Itâ€™s been almost two years since Remedy Entertainment released what ultimately proved to be one of the best titles on the 360 to date. American Nightmare isnâ€™t a true sequel to Alan Wake, it provides a good four or five hours of Alan Wake content, ambiguous and spooky enough to sate the appetites of fans of the original game and then some. Minor improvements to the core gameplay mechanics, a host of new weapons, and the inclusion of a survival mode make it an easy sell. Thatâ€™s not to say it isnâ€™t without its flaws, of course.
While the finale of Alan Wake and its subsequent DLC was ambiguous at best, it seems Remedy figured enough of the story made sense for them to move along, if only in a small, insignificant way. Hereâ€™s a quick synopsis for those that havenâ€™t played Alan Wake and the DLC episodes: SPOILER ALERT! Alan was trapped in a very bad place. He canâ€™t escape it. Heâ€™s been there for two years, and everyone back in the world thinks heâ€™s dead. Thereâ€™s this bad guy there named Mr. Scratch, see, and Mr. Scratch is an evil copy of Alan Wake. Mr. Scratch has all the deep-seeded evils and unrestricted homicidal tendencies of Alan, and he also has rather badass powers of darkness backing him up. Way back when, Alan was a writer for this Twilight Zone knock-off television series called Night Springs. Since Alan is Good and Mr. Scratch is Evil, Alan is determined to kill Mr. Scratch before he takes Alanâ€™s place in reality and totally destroys everything in Alanâ€™s former life. As a result, Mr. Scratch traps Alan within a horrible version of a Night Springs episode that Alan wrote in the past. Alan must escape this nightmare and kill Mr. Scratch by using his super-amazing-sort-of-but-not-really-substantial powers to alter reality within the Nightmare space.
Now youâ€™re all caught up.
What follows is an extraordinarily lazy four or five hours of story, in which Alan must continually experience the same three settings three times in a row to ensure the story is properly â€œtoldâ€ and he gets the desired outcome re: Killing Mr. Scratch. What that means is that the player must essentially run through the same content three times before reaching the end of the game. Each time through is subtly different, but essentially the same. You start in a desert truck stop, travel to an observatory, move on to a drive-in theater, and then repeat that sequence twice more. Itâ€™s quite honestly the laziest bit of level progression Iâ€™ve seen since the original Halo. Fortunately the story thatâ€™s told and the ever-so enjoyable combat which persists is interesting enough to keep you from really caring all that much.
The story is told in four ways: terrible conversations, live-action video sequences which span the gamut from awful to brilliant, audio-logs which can be listened to on found radios, and collectible manuscript pages. Leaving aside the horrible voice acting of the conversations Alan has with NPCs, the laughably bad live-action scenes, and the moderately interesting radio show segments, finding manuscript pages is by far the most important activity youâ€™ll be undertaking in American Nightmare. While the pages do the best job of telling the story, youâ€™ll want to find as many of them as possible simply because collecting certain numbers of pages will unlock weapons cases to be used throughout the story and the survival mode.
American Nightmareâ€™s survival mode is called â€œArcade Actionâ€, and it consists of, well, pretty much exactly what youâ€™d expect; The player is placed within an environment and told to survive for ten minutes against waves of increasingly numerous enemies. New maps are unlocked after scoring sufficiently high on currently available stages, however there are only five of these levels available in total. Unlock all five and youâ€™ll open up Nightmare-mode difficulty versions of the same five! Weee!
Letâ€™s be clear, though: If you havenâ€™t played Alan Wake before, you probably should. Itâ€™s worth your time. The combat mechanics alone make it worth the effort. Theyâ€™re not particularly unique, but they represent a robust challenge with rewarding sensations of conquest and general all-round badassery if theyâ€™re survived. In these games, the player is perpetually hunted from all sides by dark once-humans called the Taken. These monsters are shielded in a barrier of shadow and darkness which must be burned away with light before the creatures are vulnerable to weapons fire. The fact that these things come at you from all sides at varying speeds, strengths, and sizes, makes combat in any setting harrowing at best, and down-right brutal in tight, confined locations. Itâ€™s also a ton of fun, assuming youâ€™re not the type to get frustrated easily. To vary the experience a bit, Remedy went and included a whole bunch of new weapons with which to put down the dark hordes. Various shotguns, rifles, pistols, and full-auto assault weapons are now at your disposal, as well as a crossbow. The crossbow in particular is worth mentioning, as once you pick it up, you wonâ€™t need anything else. Itâ€™s the most powerful weapon in the game as it conveniently removes one of the core combat mechanics – the need to burn away the darkness. The crossbow shoots right through it, which makes tons of sense, right? I mean, if thirty bullets canâ€™t pierce the veil, a bit of wood with a pointy end has GOT to. Itâ€™s simple logic.
After youâ€™ve run through the gameâ€™s story, the survival mode will have all the weapons youâ€™ve unlocked available for you to enjoy. Itâ€™s entirely possible to play the survival mode before the story campaign, but youâ€™ll have all of three or four weapons to engage with, which will reduce the fun quotient. Donâ€™t question it. Fun quotient is a thing.
Alanâ€™s Wakeâ€™s American Nightmare is currently available on the 360 for 1200 MS points – essentially $15. Now, whether or not you feel like what I just described is worth that much money is totally dependant on whether or not youâ€™re a fan of the original game. If you are, youâ€™re probably already planning on getting it and are just reading this for a rousing laugh. If youâ€™re not, you should save that money and play the original Alan Wake first. Better yet, it just came out on Steam for $30, including the two additional DLC episodes, which currently cost 560 MS points each on LIVE.
Or you could buy two Cheeseburger combo-meals at In-N-Out, which we all know is the best fast-food chain in the United States.