I came into the game Alan Wake with almost no preconceptions, except maybe something about the box cover gave me the impression that it might be kind of like the Silent Hill or Resident Evil games, ala some kind of survival horror. And sure, I guess it's in that genre. But I was blown away.
First of all, it's gorgeous. I'm pretty impressed that with the same old Xbox 360 that's been out for five years, they're wringing this kind of graphics from it. Maybe I haven't been playing enough recent games (I do usually follow my "buy games when they're two years old and cheap" method—Shaun just happened to have a copy of this one lying around) but really, it looks so good.
And secondly, the story holds together. I mean, it's about dreams and writing and insanity and the act of creation, so there's plenty that's illogical, but it all makes sense. And it's obviously all of a piece—there was no last act hurriedness or anything. So many games I've played have a good idea and it's obvious that a lot of time and attention has been paid to the opening sequences and then you get near the end of the game and it all falls apart—the team ran out of money and time and attention and just slapped something together to finish it off. Not this game.
I was so impressed with the game that when I finished it, I immediately bought the two downloadable bonus episodes (the first time I've done something like that with the 360). Those, unfortunately, I was not so impressed with. I thought it was a little too evident that they were trying to craft something fresh out of the limited models and characters available to them in the base game. And, not to give too much away, but the total dream-world stuff that was so effective as the very end of the main game, felt too fakey in the bonus episodes. It made me realize that a big part of the attraction of the main game for me was that it was always just a skewed reality, rather than a completely unreal landscape.
FuzzyCo grade: A+ (main game), B- (downloadable episodes)