Alan Wake is episodic, but only in the structure of the game, which is modelled on multiple seasons of TV series', with episodes containing multiple missions, cliffhanger endings and an ensemble cast of characters with very different backgrounds and personalities. Yep, you can relax - there'll be no six-monthly downloadable updates to contend with.
On with the playable mission, and as Alan drives to the cabin, he reveals through voice-over that his new book is about a writer, who, after a tragic loss, goes to live in a secluded cabin where he creates a horror story about creatures of darkness disguised as men. However, when the writer leaves the cabin he discovers the world has turned into the nightmare he's written. Alan's story begins with the writer picking up a hitch-hiker on the way to the cabin - and right on cue, the spooky piano music strikes up again and a real hitchhiker is spotted on the road ahead. "That's creepy..." says Alan.
"Alan Wake is the narrator of the game, very much in the style of a narrator in a novel," says lead writer Sam Lake. "He's perfect for the job, because he's a storyteller by profession. In essence, that means that the player could well be playing Wake's next book."
Of course, Wake picks up the shabby hitcher and begins telling him about the fact he's a writer, and that his story has a hitch-hiker in it. "The hitch-hiker's a killer of course," says the creepy guy in a gruff drawl. "No," replies Alan. "The hitch-hiker gets killed. Then he comes back, or something, a creature of darkness that haunts the writer." Alan drives on, but then is stopped in his tracks - ahead, on the road, a car has overturned, the result of an accident.
Alan pulls up, and gets out of his vehicle to examine the wreckage - there are bloodstains on the road, but no-one around. Suddenly, a lorry hurtles round the corner and smashes into his car with the hitcher still inside, as Alan has to frantically dive to safety, losing consciousness. He starts to hear voices, then wakes up - it's now dark and he has a gun and torch in his hands, and the hitch-hiker is nowhere to be seen. Alan still has to reach the cabin, now on foot, which is up on a nearby hill and across a rickety wooden bridge, which he bravely skips across.
The camera cuts to a first-person shimmering view of the bridge, as we hear a horrific whispered voice: "Waaaaaake!" The enemy zooms Evil Dead-style towards the other side of the bridge, causing a streetlight to shatter. Alan starts to run on the path up towards the cabin, pursued by the unseen enemy, as each street lamp that he passes explodes and plunges the area into more darkness. Wake turns around and shines the torch at the creature, allowing him to shoot at a shadowy human form that recoils in agony.
SEEN THE LIGHT
"Darkness equals terror and danger for Alan," adds Järvilehto. "Enemies seem to be invincible, but light reveals enemies as they truly are and makes them vulnerable. There are many different light sources in the game, so that way we can offer a lot of variation how you combine light with combat."
Back to the heart-stopping demo, and as the chaotic music rises to a crescendo, Wake runs the rest of the way, more lights smashing as he moves past them on the path to the cabin. Finally, he reaches the hideaway, but we can see from outside that all the bulbs in the rooms are exploding, creating more darkness. Trapped, Alan turns around, and as the screen fades to black we hear a voice say: "Wake, we have a common destination..."
Alan Wake is looking fantastic, but the new presentation has raised even more questions about gameplay, such as the weapons you'll have access to. "Wake knows how to use a gun, as he used to work as a nightwatchman, among other things, before he became a famous writer. However, when it comes to guns, he's definitely no Max Payne," answers Lake. "Resources are definitely limited, which is one of the ways we can build suspense. Bright Falls is famous for its annual Deerfest, so there are a few hunting rifles around, but you won't be tripping over ammo boxes. Although there is that army base outside the town..."