Alan Wake EP3:Stop Apologizing!

By Shamus
on Apr 26, 2012
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

130 comments


Link (YouTube)

That “The Shining” moment is a great illustration of how this game sets up something smart and then immediately blows it. In The Shining, the axe-through-the-door moment was one of terror and screaming. But here we have Alan Wake talking to us in his soothing voice as he points out the very obvious reference. How can I get emotionally invested in this scene, when the protagonist himself is so detached? Alan is just talking about what he’s seeing, which is like carefully explaining a joke before you deliver the punchline. It suddenly feels like the game designer is talking to me, and that he doesn’t think I’m very bright.

On the other hand, I think the narration works for the “adventure game” stuff. When we’re hanging around in town and talking to people it helps us get to know Alan. I actually really look forward to these sections.

Anyway, sorry for apologizing so much Mumbles. Including this one. No, that’s not true. I don’t apologize for this one. You’re just going to have to suck it up and deal with this apology. Sorry.

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Footnotes:



A Hundred!2010There are 130 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

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  1. Thomas says:

    Wow they stuck slow-mow battle celebrations and metro-style timing mini-games in the middle of their atmosphere?

    I do love the scenery here and the manuscript pages are pretty brilliant I feel, because it’s a collectable that not only tells you about the plot but makes you ask questions about it.

    That bit with the crane and the logs was an interesting example of how hard it is to do puzzles in games. It felt to me like you didn’t really know what the problem was, or the solution, instead you just ran around until you hit the right button and something happens. They need to establish the problem before you reach the solution then either make it clear what you have to work with and it’s about figuring out what you can do with them or make it clear what your solution can be and then you can run around and look for a crane operator.

    Else it’s just busy work.

    I’m actually beginning to doubt they wanted to make a scary game. I never considered playing Alan Wake even though the idea of it was something I loved, because I hate scary games but now I’m quite attracted to it. And some of the stuff they’ve done… it’s exactly what someone would do if they said ‘okay we’ve got quite a scary game, how do we make it less scary for people?’ Okay lets add in a little slo-mo, and signal the enemies etc

    On the other hand you were all right that the flashlight thing was fundamentally not scarily designed from the start. As Chris said, it hasn’t really got anything to do with darkness, instead it’s another part of your utility belt

    • Eric says:

      The mini-games are appropriate. Press button -> get light would be a bit too easy. With the mini-game you have to make a conscious decision to a) abandon attacking enemies for some time, and b) draw your attention to some other task separate from shooting. The mechanic itself isn’t that compelling, it’s the juxtaposition that makes it interesting.

      • Thomas says:

        It’s not the minigame itself so much as it’s awful awful awful presentation. It looks like something out of Windows 8 in the middle of your fog and it even draws on into the cutscene after you’ve finished doing it.

        Ideally they would have made it something that didn’t require UI. Like make it obvious what you had to do from the way Alan was turning the wheel. Tap a button every time he gets to the top of a turn to do well.

        • McNutcase says:

          Minigames like that are always going to be somewhat visually intrusive, and there isn’t really a good way I can think of to do it with character animation that makes it as intuitively obvious as the “wheel with green zone”. With the game’s visual design, it would be very hard to give good timing cues if you had to rely on watching Alan yank on a starter cord, even though the end result of the timing puzzle would be very similar. Frustrating the players tends not to be a good design choice, and I’m looking at this and thinking “They did well with this mini-game”.

          • Thomas says:

            I really don’t think it would be hard to do visually, especially since they’re willing to do a tutorial on it. If you had to press the button when he’d fully extended the cord or something that’d do it fine. You’d still have the green safety zones, but you don’t need to show it because the player would be aiming perfect and glad that what he’d done was accepted. Even the menus look less visually jarring than what they’ve got at the moment

            • Sagretti says:

              If the game was brightly lit then I think it’d be no problem. However, I’m not sure that would work since much of the action, especially spots where you are desperately trying to turn on the lights, take place in heavy darkness. Failure because you’re panicking is good, failure because you can’t see your character’s arm well enough is just frustrating.

            • Gamer says:

              They could go the Dead Space route of putting it on the device.

      • Milos says:

        Glaring interface aside, I personally think the generator mini game worked nicely. It plays on that old horror trope of trying to start the car, unlock the door, or what have you, while the monster is coming ever closer. On more than one occasion I had really tense moments when I was surrounded by enemies trying to remain calm and methodical while starting up the generator. Sometimes the monster would swipe at me at the last moment and I’d lose all progress making me cry out in frustration, but I didn’t consider it bad design. The little drama simply didn’t play out in my favour that time and that’s what makes it all the more satisfying those times I succeed.

        Simply pushing the button to turn on the lights wouldn’t have the same effect.

        • Shamus says:

          I kind of dug the generator thing. Like starting a real engine, it’s actually easy in a stress-free environment, but can be fiddly under duress. I think it does an admirable job of capturing the four-second panic of “OMG the killer is coming and my car won’t start” kind of thing. They also trained you to use it in the stress-free situation at the cabin so you could get the mechanics down.

          (When I first saw the icon I assumed this was a “click fast and fill up the progress bar” deal”. Then on my second try I understood. If I had that same experience with axe murderers chasing me around, I would have felt like the game was punishing me for not intuiting the mechanic on the first try. Contrast this with the dodge mechanic tutorial, where they make the monster less threatening by getting him involved in the training.)

          So yeah, I agree. I thought the generator mechanic worked. In fact, I’m sure it was designed to create exactly the situation Josh achieved: The player runs up and starts it at the very last second while being chased by axe murderers.

          • McNutcase says:

            And you just said pretty much what I did, but more articulately. Even though I haven’t played Alan Wake, I’m actually getting a feeling that the generator minigame really feels like trying to pull-start a balky engine. I’ve started enough reluctant mowers to know that puzzle very well, along with just how easy it is to mess up with bad timing.

          • Sleeping Dragon says:

            There was one, exactly one time I messed up that minigame and I think it was at this point. I approached the generator, got the slow-mo “the taken are coming for you” thing and messed it up because I panicked. So I’d agree it was pretty successful for a minigame.

            • Anorak says:

              That is exactly what happened to me, and it vexed me.

              I was playing on hard, I’d just run a huge gauntlet of enemies, I had no batteries, I was very low on health, and there was a Taken following me up the hill.

              I spotted the generator, and decided that I was in no shape to deal with the guy following me, so went for the generator. I get the minigame up, and I’m succeeding at it, and I’ve got that feeling where you’ve worked hard but you’re about to succeed, and just when I need to hit the last button on the ring…


              Time slowdown.
              My timing gets screwed up.
              The taken one hit kills me.
              I’m back to the previous checkpoint, half an hour earlier.

              It annoys me because it’s something utterly beyond your control. If you die, it should be YOUR fault, not some stupid mechanic that kicks in seemingly at random. Worse, the mechanic is supposed to be there to HELP you, to give you more time to dodge attacks, but all it ever did was ruin the atmosphere or kill me.

              • Sleeping Dragon says:

                Oh my case wasn’t so bad for one it wasn’t the slowdown that messed up my timing, I just panicked, for two I survived so while I didn’t do good gamewise it was kinda satisfying in the “moment of tension” sort of way.

  2. Deadpool says:

    This game reminds me most of Eternal Darkness. Not scary (except the bathtub scene), but good atmosphere.

    Best use of the flashlight is to just let it aim at them normally and only focus it for a second on two when they try to rush forward to force them to stagger…

    Edit: Alan Wake is several missed opportunities.

    It reminds of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. It had good intentions, and some interesting ideas that just went the wrong way…

  3. Michael says:

    Unrelated: Right before this was uploaded you guys had 1337 subscribers. It isn’t a round number (1000) or even a round number (1024), but I got excited about it nonetheless.

    Further Unrelated: Whatever happened with that survey Missus Young took about a week back? Shamus linked to it in his twitter, but never a followup.

    On Topic: (Note: I haven’t played. Probably take what I say with a grain of salt.) I think the narration would have been greatly improved if Alan sounded worried or threatened when he’s in the nightmare. Around town he’s just filling the player in – he doesn’t need to be emotional about an old man and a jukebox. But in the nightmare he’s being chased by axe-murderers and occasionally murder-crows; it seems that he should be pulling a Joker from ME2 and going ‘Shit, shit, shit, SHIT!” constantly.

    Maybe instead of narration in the nightmare, he should actually be talking to himself?

    (Also, why does the game go out of its way to explain that everything ‘scary’ happens in a dream? Isn’t the point of scary supposed to be that you don’t know if you’ll survive? It’s not helped by the fact his name is Alan Wake, either. Don’t get me wrong; I love me some cheese, but not when it subverts the point of your chosen genre.)

    • Zombie says:

      It sounds like they found an Elcore and hired him to be Alan Wake. Just to keep your Mass Effect thing going. Alan going around swearing wouldnt be bad, but he could at the very least sound like something was going on instead of him sounding like he’s commentating the World Championships of Paint Drying.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Interestingly I immediately thought I’d replay like 90% of my games if I could get them modded into “Elcor mode”.

        I am tempted to say that perhaps the voice isn’t Alan thinking the thoughts as he’s experiencing the events but Alan as he is sitting in the cottage and coming up with the writing. Whatever the reason I fully agree it does the “scary” part no favour.

    • DirigibleHate says:

      “Maybe instead of narration in the nightmare, he should actually be talking to himself?”

      This actually sounds like an excellent idea, I could even see him saying exactly the same things (Maybe have him self-narrate in past tense during the opening scene and have his wife tease him for it), but instead of his deadpan, calm voice, have him quavering and stuttering, like he’s using the narration as a coping mechanism for his terror.

      • AbruptDemise says:

        That’s a great idea, not just for building tension and keeping the player immersed, but for characterizing Alan as well.

        He’d do something familiar to him to cope during a completely alien and terrifying situation, and since he’s a writer, narrating his actions to himself as if he was writing/reading a book is a good way to reinforce that aspect of his character. It’s kind of a shame that he sounds so calm, like he is just writing a book and he’s the main character.

  4. Eric says:

    Gotta call foul on the first-person suggestion. If anything, it’d make the gameplay much worse. Third-person games are easier to do spatially-related challenges in. Alan Wake isn’t about pointing accurately at things, it’s about dodging enemies and crowd control, and I’ve never seen a first-person shooter that builds itself around such mechanics effectively. Rutskarn suggests it’s scarier not to be able to see what’s going on, but that’s just it: a first-person shooter where the challenge comes from things you can’t see is frustrating and awkward.

    Besides, we already have enough first-person games as it is. I’m tired of first-person. If you’re going to tell a narrative with a fixed protagonist with a strongly-defined personality, let me see him or her! I’m playing Alan Wake, not Eric *as* Alan Wake. Shamus did bring up a good point that it adds a degree of distance to things, and arguably makes the game less scary as a result, but again, I don’t think Alan Wake is really intended to be a horror game so that’s a minor consideration for me.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You can still have a good character in fps games.Case in point:Garrett,from the thief series.

      As for gameplay,yes with this amount of enemies,1st person would be bad.But why have this many enemies in a game that is about atmosphere?If it were a war game,sure,have enemies everywhere.But having this much combat in a game that is about narrative and atmosphere is a bad thing.

      • Thomas says:

        Watching it, I did find myself thinking that they needed one or two less groups of enemies on that walk in the forest

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          Oh you have no idea. Maybe it’s a matter of rushing through the game in a relatively short period of time and the enemies and combat getting somewhat stale but I could swear later on there are parts where there’s a taken behind every single leaf on every single bush.

    • Even says:

      “a first-person shooter where the challenge comes from things you can’t see is frustrating and awkward.”

      YMMV. When you play enough FPSs where you need to be constantly aware of your surroundings, you learn to trust more than your eyes. Playing something like Left 4 Dead 1/2 is for me as much about the sounds as it is about the sights. Moving to games like Operation Flashpoint. At the hardest settings you’re locked in to first person and there’s no magical GPS to pinpoint your location on the map. When you go barebones, you learn to use whatever methods available to cover all your bases. In a game like that it’s all about teamwork and communicating in the larger scheme of things, but you also need to learn a lot of smaller things on personal level, like how to navigate and find yourself on the map. While a lot of those skills I developed playing that game may not be of that much use in other games, the most important and truthful lesson it taught me was to remain adaptive.

      Way I see it, they’d only need to do some fine-tuning for the combat and change the warning mechanic to something more sensible. Audio cues would have worked just fine. Once you learn to associate the sound with the oncoming threat, the rest should come automatically.

      • Eric says:

        The difference is that Left 4 Dead and Operation Flashpoint aren’t about weaving in and out of enemies while you perform crowd control to “herd” enemies and keep them from reaching you. Left 4 Dead has elements of that, granted, but even so it’s still much more concerned about accuracy and moving from point to point quickly, rather actually dodging things. The closest thing you even have to Alan Wake’s dodge move is to smack enemies with your gun, which really isn’t comparable as it’s a method of repelling those enemies rather than outright avoiding htem.

        Small differences? Maybe. But my point is that Alan Wake wouldn’t necessarily be stronger as a game if you made it first-person – at bare minimum you would have to fundamentally re-engineer the design of environments (different standards for navigation due to different situational awareness), as well as completely change combat mechanics and encounter design. You can’t really change the camera angle and suddenly expect it to play better by virtue of that change alone.

        • Even says:

          “Left 4 Dead has elements of that, granted, but even so it’s still much more concerned about accuracy and moving from point to point quickly, rather actually dodging things.”

          Depends on what you’re fighting. The many crescendo events are really all about crowd control at the end of the day. Fighting the Special Infected also involves a lot of dodging and other maneuvering unless you want to get pinned down by one. Avoiding tanks and dodging their rocks is almost its own art form in the harder difficulties. Molotovs can help, but using the surroundings to your advantage is the key to avoid a lot of damage.

          “The closest thing you even have to Alan Wake’s dodge move is to smack enemies with your gun.”

          Your character does have feet.

          “But my point is that Alan Wake wouldn’t necessarily be stronger as a game if you made it first-person.”

          Well yeah that’s kinda impossible to determine for better or worse. It’s all hypothetical here. I’m just saying that it could be done.

          “at bare minimum you would have to fundamentally re-engineer the design of environments (different standards for navigation due to different situational awareness), as well as completely change combat mechanics and encounter design. You can’t really change the camera angle and suddenly expect it to play better by virtue of that change alone.”

          I don’t know about the enviroment re-engineering. What you effectively have less is field of view and whatever handicap it may provide you could compensate with gameplay adjustments. Obviously they’d have to change how Alan moves in the enviroment a little. For combat, I’d see it definitely viable as long as the dodge would be replaced with a possibly more agile Alan and adjustments to the already existing mechanics like:

          A)The flashlight could be made to have a wider arc of light to compensate for the smaller field of view.

          B)The flares could be adjusted to maybe burn a bit longer to work as a denial of area tool.

          C)The guns already have the knockback effect which could be further enhanced, maybe just give the player more ammo.

          The spawn issue would seem like it could be fixed with, like I said, audio cues. Left 4 Dead does a wonderful job at this, alerting you to enemies a good while before you actually see them, as long as you pay attention to the sounds. There’s the musical cue when they spawn, and then there’s all the shrieking and growling noises they make. Something similar may work as well.

    • JPH says:

      “it’s about dodging enemies and crowd control, and I’ve never seen a first-person shooter that builds itself around such mechanics effectively.”

      I recommend Serious Sam.

      • Eric says:

        I stand corrected, and of course I already own those games so that was a silly mistake to make.

        Still, I think I had a reason for overlooking them. Serious Sam and especially Painkiller are much more about running backwards (almost constantly) and strategically taking out certain enemies, by quickly prioritizing them based on threat level. Both games had some very good encounter designs with interesting combinations of enemies – explosive suicide bombers, enemies with shields that could block your frontal attacks, cannon fodder, etc. At the same time, the environments were still restrictive enough that things were generally about shooting and strafing rather than actually dodging – less so in Serious Sam, but I’d say the emphasis is very firmly on crowd control rather than actually dodging in both

        Alan Wake has less enemy variety and enemies are slower relative to the player, but still faster than Alan. This makes the dodge move integral to survival, especially because enemies only go down quickly if you can get a free moment and single them out. Combat in Alan Wake is therefore much more about setting up situations for yourself to attack, via the dodge mechanic. Again, relatively small differences but I think they add up to create a very different dynamic.

  5. Nordicus says:

    Since the game’s on PC now, maybe there’ll eventually be a mod that removes the bullet-time and warning camera angles.

    That part where Carl chases you in the forest really looks like it could have been a genuinely scary moment if you had no idea where the attacks would come from. The parts of this game’s design meant for handholding really destroy the tension that the brilliant light and fog effects build

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    During that axe scene,I constantly wondered “Why isnt this the dodge tutorial?”.I get when you want to have a tutorial section in your game,and I get when you want to make your game build up slowly and introduce one element at the time.But I dont get when both of those are mandatory.

    For me,3rd person lends itself better for action games,because it allows you to have greater field of view,so its a compensation for not having peripheral vision on the screen.1st person evokes better atmosphere though.

    • Vic 2.0 says:

      “During that axe scene,I constantly wondered ‘Why isnt this the dodge tutorial?'”

      Because the scene with Stucky is supposed to be frightening (which it was, at least for me). You’re alone with this maniac who’s been built up for some time on your trek to the lumber yard. The tutorial was just supposed to be informative of the game mechanics, although the ambush right after the tutorial kinda had me on edge!

      Also, everyone b****ing about where they put the tutorial should come to realize, there is no believable way for Alan to come to know how to take these guys down except for a supernatural force to tell him. And after you realize it’s all a dream, you should appreciate both the idea of these guys showing up “straight out of a nightmare” and the fact that here, in the “real world”, you’re 100% alone (at least for the beginning episodes of the game, until you finally do see Zane again and know he’s at least real).

  7. tengokujin says:

    You sound so Canadian, Shamus :3
    Also, I just read this from the creator of Amnesia: http://frictionalgames.blogspot.com/2012/04/10-ways-to-evolve-horror-games.html

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      Great article. I should really get around to continuing Amnesia, but I didn’t really like the first-person perspective and didn’t find the initial parts very interesting (or scary, but I assume I haven’t got far enough for the scary bits to start).

      Combat is the key thing that gets in the way for me, and in that “10 ways” article two of them are “Minimal combat” and “No enemies”. Too many games seem to put far more combat in with meaningless enemies than is necessary. In some cases it’s almost like the developers think “combat = gameplay” and anything else is decoration.

      In fact, the comment by Rutskarn about random encounters is surely more about grind. It’s the over-use of combat to pad out a game which cheapens it, especially if you need to grind to beat boss fights. It’s one of the things that always makes me sceptical when game advertising might say “over 80 hours long!” and I wonder how much of that is wandering around and fighting throwaway mooks.

  8. Thanakil says:

    Third-person showing you more of the environment is both good and bad for scary games.
    It’s true that showing you so much of the environment can make the game less scary because you can see behind you and to your sides.
    But at the same time, it also helps establish the area you’re in, and set the atmosphere. Not limiting your view can also be used to the advantage of the game.

    Had the game not used a slow-mo effect whenever enemies spawn, the large area of view would have helped make players go paranoid, looking at the shadows, wondering if the moving shadows are actually an enemy.

    For Alan Wake, I think Third-Person was the right choice due to the gorgeous landscapes and the way the areas were designed. I felt it was a good way to immerse the player in the world of the game.

    But First-Person does work wonderfully in a different way, when used correctly.

  9. Milos says:

    I only just started on this season this evening. So, I noticed you have a girl on board now? Eww! Girls are all smelly and stuff. We should think of an embarrassing nickname for her.

  10. The Hokey Pokey says:

    If this game was first person it would be ridiculously hard. The fast enemies would stun lock you to death from behind. The independent camera also works rather well for the combat because after a dodge in any direction you will still be aiming in the same place.

    And Ruts, not all enemies are introduced with slow motion. The implication that they are is disingenuous. I like how in the very next combat after you complain about enemy introductions the enemies weren’t introduced.

    Edit in response to Silent Hill as one game: Silent Hill 1 and 3 are also excellent, and in fact I think 3 is much scarier than 2, but there isn’t much that can be compared favorably to Silent Hill 2.

    • Shamus says:

      Disingenuous would imply that Rutskarn is deliberately trying to mislead you. It’s not disingenuous, but hyperbolic.

      Whether it’s “all” or “most” or “some”, I agree with the notion that it is clearly too many.

    • Jakale says:

      I’m not entirely convinced, but I think that group didn’t get slow mo because it was the slow mo group from before and Josh simply hadn’t killed them all. I’ll need to pay closer attention to make sure in future videos.

      • Amnestic says:

        While playing myself, it certainly seemed that the vast majority (over 80%) of encounters were telegraphed by slow-motion. Absolutely killed the tension for me.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        The vast majority of the groups that don’t get the slow motion introduction are those that spawn within your assumed field of vision: generally in front of you along the default path.

      • Soylent Dave says:

        The enemies are broken into ‘sets’ – the first group of enemies in each set are introduced in slow motion, the other groups aren’t.

        There can sometimes be a bit of a gap between groups in a set – which may mean some bad guys around the corner will jump out with no introduction – but every time you’re in a new area, every time you’re exploring somewhere new that’s mysterious and creepy, you know you aren’t going to get surprised because of this.

        It’s disappointing.

        (if that sounds a bit non-specific, it’s because the game is mostly outdoors – but basically, when you clear a ‘room’, the next group of bad guys will get a slow-motion introduction, but any enemies who appear in the same ‘room’ won’t. A ‘room’ in this case is a set-piece bit of terrain, like the logging camp, a street, a house etc.)

    • Naota says:

      It would be better phrased thusly: I can count on one hand the number of times where enemies in Alan Wake actually inspired surprise by showing up where the player wasn’t expecting them. The vast, vast majority have their presence telegraphed ten miles off with swirling fog, spooky noises, music cues, shifting lights, self-aware camera grabs, and sometimes full-on scripted cutscenes.

      The transition from “safe with no suspicions” to “horrific imminent danger” in Alan Wake is extremely gradual, and the game always eases the player into it by slowly ramping up the spookery before letting lose the monsters. Never is there a creepy area without enemies, or a reassuring one with them.

    • Vic 2.0 says:

      The introduction of enemies is just a wicked little feature they threw in to add to the suspense. It is clear they were not (generally) aiming for jump-scares in most of the game, but the realization of fears that were (supposed to be, at least for many of us) already there. I took the introduction not as a signal to fight, but to get out of there. Didn’t most of you assume almost every area in which the wind picked up was infinite enemy respawn? That was to keep you from feeling that you can win by sticking around to fight. And for the most part, it worked, but…

      The single flaw I must concede to in this game was the excessive supply of ammo. That’s it. It’s what I blame for people’s inclination to just hang around fighting more than one round of Taken in each area. I would say they could’ve made you more fearful by adding more than three Taken at a time. But judging from oh so much whining by critics about how there were “too many enemies” I suspect that would just make ’em whine more.

  11. Gamer says:

    Did the game just explain how to fight the enemies in the first fight of this episode?
    What the hell was the tutorial for then?

    • Jakale says:

      Maybe this time was a reminder?
      “OK, you’ve got the gun and flashlight again. Remember those? We played with them earlier. Ok, now point the light at the bad guys till they pop into sparkles, then shoot them. Got it? You good? Want a refresher on lamplight too? No? Ok, have fun then.”

    • ccesarano says:

      As I mentioned last time, I’m actually curious if the tutorial was added after focus testing. For some reason people weren’t getting it, so they needed the gameplay telegraphed for them. Or perhaps they wanted to jump right into that stuff.

      It’s just a theory, but the best way to ruin good art is to show it to stupid people.

  12. Rasha says:

    Yo dawg I heard you like apologies so I put an apology in your apology so you could regret WHILE YOU REGRET!

  13. Packie says:

    Every single time people praise Silent Hill 2 without giving the other games in the series credit, I can’t help but facepalm. Yes, Silent Hill 2 was a bloody good game but it did have its share of flaws and later games in the franchise did a lot of things better than it did.

    Yeah I know this is a silly complaint but it’s just a minor pet peeve of mine

    • Shamus says:

      My review of the whole franchise: (The parts I’ve played.)

      I thought SH3 wasn’t bad. The first few hours were pretty solid, but it kind of fell apart when I started hanging out with the cult. Also, the tall fat-armed monster was way too goofy to be scary. SH3 was as good as SH2, minus the powerful inner conflict of the protagonist.

      SH4 wasn’t bad. Again, I thought it started off strong, but became too much of a chore at the end.

      I’ve already deconstructed origins in detail. http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1884

      I thought Homecoming had a pretty good protagonist (I liked how the game subverted his “I just got back from the military” thing.) But the combat in that game just ruined the mood.

      Silent Hill 1 is like something from another series altogether. I’ve watched it, not played it. Don’t want to.

      I think the “evil town that torments you with your own inner demons” is brilliant. As you look out into the world, you’re looking inward into your character and getting to know them by seeing what they fear. Brilliant stuff.

      I think the cult is stupid and dumb and boring and confusing and none of the writers seem to be on the same page with regards to what they want.

      SH2 is the one that mostly ignored the cult, focused on the town/protagonist conflict, and didn’t have a lot of quicktime event crap. Which is why I hold it up over the others, even though the other entries did some things better.

      • zob says:

        I think playing/watching Silent Hill 1 after seeing Silent Hill 2 does not do it justice. If you played it without knowing the later games in the series you’d give it more credit. Because technical issues aside (it was a psx release after all) it’s a deep enough game in it’s own right.

      • Packie says:

        I agree about the cult storylines. Silent Hill 3 got really stupid once you discover the idiotic motivation of the cult. The sooner they ditch that nonsense the better. (I do remember hearing that Downpour doesn’t have some of that cultist stupidity, still planning on playing that).

        One of the things I loved about Silent Hill 3 is that it actually made me terrified of gore and violence. In a lot of games like Gears of War, Killzone and Dead Space where they use violence in such a silly and comical ways, it’s difficult to take the setting in any serious manner. In Silent Hill 3, they actually use it effectively to downright brilliant and sickening levels. I still have a hard time going back to play the hell version of the apartment complex level.

        I loved Walter Sullivan’s storyline in Silent Hill 4, the game’s main antagonist. As the game progresses and as more victims he claims, you kinda learn more of his past, his messed up psyche, his complex issues with women. It was all brilliantly done. Too bad the second half of the game was a glorified escort mission with a braindead AI partner.

        Also Shamus, I highly recommend playing Silent Hill 1. It’s really outdated in this day and age but just do it for the opening which I consider one masterfully crafted piece of game design.

      • Jakale says:

        You might like Shattered Memories. It didn’t bother with the cult at all from what I remember. It has its own issues, but the storytelling isn’t too bad.

        • GiantRaven says:

          CHERYL! CHERYL?! …Cheryl?

          Bloody hell, that game was just…weird…

        • ccesarano says:

          Shattered Memories actually has a lot of interesting parallels to Alan Wake, now that I think about it. Heavy emphasis on flashlight use, and the adventure game stuff is the more interesting gameplay than the nightmare world. The one contrast is that you spend less time in the nightmare world in Shattered Memories than you do in the rest of Silent Hill.

          It’s definitely a departure, and when you get right down to it the typical town canon is sort of broken considering what’s REALLY going on, but it was a very fun game. My biggest gripe after playing it a second time is more that some of the endings (well, the second ending I got which focused more on the sex-drive angle) just didn’t fit with what’s-the-guy’s personality during the rest of the game. The first ending I got (what I can best see as the “nice-guy-prude” ending) seemed to be the most fitting, and honestly is what made me go from really liking the game to falling head over heels for it.

          I still think Shamus would be disappointed in the fact that it’s not totally horror. The nightmare world wasn’t too bad, but it seemed rather limited in options, and on a first play through you might end up confused in a lot of the sections. Overall, though, I would be curious on his thoughts of it.

          Hrm. I’m suddenly considering gifting Shamus both Shattered Memories and I Am Alive (though the latter I have to play through more. That game at least gets the “survival” part down pat).

      • False Prophet says:

        I love that review of Origins:

        Candles. Always with the candles, these cultists. The human sacrifice I get, but what’s wrong with lightbulbs? Seems like that would make it easier to read your tome of How to Start a Human Sacrifice Ritual and Then Wander Away to Leave the Victim to be Rescued by a Random Trucker. (File that one in your decimal system, Dewey!)

        It’s been years since my cataloguing courses, but my best guess is something like 131.388324616?

  14. Sozac says:

    Is it only my computer or is anyone else getting a laggy video with normal sound.

  15. McNutcase says:

    And for all my complaints about the Ford product placement, the Energizer product placement is subtle enough that it works. Well, mostly. The messing with the interface, not so much, since there appears to be one pool of “Batteries” rather than the implied two pools consisting of “Batteries” and “Lithium Batteries”.

    That does suggest an interesting wrinkle that could have been added, though. What if there were two kinds of batteries, with different mechanics? Maybe one kind de-shields the enemies faster, but doesn’t regenerate, while the other kind is slower but regenerates? That could have given the player an interesting choice to make, much like Rutskarn’s(?) suggestion of having batteries not regenerate, and act as both ammunition and illumination.

  16. Marlowe says:

    Mumbles could play The Log Lady ex tempore.

  17. neon_goggles says:

    This game reminds me a lot of deadly premonition at times. Am i the only one? They where both inspired by twin peeks so that may be why.

    • Gamer says:

      I never actually played the game, but from what I know of it, Alan Wake has given me that impression.

      …Isn’t that right Zack?

      • neon_goggles says:

        But deadly premonition has a excuse for different fell between combat and non combat moments. in that the combat was added in the middle of the Alpha. Because the publishers didn’t think that people would buy the game if there was no combat. Of course, the combat is the worst part of the game.

        • Gamer says:

          You know, I can see where developers come from when they keep saying that, but I sincerely doubt it is true.

          I’m sure that gamers don’t need combat in a game. It just needs to be advertised as such. My friends and I were okay with LA Noire thinking that there wouldn’t be combat.

          I’m kinda sad that we were wrong.

        • GiantRaven says:

          If Deadly Premonition didn’t have combat then I would probably hold it on a pedestal as the greatest game ever, rather than sadly tossing it aside after facing yet another obnoxious wall crawling, ammo-soaking enemy after walking ten paces. I honestly don’t understand the reasoning to add in the combat. It doesn’t even make sense in context with the game and, in fact, makes the whole game seem like one huge irritating plot hole.

          Funnily enough, Alan Wake is another game that I was really enjoying until combat got the better of me. That’s less because it was irritating and more because I utterly sucked at it. Never could quite get the hang of dodging…

          For me the game definitely would’ve come off better with significantly less combat. It wasn’t the reason I was playing, nor does it seem to be the driving force behind the game, so I don’t really see why it needs to be there.

        • Thomas says:

          I love how the whole logic of that situation, people won’t buy the game as it is so let’s make it worse!

          Also the psychology of it, because in many respects you’ve still got the good game there. It’s funny how adding something can make a game worse.

          Sigh, DX:HR…

  18. Akheloios says:

    What’s not to love about a Dear Esther clone based in the Twin Peaks universe ^_^.

    Yeah, had some problems, the transitions between FPS and environmental/emotional horror story was jarring at times, but it’s really nice to see a studio try something new. I really thought Dear Esther would be an interesting but ultimately ignored event in the history of games.

    Bought it after seeing the first two SW episodes and played it in one sitting. The jarring bits of gameplay were easy to ignore in the fog of paranoid halucination that only sleep deprivation and too much coffee can generate.

  19. PurePareidolia says:

    The most effective Horror game I’ve ever played is the Last Man on Earth mutation from Left 4 Dead 2 – it’s just you and the special infected, and the only concession they make is it takes two grabs to kill you. The entire time you’re running in a panic, frantically looking around to make sure there are no hunters or smokers anywhere near you, your character is yelling in vain for other survivors and grumbling complaints to himself when he’s injured. The infected are always random and never introduced apart from their leitmotifs and vocalizations. Your medkits are very valuable as if a hunter finishes you you’re immediately in black and white, so not only does the game make enemies genuinely scary, they also do a tonne of damage, and you’ll probably die.

    It also solves the problem of death not being scary because the levels are hard and that’s a lot of progress to lose for a couple of mistakes, but if your reactions are quick enough they die pretty easily, so it never feels unfair, so much as a bit of a mexican standoff.

    Basically, I can’t understate how much the dynamic changes when you remove the frantic action of shooting zombies all the time.

    Oh and yes, you have to solo any tanks that spawn. Sometimes there’s more than one.

  20. guy says:

    Okay, props to the writers, the gas-station guy giving the advertisement/lost deposit speech in the mixture of manical cheerfulness and deep voice of evil while trying to kill Alan with an axe was actually suitably creepy.

    Then they called out their Shining reference and lost that.

    Now, if they’d resisted the impulse to lampshade a reference everyone gets, he could easily have continued being creepy, but nope, not gonna work anymore.

    • Vic 2.0 says:

      How on earth does Alan making a reference to ‘The Shining’ make it any less disturbing? It’s not like he made a joke about it! You make it sound like he said “Oh crap, here’s Johnny!” Lol

  21. Destrustor says:

    Other games that did the wobbly-camera-to-the-side-of-the-character thing:
    Final Fantasy 13 (especially noticeable on the wide open plain on pulse)
    Shadow of the Colossus (damn that horse was hard to keep steady when the camera suddenly decided it wanted to look at the other edge of the screen)
    And what bugs me the most about that mechanic (if you can call it that) is that I cannot conceive of any possible reason for its existence. I don’t get what purpose it serves except taking an arbitrary amount of control away from the player. If I’m going in a certain direction, I’d very much like to be able to look straight at it. If the point is to prevent the character from obscuring the view, why not just raise the angle slightly?
    In fact, in the two games I mentionned, as well as Alan Wake itself, the view would not be covered at all by the character.
    As someone who knows nothing about programming I may be wrong, but wouldn’t it be simpler to let the player have full camera control instead of writing a bunch of extra code to make the view auto-correct to an unhelpful arbitrary angle for no good reason?
    Why does this seem to be the norm for third-person games nowadays anyway?

    • DirigibleHate says:

      I think the idea is that the center of the screen needs to be left clear for some reason, which is also why you see weapons in FPS games off to one side all the time.

      Actually, the movement issues are presumably caused by this – someone decides the Alan Wake model looks best when facing slightly to the right of the center of view, and then he’s still programmed to walk directly forward relative to himself, which results in a listing to one side.

    • McNutcase says:

      What makes it really unforgiveable in this case is the fact that Remedy didn’t do it in either of the Max Payne games. Those got third-person right; you went where you were looking, and vice versa. I guess with Max Payne they were too busy animating weapon models to mess much with camera stuff.

      Seriously, Max Payne and Max Payne 2 were positively insane with their weapon detailing. There was no NEED for the breechblock of the AK-47 to be animated…

      • PAK says:

        I haven’t played a ton of action or action-adventure third person games, but the Max Payne games totally spoiled me with respect to camera control. They’re so darn straightforward, and basically use inputs analagous to first-person camera conventions: point and shoot. Not only is this intuitive, but the rules work with reliable, repeatable consistency 100% of the time.

        With the rise of GOG and a number of nostalgia articles on RPS, I’ve been going through the back catalogue of classic PC games I missed, and a couple years ago I played “Beyond Good and Evil.” I enjoyed it greatly, and see why it’s got a cult fanbase, but I wanted to disembowel whoever programmed the camera operation. I’ve read that it’s an artifact of a console game being ported to PC, but I can’t imagine I would have understood it any better on a console. The directional control inputs are constantly changing in meaning, often without the UI giving any hint of what the heck is going on.

    • GiantRaven says:

      What I don’t get is why the camera just can’t be centered behind the player character. Why has this disturbing trend of slightly off-set cameras arisen? I genuinely don’t understand it at all. The worst was Arkham City, where Batman’s immense mass essentially blocked off the entire left side of the screen unless I was running. When I’m playing a game, I actually want to be able to see the things around me, rather than having a good third of my screen blocked off.

      • Michael says:

        It’s having a side blocked off, or, as you would have it centered behind the character, having the center of the screen (i.e. where you’re looking) blocked off.

        Having the character offset to one side allows you to actually see where your character is going. Or, in the case of games with reticules, what your current tool/gun/magic/care-bear-stare is aimed at.

        If you want to be able to see everything around the character you could always go top-down or first-person.

      • Simon Buchan says:

        I’m not sure if it’s the first, but Gears of War probably popularized the “over the shoulder” camera. Of course, they actually had the camera, you know over the shoulder, not a couple meters off the shoulder. There it let you have your camera nice and tight on your “pretty” character models, and still be able to see where you’re going, and more importantly to aim, since the camera was directly over and aligned with your gun. It also had your character facing the same direction as the camera, so you didn’t walk weird. People give Gears a lot of shit for good reasons (characters and aesthetics, mostly), but it’s easy to miss all the things it did right mechanically, which might be why a lot of the copies of it miss the little things it got right.

  22. Guildenstern says:

    I think you guys actually touched on exactly why I love this game so much despite all the flaws you’ve been (accurately) pointing out: it’s atmospheric.

    I’ve been a resident of the Pacific Northwest my entire life, and family vacations often involved traveling to and through places that look just like Bright Falls. The lumber yard, the park ranger office, the abandoned mine (those last two we’ll see later) all look and feel incredibly authentic and it’s really cool to see a game set in my neck of the woods (as opposed to “New York invaded by aliens” again) and have it crafted so lovingly in regards to environment.

    That’s just a personal opinion, mind you, and I know that kind of impact can’t be had on everybody, but for us in the top left corner of the country it’s pretty cool.

    • Vic 2.0 says:

      For those of us who can get into atmospheres outside our own little bubble of real-world experience, the game was very captivating. I don’t think I can say with honesty that I’ve ever been in the woods anywhere. But now I feel like I’ve been there and bought property! ;)

      The atmosphere (night or day) is definitely its strongest selling point, although I did immensely enjoy the combat, writing, story, the whole experience!

  23. Tiberius Gracchus says:

    Wait…Taken…

    Calling it, that glowy thing is actaully the Lady.

  24. Phil says:

    I suppose I’ll have to keep watching to see if he realizes these times he’s killing people are just a dream. Maybe that would explain why he’s not so remorseful about the trail of bodies left…. in his Wake.

  25. AdamD says:

    The point of 1st vs. 3rd person for scary vs. adventure-type gameplay was briefly touched on, and it’s got me thinking; I’m wondering if a game could successfully pull off some sort of hybrid system. For example, if a 3rd person view was used during the character development and character interaction segments in Alan Wake (e.g. the diner and the cabin at the beginning of the game) and a 1st person view was used during the more combat-oriented suspenseful segments. I don’t know how this would be implemented (maybe switch to 1st person when a weapon is equipped?), but are there any thoughts on whether a system like that would enable a proper level of suspense/fear/creepiness when necessary while still maintaining the ability for the player to become emotionally invested in Alan and the other characters? Could this be more successful than simply using solely one camera view or the other? Or maybe the switching would become an annoyance and get in the way too much, thereby preventing the very player-involvement it’s supposed to enable.

    Aside: I didn’t know what Marble Hornets was before this video, but now I’ll be up all night watching these videos. And then I’ll be up because these things are fucking creepy. So thanks for that.

    • Thanatos of Crows says:

      Actually, I’d like to see a game which swaps the view as the narrator changes. You’d controll the protagonist all the time, or at least most of it, but the point of view character would change from time to time, and you’d only play in 1st person while the main character himself narrates. There’s a lot of potential to it if used right.

    • Alex says:

      I think Silent Hill 4 tried this. The parts where you were out and about and fighting bad things were in 3rd-person, but in your apartment it was in 1st-person.

      • Thomas says:

        It’s surprising how flexible the mind is with person view. DX:HR did it without much problem and in Halo you can forget you’ve been switched to third-person unless someone actually points it out.

        There might be some comparative tech difficulties to it though, I heard in third-person games you have to warp the image a little because of the way your brain tries to interpret it with the PC in the foreground

  26. Lupus_Amens says:

    ‘I know we’re saying a lot of negative things about this game, But…’

    Drink!

    I think you have said that in a lot of the seasons, not all but a lot of them ;)

    • Shamus says:

      That’s actually my fan-shield. I built up the habit of saying that over the years in response to the exceeding number of people who rage out because I’m “tearing a game apart” or “just looking for stuff to nitpick” and being “unfair” when our analysis hits too many negatives in a row.

      • Gamer says:

        But isn’t Spoiler Warning not doing that to a non-Valve game a sign of the apocalypse.

        I’m pretty sure I read it somewhere “When fire reigns and Shamus and co. hath not tear-ith a non-Valve game apart, the world and all peoples in it hath commeth to thine end.”

        …or something.
        (And yes, I did butcher Ye Olde English)

      • Tom Davidson says:

        Does saying it ever seem to help? :)

      • Simon Buchan says:

        I think it can be a fair enough complaint – say nothing but bad things about a game for long enough and you might start believing there actually is nothing good about it! Perhaps rather than just explicitly apologizing about it, just trying to match the balance of positive and negative comments to how you feel about it might be better, though I know there is normally more to say about things that are done wrong! On the other hand, I’m not sure how I’d feel about a season of you not tearing a game not made by Valve apart :P

  27. Alex says:

    Third-person has this weird thing where I obviously know I’m not in the game, but at the same time become more immersed in the character’s ordeal. It’s hard to relate to the side of a gun or a disembodied hand. There’s also the fact that I have better spatial awareness in 3rd-person, which can be a gift or a curse. So I wouldn’t veto a 3rd-person perspective for survival-horror.

    Both methods have their pros and cons, I guess. It just depends on the circumstance and the mood that a game is going for.

    • Thomas says:

      I have that. I always get the sensation I’m a floating computer screen in first-person games. Human vision is just so not square … whereas third person peripherals feel right to me.

      Although the problem is when the camera is flexible enough to allow you to manipulate it to see behind you and round corners. The behind you would be solvable with some neat animation though, isn’t that one of the things Max Payne 3 announced they’ve done?

      • GiantRaven says:

        In first-person games I feel more immersed if you have a sense of weight behind your movements, as if you were actually moving a human being.

        As such, I find playing Stalker a much more immersive experience than I do Fallout: New Vegas.

    • JPH says:

      I’m pretty much the opposite. First person makes me much more immersed, and can lead me to pay more attention to my environment.

  28. Vic 2.0 says:

    How do people find the narration so frickin’ distracting; that’s what I’d like to know! Is your attention span really that short? Someone’s trying to kill your character with an ax and you can’t stay in the moment because it’s being narrated to you (like that has any effect on your chances of dying)? Besides, he’s narrating during the cutscene! You have just as much inclination to snap to attention after the cutscene with or without his words being part of it.

    I guess this game is a good means of showing how differently people’s minds work. I honestly wasn’t fazed by Alan’s narrative. I was too busy trying to think of what to do next!

  29. Vic 2.0 says:

    They’re apologizing this time around because deep down, in the holes where their hearts used to be, they know their criticisms are wrong ;)

    Approx. 1:10 – Seriously? Making the verbal reference to The Shining is an error? Because taking an ax to a door just has to be a reference to it? As if it wouldn’t be an ax murderer’s first impulse to use his ax against a wooden door, even if The Shining had never existed. I think you guys are just reaching now.

    14:20 – Finally! That oh so predictable combat rears its head… Why did we have to watch 14 minutes of this episode and the two episodes before it to see that again?… And you almost got owned by that “predictable” combat first thing, dude :P

    BTW, that area is not an example of “If you leave the trail, the Taken show up”. They show up in that area whether you’re on the trail or not.

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