Alan Wake's American Nightmare Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360 PC  Check Price
Alan Wake's American Nightmare screenshot
Alan Wake's American Nightmare screenshot

Alan is a multi-tasker, and as any man knows, problems soon arise when the brain is taxed beyond the realms of "play game, scratch arse." Somewhat appropriately, you'll meet Mr Scratch throughout the game's four-hour runtime. He is the darkness to Alan's light, a conflict that forms American Nightmare's main premise. In true doppelgänger style, Mr Scratch represents a crazier, more up-for-a-laugh Alan, whose humour mostly revolves around the brutal mutilation of tortured victims. What a card!

Mr Scratch's appearances are sporadic, and he's never significantly developed as a villain. He goads Alan via a number of pre-recorded tapes, but after the first execution, his antics become less shocking. Each message drones on for far too long, failing to effectively place the character within the plot.

For all of your antagonist's cocksure taunts, the oddest anomaly I witnessed was Alan's checked shirt getting caught by a gust of wind whilst indoors. This extra-terrestrial movement didn't only steer my attention away from the television, it lead me to a test of extreme dissection. What does the black and white pattern mean? Is this a metaphor for Alan's inner conflict? Does he support Newcastle United? Did he once tirelessly campaign against apartheid? Basically, I wasn't hooked by the on-screen action; Mr Scratch's interludes are far too predictable, and never provide a full explanation for his motives in the game.

The lack of clarity throughout Alan Wake's American Nightmare isn't helped by the protagonist's charismatic meltdown. He still feels the need to point obvious things out, and reads from each of the 53 collectible manuscripts with a lifelessness that's infectious. I found myself dreaming of Nathan Drake and Keanu Reeves, only to snap back to reality with a conglomeration of the two staring back at me. His movements are equally as perplexing, as he seemingly has some kind of twitch we haven't been made aware of. Alan's chin disappears into his neck, his head jaunts at oblique angles, and when he runs it's as if he's a child trying on his first pair of 'smart' shoes.

As frustratingly vanilla as this game becomes, there are genuine moments of interest. The darkness often shows itself as a poltergeist, flinging cars and diner signs around with great efficiency. Towards the conclusion, a stint of ripped-jeans rock plays over each battle, offering a breath of fresh air for a quest that drowned a long time before.

Away from the main campaign, a Fight Till Dawn survival mode places you in 10-minute challenges to outlive dusk. A co-op element would have been nice, but the arcadey addition does manage to squeeze some more playability out of the 1200 Microsoft Point title.

Whilst ambitious, the promise in Alan Wake's American Nightmare never materialises. The elementary combat system is entertaining, but ultimately overshadowed by a hopelessly contrived plot. Mr Scratch's presence could have been something special, and it's regrettable that his performance is throwaway. As with the rest of the game, a lack of cohesion and clear thought from Remedy ensures American Nightmare feels like a missed opportunity. The time-loop experiment is an intriguing idea, but restricts the game's design. Alan's Wake's first spin-off never manages to outshine the intricate nature of his original outing, and the author has lost sight of the game's dominant genre.

New stuff to check out

Comments

To add your comment, please login or register

User Comments

Karlius's Avatar

Karlius

Well I know I loved Alan Wake and all but after reading this review I was a little sceptical about committing to purchase. Even though I thought the review didn't actually quite grasp that this was a £10 arcade release it was rather down on the whole thing. I then read Scott's review (Wido) and it lead me to play the demo as it read as I would expect an arcade game release to be reviewed.

The first chapter got my attention so I have since purchased and completed the campaign. It is of a very high production value with all new levels. (This could of easily been a new DLC) In addition to campaign the horde style arcade mode is also good value.

Not sure what Nick was expecting but a floor-less 3.5-4 hour campaign and re-playable arcade mode set to a AAA standard is far more deserving than a 6. The cut scenes and interactive tv and radio elements are done to such a high production standard and the soundtrack as with the original is brilliant. Try the demo for this.

Personally I'd give it an 8/10 and I think I'm being harsh.
Posted 23:25 on 09 March 2012
dudester's Avatar

dudester

a compressor? the man couldn't even keep hold of a torch for longer then a level!
Posted 18:23 on 24 February 2012
s_h_a_d_o's Avatar

s_h_a_d_o

So wait... a nail-gun?
Does that mean Alan has to lug a hulking great compressor around with him?
Posted 18:09 on 24 February 2012
xboxlive's Avatar

xboxlive

o No! a 6 :( will have to play the demo.
Posted 11:25 on 22 February 2012
EverTheOptimist's Avatar

EverTheOptimist

I couldn't, and still can't, work out what I think of Remedy taking Alan Wake down a pretty different path after only one game, but I expected this to get a higher review score. Even if it had though I'm not sure I would have downloaded it, it just doesn't look right.
Posted 07:32 on 21 February 2012
scaz2244's Avatar

scaz2244

was hoping this was going to be as good as the main game but i think il wait a while for it to drop in points. great read!
Posted 21:40 on 20 February 2012

Game Stats

Technical Specs
6
Out of 10
Alan Wake's American Nightmare
  • A couple of stand-out moments break up the monotony
  • Combat is entertaining and weapons fun to use
  • Alan has the personality of a wet sock
  • Plot is too complicated and pretentious
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 22/02/2012
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PC
Developer: Remedy
Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: Survival Horror
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 2,944 239
Check Price