Alan Wake’s American Nightmare has arrived. I am a big fan of the original Alan Wake title and have been looking forward to Alan Wake’s American Nightmare for a long time. When I was playing through the original title I would tell friends that it would be cool if we had an XBLA title that focused more on Night Springs, the television show that you could find throughout Alan Wake. It would appear that Remedy had the same thought as American Nightmare is more of a spinoff then a true sequel. You will still want to play the original title before this one though as the story for American Nightmare continually references what took place in the first Alan Wake game.
In American Nightmare Alan is trapped inside a script that he wrote when he worked on the television show, Night Springs. He needs to rewrite the reality in that world so that he can get his life back. Unlike the first title which was set in Washington, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is set somewhere in Arizona. You will visit three different locations in the campaign with a rest stop, observatory and drive-in theater. Right off the bat there will be people disappointed that there are only three locations to visit and that you have to revisit each location multiple times. Within the context of the story they came up with it makes sense but it still would have been nice to have a little more variety. The story itself deals with the battle between light and darkness which is represented by Alan fighting his evil doppelganger, Mr. Scratch. He is what is causing all of the problems this time around and you have to find some way to stop him from taking over your life. Mr. Scratch was a pretty awesome character and I loved the way he would taunt Alan throughout the story. Finding a television to watch Mr. Scratch’s exploits (similar to how you watched Night Springs in the original Alan Wake) was a lot of fun and a great way to move the story along. With that said though I would have loved to find out more about Mr. Scratch. To me it didn’t seem like they explored the character enough. I don’t know if there is any DLC planned for this title but I would love to get some more backstory on Mr. Scratch. The environment in this game is also a bit different. You are still fighting the darkness but instead of forests and fields you are dealing with the aforementioned locales. Instead of the Northwest you are now in the Southwest. While the original Alan Wake was more of an action/horror hybrid title, American Nightmare is much more action oriented. The game really isn’t very scary even though it can definitely be a bit creepy at times. Along the way you will encounter familiar sights such as manuscript pages scattered all over the landscape and street lights that function as safe havens. The manuscripts have an additional purpose this time around too as they will unlock weapon cases for you in addition to moving along the story. My favorite was once you find and collect 40 manuscripts you gain access to a combat shotgun. This immediately became my favorite weapon during the later stages of the game. It was very satisfying to take some out some Taken with a single shot, especially if I was getting quickly surrounded.
This time around the Taken have more tricks up their sleeves than they did in the previous title. You still have the standard Taken that you remember fighting from the original title, however, now there are Taken that split into two when you shine the light on them, Taken that will lob grenades at you, giant Taken and more. It adds a little bit of variety to the gameplay so that you aren’t always doing the same thing. With that said though the story is structured in such a way that you will be doing the same thing a number of times. The first time that you visit the rest stop you will have certain tasks to accomplish and once you do that you will move on to the next area. After you get done with all three areas you are then sent back to the first area to do it all over again. Once you learn about the story you will discover there is a reason for this but I can definitely see some people getting annoyed. Not everything will be the same during your return trips though. One of your tasks at the rest stop is finding a set of keys that will get you into an Observatory. During your second visit to the rest stop there might be someone there that already has the keys that they can give you so you don’t have to spend time looking for them again. Other elements might already be in place as well so that all you have to do is flip a switch or set something else in motion. If this sounds confusing to you it is because I am trying to be vague on purpose so as not to ruin any of the story.
In addition to the story there is also an arcade mode titled “Fight Till Dawn”. As the name implies this is a mode where you go to a location (such as a cemetery) and you fight waves of Taken until the sun comes up in the morning. Each wave of Taken is harder than the last so your strategy will have to evolve as you progress. There are weapons strewn about the environment in addition to ammo lying around everywhere as well. After you complete a map you are given some stars based on your performance. You are also shown the score that you were able to get as well as your friend’s score to see how you measure up. There are multiple locations to choose from, however, they aren’t all available in the beginning. As you play through different maps you will begin to acquire stars which will then unlock more maps. It is similar to how Spec Ops works in the Call of Duty games where you have to have a certain number of stars to unlock more missions.
Overall, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is a pretty fantastic title. Despite the complaints that I mentioned above if you are a fan of Alan Wake then you should really play this game. It is a beautiful looking title and Remedy has raised the bar for XBLA games going forward. You really should play the original first though so that you can properly grasp what is going on and what Alan is fighting against. After finishing this title I really can’t wait to see where Alan goes next. There are still stories to be told here and I can’t wait to experience them.