action seems to a genre that developers are able to deliver with sharper and more terrifying clarity than even before, and if Stalker reminded me of anything, it was how much I like a good fright. Fingers tightly cross for Alan, this one could be enormous.

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46 Comments »

  1. Evo says:

    Is this actually based on a Steven King book or not? The setting and the character background just remind me so much of a King book I read a few years ago *scratches head*

    I must say this game does look intriguing, though being Vista only as you have reported makes me wonder on how it is going to fare in PC sales. If it was available for XP too then I would pencil it in for being the dark horse of the year for the PC

  2. Meat Circus says:

    It all sounds very ambitious. A free-roaming Eternal Darkness, perhaps, with Keza MacDonald-bothering light puzzles and dollops of teh shiny?

    But, given the tendency for games like this to underdeliver, maybe the lack of hype is a smart move.

    Or maybe the game’s been stuck in development hell for so long, even a 2008 release is optimistic. Somebody needs to start some rumours about this gosh-darned thing immediately.

  3. ezequiel says:

    errr.. “Stephen” King.

  4. Faust says:

    Damn, beat me to the punch Ezequiel.

  5. Meat Circus says:

    To be honest, it sounds like the setting of all Stephven King stories. Not just one of them.

  6. Alistair says:

    Looking very good… Must-buy.

  7. Faust says:

    Don’t hate on the King! The Dark Tower series and The Stand were great!

  8. Leelad says:

    That first pic looks like Barney Calhoun has gone on a diet

  9. Meat Circus says:

    Hey, I just finished read the Dark Tower series. Thought the first three were great, next two were readable, and the final two were shoddy, Deus Ex Machina-laden drivel.

    You know how it is, the science fiction and fantasy law of diminishing returns is just as true in fiction as it is in games.

  10. JJ says:

    Is this actually based on a Steven King book or not? The setting and the character background just remind me so much of a King book I read a few years ago *scratches head*

    I know what you mean Evo. It seems to me that it’s a mix of The Dark Half, where the main character of a novelist comes to life. And Secret Window, Secret Garden where a writer finds himself in a nightmare (sort of). The last one has the same kind of setting as Alan Wake.

    Still, it seems very original for a game and I’m look forward to Alan Wake for a long time now.

  11. Phil says:

    Sounds reasonably close to the John Carpenter directed brain bender In the Mouth of Madness crossed with King’s ‘give the fans what they want book’ Bag of Bones, which is good as both are genuinely unsettling.

  12. ezequiel says:

    and, sorry for being annoying again, but, i’m the only one that thinks that these developers have a thing for cheesy names and overblown drama?
    i mean, that soundtrack, “max payne”, “alan wake”. yeah, he wakes up, the light, and the insomnia. whoa.
    still, max payne was a pretty good game, i have my expectations for this one.

  13. JJ says:

    Oh, and speaking of King, has anyone read one of his newer novells, Cell? That would be a fantastic story for a game!

  14. Schadenfreude says:

    I’m getting a kinda Twin Peaksy vibe with overtones of In The Mouth Of Madness; not to mention The Fog if the weather effects are up to scratch. Very looking forward to this one.

  15. Lunaran says:

    Were they planning console releases at the time, and could they be planning them now? A lot’s happened in the console space in the last year, and I’d really hate for this delay to turn out to be a good developer being caught with their pants down by the technology curve. :(

  16. Lunaran says:

    oh hell I really need to learn to read

  17. Faust says:

    I know what you mean Meat Circus, although I still liked the final few books they didn’t hold the awe and inspiration of the first few. There have been many of his other books I’ve really enjoyed and thought were different enough from his others to be original, like Salem’s Lot and especially those he wrote under his other name, Richard Bachman, like ‘The Running Man’. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get that far from convention in Horror, although not impossible.

  18. Evo says:

    Many of Stephen King’s books can be hit and miss at times with some of the Dark Tower ones being a bit..crap really. Reading The Stand (full extended version) at the moment, that is really good, and would make a pretty cool adventure game.

  19. Phil says:

    Horror doesn’t have to be genre horror – William Burroughs frequently wrote horror, whether intentional or not. A Naked Lunch game could be interesting…

  20. Paul says:

    This seems to have been ‘coming soon’ for ages… It does look interesting though. My only worry is does the lack of hype mean it’s all gone a bit wrong somewhere…

  21. Sokurah says:

    This game looks really good…visually anyway.
    I’ve played, and completed, Max Payne 1 & 2 and I’d like to play this one too…..but I won’t be upgrading to Vista just to play it – I’m not that desperate.

  22. Geoff says:

    Well, if it really is Vista only, then they can probably afford to take their time on it for another year or two. No big rush to release early to the vast market of Vista only gamers.

  23. Hieremias says:

    Detail is going to come in the form of Half-Life 2 styled comprehensive physics, and plenty of physics-based puzzles in the world for you to deal with. Physics won’t be, Remedy claim, just the wobbly-scenery eye-candy that they were in the Max Payne games.

    Dammit. I thought Max Payne 2 treated its physics engine in a far better way than Half-Life 2 did.

    With HL2 the physics component was hyped to no end for over a year. Then Max Payne 2 came along and beat them to the punch with a believable environment full of objects that obeyed the laws of physics. When Half-Life 2 finally arrived it was packed full of “HEY LOOK WHAT OUR PHYSICS ENGINE CAN DO!!!” moments, which by then seemed way too artificial.

    A physics system is supposed to make the world more believable. Having to stack concrete blocks on one side of a teeter-totter so that I can climb into a sewer tunnel isn’t my idea of believable. It’s unfortunate Remedy seems to be taking a step backward in this regard.

  24. Lou says:

    This seems to have been ‘coming soon’ for ages… It does look interesting though. My only worry is does the lack of hype mean it’s all gone a bit wrong somewhere…

    It was *very* quiet around Max Payne 1, and the second one came almost out of nowhere. I’d say this seems to be Remedy’s qay of doing things rather than a bad sign.

    and, sorry for being annoying again, but, i’m the only one that thinks that these developers have a thing for cheesy names and overblown drama?
    i mean, that soundtrack, “max payne”, “alan wake”. yeah, he wakes up, the light, and the insomnia. whoa.
    still, max payne was a pretty good game, i have my expectations for this one.

    They have, but they’re clearly aware of it. max Payne is consciously over the top, without making fun of the characters. That’s not an easy thing to do, and pretty rare in gaming – it’s usually big drama or clear comedy/parody.

  25. Jim Rossignol says:

    But in Max Payne you were Mr Magoo: running into stuff and knocking it over, but otherwise entirely unable to interact.

  26. Lou says:

    Great, I’ve made several silly boo-boos. Curse that lack of an editing function! :)

  27. wviperw says:

    Wow, totally getting an “I Am Legend” vibe from that first video. Note that I didn’t say whether that was a good thing or bad thing.

    Hope it lives up to the hype.

  28. dzy says:

    Sadly, I will be avoiding any game intending to be Vista only for as long as I can.
    And not because I cant “get” a copy (or don’t already have one ;-) ), but because I simply am dead set against playing into MSs attempts to “force” games into Vista, and frankly DX10 has not shown any true and real value to justify it.

  29. Tim says:

    Damn microsoft. Every game they’ve released vista only so far, has been able to run on xp better (once the “sorry you need to upgrade your os” window has been circumvented). I wish they’d just give up on pushing vista. It’s just too bloated.

    Once sp3 for xp comes out it will look even sillier. It’s supposedly got performance increases that will increase the disparity, meaning on average xp will run twice as fast as vista home edition on the same hardware. And what does vista do better again?

    Alan Wake looks great though..

  30. Chris R says:

    Now an I Am Legend game would be amazing I would think… There’d have to be more to the game of course, but it seems like a good starting point.

  31. Optimaximal says:

    Dammit. I thought Max Payne 2 treated its physics engine in a far better way than Half-Life 2 did.

    With HL2 the physics component was hyped to no end for over a year. Then Max Payne 2 came along and beat them to the punch with a believable environment full of objects that obeyed the laws of physics. When Half-Life 2 finally arrived it was packed full of “HEY LOOK WHAT OUR PHYSICS ENGINE CAN DO!!!” moments, which by then seemed way too artificial.

    They both used the same engine – Havok 2.

    As Jim Rossignol says, if your idea of believable physics is just knocking over shelves with paint pots on, then yes, you’re right.

    Half-Life 2 not only allowed you to knock that paint pot over, but you could pick it up and throw it at a Zombie, covering it in the contents (bottomless paint pots of the future not withstanding).

  32. Hieremias says:

    They both used the same engine – Havok 2.

    As Jim Rossignol says, if your idea of believable physics is just knocking over shelves with paint pots on, then yes, you’re right.

    Half-Life 2 not only allowed you to knock that paint pot over, but you could pick it up and throw it at a Zombie, covering it in the contents (bottomless paint pots of the future not withstanding).

    Yes, but HL2 also had a huge number of completely implausible physics puzzles that were not even remotely challenging or believable, they were just time consuming. Piling cement blocks, floating blue plastic barrels, etc. It’s that part that I want Remedy to avoid, but it sounds like they’re pursuing that gameplay.

    Using the physics engine in combat is good and fine. Using it to create ridiculous puzzle scenarios is dumb if your game is supposed to be immersive and believable, which I believe is what Alan Wake is going for.

  33. MacBeth says:

    Shamelessly terrible pun alert:

    When I first saw ‘Alan wake’ I thought – what, bringing your computer to a funeral for some multiplayer paying-of-respects?

    Sorry. But perhaps an opportunity for a headline gag in the future?

  34. Kim says:

    Chris R says:

    Now an I Am Legend game would be amazing I would think… There’d have to be more to the game of course, but it seems like a good starting point.

    If they based the game of the book, yes. *grumble grumble*

    Looks like they done the atmospheric lighting quite well – really like the roatating fan with sunlight pouring through it when he first runs into the building. The environment and lighting look sexy, full stop actually….. shame he runs like a gimp.

  35. Stick says:

    I love Remedy. Quite apart from nifty shooting, Max Payne 2 is my favourite example of a writer getting to pull out all stops in a medium that usually doesn’t favour them.

    … Vista Only? Dear Microsoft, please stop this nonsense.

  36. Steve says:

    Damn, those opening shots flying along the cliffside highway are straight out of The Shining.

    So, let’s see.. Silent Hill + Max Payne + Twin Peaks + The Shining… sign me up!

  37. Solario says:

    “Shamelessly terrible pun alert:

    When I first saw ‘Alan wake’ I thought – what, bringing your computer to a funeral for some multiplayer paying-of-respects?

    Sorry. But perhaps an opportunity for a headline gag in the future?”

    Of course the pun isn’t just that. The main character is also, literally, A.wake.

    I don’t know. I’m a sucker for dumb puns.

    And yeah, it sounds like a Stephen King novel (Insomniac and a few others) and looks like Kubrick’s The Shinning adaption and Hitchcook’s “The Birds.” (The house in the end of the trailer, by the lighthouse, looks like an exact replica of the house from said movie.) I’m getting a little bit excited actually. I just hope that they balance out the light issue. The flashlight should be useful, but not overpowered etc.

  38. Matt says:

    I really liked the Max Payne games and hope this will be good, but I can’t bring myself to get Vista just to play it.

    I agree it does look like a lot of various horror things lumped together but I am sure that is intentional, Max Payne was a game that was made knowingly drawing from all kinds of noir influences.

  39. Dan says:

    Perhaps the pun is that our dear Alan can’t sleep?

    Eh? EH?!

  40. Dan Forever says:

    As far as I know the xbox 360 is a direct x 9 machine, so in order to make Alan Wake Vista Only, more work is required on the PC version than if it were not locked to vista. Which is a shame, as I’d rather have this game on PC than 360, but I steadfastly refuse to switch to Vista, so, needs must as the devil drives, I’ll be buying it on console :(

  41. malkav11 says:

    The Vista only games so far have been cracked of the OS check pretty quickly. Alan Wake seems like an even more promising target for such activity, because it looks to be strictly singleplayer (and obviously the multiplayer components of games like Shadowrun and Halo 2 didn’t work when running in XP.)

  42. Mike says:

    This game impresses me more the more I see of it, even if major plot elements remind me a lot of Silent Hill, not to mention every horror plot ever conceived. But Remedy like ‘homage’, so I don’t see why it should be such a big deal.

    That tech demo is surely too good to be true though, considering it’s two years old. Nowadays, probably that’s about right. But I can’t believe they managed it back then.

  43. Nick says:

    Meh, Vista only is a big nono.. thus I am not bothering to care about it until it’s been released and cracked to work in XP. If that happens, then I will care.

  44. Kangarootoo says:

    On a Steevephen King note, there is a film on the way based on The Mist short from Skeleton Crew.

    http://www.apple.com/trailers/weinstein/themist/

  45. Pantsman says:

    Aha, saw this in the Revisit an old story box and felt I had to leave a note for the archeologists of the future: it’s now early 2009 and the game still shows no signs of an imminent release!