Bump In The Night

Bump In The Night
Fear Beyond Words

Nick Cowen | 30 Mar 2010 12:32
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Alan Wake's narrative supports the idea that whatever is going on in this world, the titular character's fallibility is at the core of it. Even the combat mechanics reinforce the sense that Wake is a genuinely vulnerable character. He's different from the usual horror game protagonists, who usually become dead-shots with firearms the moment they pick one up. Wake's sharpshooting skills are negligible at best, and the story doesn't kick off by endowing players with a large arsenal of guns and ammo. Instead, the tense combat system makes players feel constantly out-matched and under threat: When players draw a bead on an opponent, Wake doesn't immediately snap onto his target, and the AI isn't stupid, either - if Wake is set upon by more than one opponent, the moment he aims his weapon at one of them, the others will fan out. This makes the combat into a frantic, tension-filled experience.


In fact, Wake's limited combat proficiency is likely to be on par with that of most of the players controlling him, something Lake says was intentional. "Very early on in the project, when we were sorting out our main vision, we knew that we wanted the game to center around an everyman," he says. "We didn't want an action hero; rather, we wanted someone to grow into the role of a hero."

Lake says this makes it far easier for the player to get into Wake's headspace and goes a long way toward ensuring they approach each battle with a sense of caution. Players aren't likely to be in constant fear for Wake's survival, but they certainly won't approach every enemy by simply charging in guns blazing. In a strange inversion for a videogame, the combat is dictated by the nature of the game's protagonist and not the other way around.

In this way, Alan Wake's protagonist is at once players' entry point into the game and at the same time their greatest opponent. Even early on in the plot, Wake's doubts and failings seem to drive the otherworldly antagonists and create the waking nightmare in which he find himself. But while the plot might sound like the blurb on the back of a paperback horror novel and its gameplay feels like classic survival-horror, Lake is keen to reinforce the idea that Alan Wake isn't a horror game in the strictest sense.

"We always knew we wanted to make a thriller rather than a horror game," he says. "All too often in videogames, 'horror' just means blood and gore and monsters. Even if there are many elements in Alan Wake that you would call horror if you saw them pop up in a movie, we feel that 'thriller' is a much better definition for what we're doing."

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