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Alan Wake's American Nightmare review: A new beginning for Alan

A series starter or a season finale?

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Just like the first game, runners will flank you, while the bigger guys lurch powerfully towards you. Inanimate objects hover and twitch furiously, before launching themselves at you. Fending these people off with your torch, reloading your weapon one bullet at a time, deciding whether it's safe to run, wheeling around in a panic, and as a last resort, dodging incoming attacks. It's this combination that makes Wake such an effective and claustrophobic pleasure to play.

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Some things ruin the mood, though. The acting of certain characters breaks the spell immediately - it's not self-parody bad, it's just genuinely, game-worseningly, bad. Alan feels faster, and less prone to double up, out of breath, and the torches feel a little more powerful, making the sense of doom less suffocating. New weapons are always welcome, but isn't that nailgun a little... action hero? Is Alan thinking about changing genre?

WAKE PLACID

The main game is fundamentally the same, with new plot and characters. It'll only take you a couple of hours to complete. However, American Nightmares has a new survival mode. Simple task: survive ten minutes of increasingly intense enemy waves, over a collection of maps that don't feature in the main game. Take down chains of Taken without receiving damage, and you'll earn a multiplier. Receive damage, and it's gone. This is needlessly harsh - harsh enough to trigger a flounce-restart, especially in the first few minutes.

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It sounds very Horde Mode, but Alan's no Marcus Fenix. For starters, there's no co-op, which is sad - it would have been a good way of getting almost-completely absent New-Yoik sidekick Barry Wheeler back into the action. Secondly, it's more nerve-shredding than fist-pumping.

If the original game was a scene-setting mini-series, American Nightmares feels like a season pilot - which only makes the oddly definitive ending seem slightly confusing. The episodic gaming revolution of 2007 may have fallen flat on its face, but hopefully we won't have to wait another year for next week's show.

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The verdict

American Nightmare feels like a new beginning for Alan, with an interesting arcade mode that needs a couple of tweaks. But is it a series starter or a season finale?

  • Better action, thanks to more refined enemy types
  • Everything you loved about the first game - again
  • (Mostly) successful 'Horde'-style mode
  • Only-two-hours-to-complete short
  • Some truly horrific acting
  • Real "Uh?" ending
7.5
Format
Xbox Live Arcade
Developer
Remedy Entertainment
Publisher
Microsoft
Genre
Action, Survival Horror, Adventure

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