Having first been announced in 2005, Alan Wake was greeted to a great reception from critics when it finally released in 2010. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait as long for the follow-up as two years on Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is now available.
Developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Microsoft Studios, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is a story-driven action-horror Xbox Live Arcade title. Despite being the second title in the Alan Wake franchise, American Nightmare is not a direct sequel to its predecessor.
In American Nightmare, Alan Wake finds himself in Night Springs chasing down “the herald of darkness,” created by Mr. Scratch and Alan’s evil doppelganger, who are attempting to take away everything Alan loves, including his wife, Alice. Using his ability to write a new reality, Alan Wake must re-write key scenes of the manuscript in order to overcome his enemies.
Unfortunately, the script is one of the major problems with the game. Players are put through the same three levels on three occasions. Whereas some of the groundwork is reduced each time, it still feels repetitive and also quite tedious. Furthermore, there is a lack of suspense. American Nightmare fails to build any tension, something its predecessor managed brilliantly.
As well as Mr. Scratch and Alan’s evil doppelganger, Alan must also overcome “Taken” - enemies who are possessed by the darkness. The combat in the game remains the same as before, requiring players to remove the darkness protection using Alan’s torch, before shooting them with a gun to eliminate them.
The game’s weapons feature a range of shotguns, Uzis and even nailguns, while flashbangs and flareguns double as grenades and rocket launchers respectively. Further weapons can be unlocked by collecting missing pages of the manuscript, dispersed throughout Night Springs. While the thought of collectibles may be off-putting to some gamers, the manuscript pages are easy to locate - mainly because of the game’s limited environments.
American Nightmare has players in three different environments: the oil field, the observatory and the drive-in theatre. Despite the fact each environment can easily be explored within a matter of minutes (which doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering it’s an Xbox Live Arcade title); the detail is pretty remarkable and almost to the same standard of the original Alan Wake title.
A number of the game’s key cutscenes contain real actors, with Alan Wake being played by the actor who voiced him in the original (Matthew Porretta). Not only is the inclusion of such scenes a nice touch, but they have also been very well executed.
In addition to the story, American Nightmare also contains “Arcade Mode” – a game mode in which players fight off waves of Taken. While the game mode contains support for single player, it works best in multiplayer, with up to four players over Xbox Live. It’s very comparable to the Gears of War Horde mode and is a welcome addition to the game.
As for the game’s audio, the music manages to add to its eerie atmosphere. Additionally, the soundtrack is also quite impressive, with the stand-out track being Kasabian – “Club Foot,” which fits the pace of the game really well.
Overall, American Nightmare is a great follow-up to Alan Wake. While the script lacks real depth and tension, the gameplay makes up for it and there is enjoyment to be taken fcrom it. If you’re an Alan Wake fan, this will certainly tickle your fancy until a full sequel releases.